Wednesday 31 May 2023

Nuts In May

 And so ends one of the craziest months-of-May that I can remember. Quite apart from three Bank Holiday Mondays and a Coronation, there have been so many random news items that it has proved impossible to keep up with it all.
The Coronation - I got very caught up with details of the clothing and the embroidery. Hats off to Hand and Lock who produced much of this stuff. 
Princess Anne declared she was glad she could wear uniform, it saved her worrying about her outfit. And turned up in the Pirate King's hat from Penzance. [btw did you catch the Midsomer Murders on Sunday night? It was proper, mindless Sunday Evening viewing!] And Penny Mordaunt astounded everyone by her sword-carrying skills, and a cloak embroidered with the Poundland logo.
The Speeding Fines - The Archbishop ended up paying rather a lot for his mistakes. Which he did not deny, and genuinely attempted to pay for. It does appear that the admin got messed up somewhere along the line. I am not sure this government appreciates the ABCs efforts to call out their behaviour as 'morally unacceptable'
The Home Secretary tried to get out of doing a speed awareness course with other people, and that backfired rather. And four MPs [3 Tory, 1 SNP] claimed for their speeding fines on expenses! 
Slow down, and pay up, please!!
I'm not somebody who watches "This Morning" so have not really followed the story of Phillip Schofield's demise. I'm not even going to post a photo of the man. [But I bet '"are glad they have recently changed their marketing strategy!] I do not thinking that repeatedly lying to your wife, [ & children, work-partner, colleagues, employers...] is ever acceptable. It is even worse than queue jumping. 
I'll finish with two odd things I have observed in May...
Look closely at this washing powder - It is actually called "BIO- concentrated nonbio washing powder." 
Well is it? or isn't it?
And finally, a sign seen in a garden centre last weekend.

I think this sign is for people with dachshunds, altho some members of my family suggested I should have one. 
It was displayed on the bottom shelf, and behind it a sign saying "If you can't quite reach what you want..."
Do they not know that short-legged women are renowned for their obstinacy to accept help and will happily scale the fitment to reach things from the top shelf?
Roll on June - things can only get better!


Tuesday 30 May 2023

Love Every Drop

Last week, a team from Anglian Water had a stand outside The Forum in the centre of Norwich. "Come and say Hi🙂 " said the sign, so I did. Lottie, Claire and the team explained they were trying to help people to be more responsible about their use of water, and teach simple tips to enable everyone be better at it. Norfolk is the driest county in the UK
Lottie gave me a free home kit, and apologised that they'd run out of the gardener's kits - she said I could apply online [I've done that]
I decided not to get into a discussion about sewage released into the rivers by the water companies. 
AW have apologised for that and pledged to do better in future.
But what can an ordinary person do? The causes of 80% of blocked sewer pipes are fatbergs and flushed baby wipes, 
  • Do not pour fat down the kitchen sink [there's a free plate scraper in the kit, and a strainer for the plug-hole] 
  • Do not flush wipes down the loo.
  • Spend less time in the shower [free timer in the kit]
We talked about wasted water in the kitchen - use a bowl to collect water, don't just run the tap.
Save cooking water - Lottie liked my tip about putting the water from the saucepan when Bob's boils his breakfast eggs, and putting it straight into the washing up bowl.
And drain water from cooked vegetables to make gravy or stock.
In the garden use a water butt [or two] and water carefully with a can, not mindlessly with a hose. 
The website has heaps of tips
I said my best tip [other than the egg water] was to teach the younger generation by modelling good habits and showing them what they can do to help.
Here are the three items from my kit. Bob was a little confused when he went into the bathroom "Am I supposed to operate that gadget with my toe?" We have discovered that the suction cup does not seem to like the tiles in the shower!
Thank you Lottie, Claire and co. The stand has left Norwich now and they will be working in Kings Lynn this week. I hope that people do take notice. Water is a precious resource which we must never take for granted, we must collaborate and do all we can to conserve our supplies.

Monday 29 May 2023

House Work

For the May Cross-Country-Collaboration with Kirsten, I was not sure what to stitch. I felt that perhaps I should mark the Coronation, but I did the No Cross No Crown last month and didn't feel like another crown. 

The House of Windsor began in 1917 with our King's great-grandfather, surely I could find something I'd enjoy stitching. Looking in the loft for something else, I found an A4 envelope containing some X- Stitch pattern books from the late 80s when I was making lots of cards.
Let's be honest, the Royal family is pretty dysfunctional at the moment, in one way or another. So prayers are not just God Bless The King, but God Bless The Lot Of Them. And then I found this at the back of the book. I tweaked the border a little.
Bless This House  was written by an English woman a century ago, with music written by an Australian. 
It seemed a good sentiment. 

But as I stitched I realised there was a second meaning... In the year and a half that Kirsten and I have been sewing in collaboration, our friendship has grown. We send each otyer messages and prayer requests and pray for each other and our families. The piece I was working on will end up in Kirsten's house. 
Bless this house, oh Lord we pray   applies to the house of my stitching buddy as well that of the sovereign. 

Sunday 28 May 2023

Another Birthday

Yesterday our family celebrated Liz's birthday. Today the church family worldwide celebrates the birthday of the Church. 50 days after Easter [hence  the name Pentecost] God gave the gift of his Holy Spirit to his disciples. In days gone by, people traditionally wore white clothes for church on this day, hence the alternative name whit[e]sun.

Saturday 27 May 2023

That's My Girl!!

I taught Rosie the word phenomenal, and said it meant amazing, astounding or marvellous. Then I asked her if she could use it in a sentence - instantly she replied "My Mummy is phenomenal!"
Yes she is indeed and we all love her so much.  Happy Birthday, Liz - may your day be filled with joy and laughter. God bless you today and always

Friday 26 May 2023

Not Just Four Candles!

No, this is not a post about Ronnie Barker, but rather about a Dane called Meik Wiking [yes, it really is pronounced Mike Viking!] He's the guy who brought out The Little Book Of Hygge in 2016. I came across the word hygge a couple of years earlier via PomPom's blog.
"To learn to hygge is to take practical steps to evoke it - to shelter, cluster, enclose, embrace, comfort and warm ourselves and each other. Cultivating the habits of balance, moderation, care and observance will then comfortably ensure more hygge in our daily lives." 
Meik set up the Happiness Institute in Copenhagen, and has been promoting the idea of hygge [living well/cosiness] and lykke [happiness] in our daily lives ever since.
And this clearly struck a chord with many people world wide - those who were getting wealthy, but not happy. They began to realise that relationships and experiences are more important than possessions, and having a warm, welcoming and cosy home to retreat to at the end of a fraught working day was a big part of that. Naturally a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon and started to 'market' hygge. 
Up went the sales of candles, blankets, fluffy socks, herbal teas...
This week I found Meik's latest book in the library. As nobody turned up for the craft group, I sat and read it from cover-to-cover [272 pages] Meik goes into the rationale behind hygge. It is full of interesting statistics about people's perception of happiness across the world, and ideas which go beyond "light candles on the dining table" I really enjoyed this book and found it very thought-provoking.
He quotes The Hobbit "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, the world would be a merrier place"
Unesco has an "Intangible Cultural Heritage" List - which includes things like Italian pizza culture, Spanish flamenco culture, and Belgian beer culture. Meik is lobbying for Danish Hygge culture to be on that list!
He advocates good lighting - explaining why candles improve the ambience. He points out that the way we light our rooms can actually affect children's behaviour. A super-bright classroom with striplights is not always best  - pendant lamps over each table will help focus each child on their workbooks. And studies show this also decreases the noise level significantly! 
In the food section, he speaks about the benefits of 'seasonal eating' [no flavourless strawberries in December!] but also the wisdom of learning to have food which does preserve well in your pantry, to zhuzh up recipes all year round.  His top-ten list is
preserved lemons; elderflower cordial; dried mushrooms; chutneys; pickled beetroot; cherry sauce; roasted peppers in oil; blackberry jam; figs in rum; kimchi
I'm ok with all those except kimchi [I love figs, but not in rum, so will go for dried ones!]
He suggests keeping a list of freezer contents on your phone so you know what's in there when you are at the supermarket!
Meik talks about the wisdom of buying well and buying once, citing Ben Franklin The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten
Hygge is connected with our awareness of nature - did you know that London is the world's first "National Park City" ? It has an astonishing amount of public green space, and water areas.
In terms of relationship-building, Wiking advocates the "vacant chair" principle. When you sit with friends in a coffee shop/discussion group/wherever always pull up one more chair than there are people in the group. That way a stranger is more easily welcomed. "Come and sit here with us" is much more positive than "pull up a chair" [especially if their hands are full, carrying their coffee/bag/coat] 
He says "The wisest words often come when we are holding something - a tool or utensil - it enables us to deal with silence in the conversation without panicking, if an activity is occurring, words will flow freely" [I agree there- it is certainly one of the principles behind the Men's Shed Movement]
Meik rightly condemns "Hygge-washing" - manufacturers marketing their wares as if owning these things brings instant hygge. He says he was so disappointed when he arrived in the USA and in one of the first interviews, a journalist asked "So what do I need to buy now to experience hygge?"
There is too much information, and too many ideas, in the book to list everythingl here - but if you are interested in the rationale behind the concept, and enjoy piecharts as well as pies, check it out! 
Definitely *****
The clip below is about his other passion, lykke

Thursday 25 May 2023

The Virtuous Gardener

Well this is a surprise. We returned from Scotland, and I wandered round the garden checking this and that. Potatoes OK, shallots OK, radishes OK, beans OK, peonies- blooming, viola -2nd blooming [woohoo!!]  tomatoes looking sad, herbs thriving, roses [with the exception of the tomatoes] I was quite happy. Then I noticed a new plant in the front garden, next to the rosemary
I don't recall planting this one. Lunaria annua - often known as moonwort, but more commonly called honesty.
I have always said I would like to grown honesty in my garden. But never got round to it - I have no idea where this came from, but I am so happy it is there. I remember the Deputy Head at the first school I taught in, putting a large jug of the silvery white seed heads on the table in the entrance, with a label saying "We need more of this"
This has set me thinking about the virtuous plants in our gardens, and those whose names mean something
HONESTY - know the truth and it shall set you free
SAGE- wisdom is definitely something to aspire to
BALM - comfort in times of anxiety
FORGET-ME-NOT - how important to remember others
THYME - not to be wasted!
THRIFT - definitely a virtue we all need these days
I am not sure if my honesty plant will produce those lovely luminescent selenic seed heads, or if they will stay the lilac colour. But I am really excited to watch what happens.
Can you think of other plants with noble names?

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Gallic Shrugs

Defined as a nuanced gesture with myriad meanings. Stick out the lower lip, simultaneously raise eyebrows and shoulders, and voice a nonchalant "bof!" 

The classic nonverbal communication of the Frenchman saying Not my problem!
You see a lot of these shrugs on the Netflix comedy "Call my Agent!" This series is set in a French casting agency, showing the complex relationships between actors and agents.
After our daughters recommended it, we started watching, and find it very clever. The actor playing the main role, 
Thibault de Montalembert, bears an alarming resemblance, imho, to Roger Allam [perhaps they share a barber?] Below, RA left, TdM right. 
The other great thing about this show is that many of the actors are famous actors playing cameo roles as themselves 
Audrey Fleurot, Sigourney Weaver, Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno for example
We're still in Series 1, there are at least three more to come. Light hearted humour, great fun, and loads of shrugs. 
Meanwhile, out in my raised bed I have been growing French Breakfast Radishes. It was great to get home on Sunday afternoon, and see them shrugging their little crimson shoulders out of the earth. 
Unfortunately I can't currently eat them in my favourite way [dip in butter and salt, then crunch!] but I hope to work round that. Any good ideas? 
Bon Appetit! 

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Holidays Over - Happy To Be Home

Bob wisely suggested that we came home a day early. So we left before Steph set out for her run. It was Manchester Marathon Day - but she was just doing 10K [her first proper run since Jacob was born last summer] With good friends Raquel and Christine to send her off at the start, and cheer her as she came home, we knew she was well supported.
It was a very warm day, and we took our time - diverting to Lincoln for some lunch. We went to the delightful Stokes Cafe - the building dates back to 1540 and is set on High Bridge.It was beautiful walking through the city in the sunshine. Bob had fish and chips [as it was the end of his holiday] and I had soup of the day. Lentil again - but the best of the 4 bowls I'd enjoyed since my accident.
We were both very tired when we got back. But Monday was a very productive day. We seemed to achieve a lot, and coming back early was a wise move.
8.55 - delivered my letter from Dundee Hospital to the GPs surgery in North Elmham
9.00 - crossed the road to the Tea Post for a lovely breakfast of golden scrambled eggs
10.00 - into Dereham to collect my new glasses - fortuitously ordered before the holiday. How pleased I was that they were waiting for me. The Vision Express optician took away the bent ones, and said she could straighten them, and then send them off to be recycled for the benefit of someone else. While I was doing that, Bob bought necessary groceries.
11.00 - home, and the GP rang for a chat and asked if I could pop in to see her so she could check my mouth
11.30 - at the surgery again. GP very pleased with the treatment Ii'd received in Scotland, and checked that I had dental provision for the teeth. She was satisfied with the way things are healing. I left with a tube of antiseptic cream to help the process. All good!

Rest of the day - Bob pottered about doing this and that***, and I just lazed around, still sleepy. I will post pictures of new specs when my face is less swollen [my nose is still tender]  The garden has gone on growing in my absence [mostly - my pot of basil has languished, but radishes are ready for picking, and the potatoes are coming on a treat. One peony bud has opened and is blooming a beautiful crimson]

For those interested - we found our cottage through Holiday Cottages UK, and we were very pleased with the property, and felt we had good value for money. We had splashed out a little more than the minimum, but were grateful for that after the accident. It was a pleasant place to relax in, beautifully quiet, and really well equipped. Guests in the other cottage on site told us they had used HCUK before, and were always pleased with their rentals. 

***Despite my urging him to support "No Mow May" it is four weeks since the last cut and Bob could not stand the unkempt lawn any longer! My man went to mow at 3pm. 

The holiday is finished!

Monday 22 May 2023

My Future Career As A Supermodel

... won't happen now that I've bashed up my face! 
I said that to the doctor as she stitched me up last Monday. Not that this wrinkled little old granny expects to be on the cover of Vogue anytime soon. Then I read about Martha Stewart. At 81 she has become the oldest woman ever to be on the front of USA "Swimsuit 2023 - Sports Illustrated" Magazine. 
Does anyone else think this is quite an odd thing to do at her age? "I gave up bread, alcohol and pasta, and did extra Pilates, to get in shape for the photo shoot" she said "and I did NOT have Plastic Surgery - although I admit to 'fillers'" 
OK let's believe her. But I've seen other recent photographs - either this one has been retouched or she's been very carefully made up [or both] Also, why the weird pose? It certainly doesn't show you what the swimsuit is like - you can't see the bottom half at all [horrors! Is it a thong?] 
And why is she draped in an orange duvet cover? Is this covering up her unattractive bingo wings? Or worse, her prison "tats"? 
Please Ms Stewart, stick to creating dinner party recipes and making nifty craft-punches. 
And what is this image saying? That women in their ninth decade should aspire to scantily clad sexiness? If she is dressing like this to 'please herself' then I think she should keep it to herself. If it's to please men then I think she's setting a rather bad example to younger generations of women. 
I keep coming back to the words in 1Peter3
Your beauty should not be dependent on an elaborate coiffure, or on the wearing of jewellery or fine clothes, but on the inner personality - the unfading loveliness of a calm and gentle spirit, something very precious in the eyes of God. 

Sunday 21 May 2023

Down In The Mouth? Not Me!

 I was quite amused one morning this week when the first clue in my daily crossword had the answer "Down in the mouth". I started thinking about "teeth" verses in the Bible. Repeatedly we read of distressed folk gnashing their teeth - but did you know that the early English translations say in Psalm 72 "his enemies shall bite/lick the dust"? And I discovered in Lamentations 3 "He has broken my teeth with gravel"
But here we are, with the family in Manchester and my face is on the mend I think. So here's my "lips" verse for this Sunday from Psalm 63... 

Saturday 20 May 2023

Buzzing Around

 The final weekend of our holiday - staying with Steph and her boys in Manchester. The city has used a bee for it's symbol for nearly 200 years - celebrating industry and community.

Since the bombing in 2017, the logo has been revived. You see bees everywhere walls,  windows,  floor tiles... It will be six years on Monday since the Arena Bombing [the Manchester IRA bomb was in 1996]
Steph and Gaz love their city - and I imagine George and Jacob will appreciate it too as they grow up. 
But today is actually World Bee Day
Read my previous posts about Bee Day here and here
We all need the bees, not just the Mancunians! 

Friday 19 May 2023

And Finally, Falkirk!

 I'd said before we left Norfolk that I'd love to see the Falkirk Wheel, and the Kelpies. In fact I've been muttering about seeing the wheel since they first built it 21 years ago. We drove south to Falkirk. The Kelpies were first stop. These amazing 30m high steel sculptures of horses heads [Duke and Baron] were designed by Scots artist Andy Scott. The exhibition was excellent, with models showing the height of these horses in comparison to The Angel of the North, and Tower of Pisa [I've seen both] Also images showing the whole bodies under the water [no they just have supports... But these are higher than the heads themselves.
Here's Bob standing between them. My mouth continues to improve, although my lip is still swollen. These signs either side of one of the walkways felt like a "before and after" 
Next stop The Wheel. Check out here if you don't know about this genius piece of modern engineering. One simple fixture does away with a whole staircase of locks on the canal. And only needs the same amount of energy as 8 kettles to rotate. 
We had lunch in the café. For the third day in a row, I had "soup of the day". Which, just like Pitlochry and Dundee, turned out to be lentil. Good job I like lentil soup. 
Outside was one of those huge deckchairs designed for tourists to take holiday snaps. 
Feeling less anxious about my appearance, I asked Bob to take a photo. The chair was higher than ones I'd encountered previously. My darling husband decided to make a video! [I hope this works] 
As you can see, the disaster last Sunday has not stopped us finding joy in silly things! 

Thursday 18 May 2023

Bonnie Dundee!

Our third visit - and we finally got to do the things we'd planned: go to the V&A, see RRS Discovery, and have lunch. We set off after a relaxed breakfast, arriving at 10:15. The ship is in dry dock, with its visitor centre on one side, the V&A on the other.
The Museumis covered with strips of concrete and is meant to look like a cliff face. We went there first, and had a chat with the young woman explaining the symbolism of the architecture. Then went outside to the viewing balcony to look at the Tay - didn't spot any seals sadly [she said she saw some at 9 when she got to work] 
Entrance is free, and we decided against paying extra for the Tartan Exhibition and just went to the main gallery and a side room. I loved the work in the side room: a group of art students had been making clothes using recycled materials. It was so creative, and so many different ideas. One of the students was taking her turn at being the guide for the day. 
Irene, a charming girl from Hungary said that most of them had never made a garment before, and they were all concentrating so hard that they never looked at each other's work till the end! The main room covered the whole area of Scottish design - art, clothing, engineering, architecture, home wares. I need to sort out the photos properly when I get home. 
And we also went in The Oak Room - a recreation of Miss Cranston's Glasgow Tearoom [designed by Rennie Mackintosh] This had been made using the original materials which had been in storage. In the 1940s, when Mum and Dad were students, if Dad got a good preaching fee, he would take her to tea at Miss Cranston's. I got a bit emotional! No chairs and tables but you can see CRM's iconic style based on squares and rectangles
In the engineering area, we had a go at building bridges

We went on to Discovery Point - entrance fee covers the exhibition and the ship. This was really moving, covering the voyages of the Royal Research Ship at the start of the twentieth century and the stories of men like Ernest Shackleton, and Robert Falcon Scott. Again, I need to do more research at home before I post my pictures. On a sunny day it is hard to imagine what it must be like to spend two years in Antarctica, completely cut off from home, and loved ones, and fresh food, and permanently in cold conditions... 
When we came out it was bright and sunny - but I still got my coat from the car and put it on, I was shivering! 

We went into central Dundee for lunch, at Tahini, a Lebanese restaurant. This is located in the building which housed the offices of The People's Friend Magazine. My mum, and Auntie Peggy, subscribed to the PF for years, so it was another special memory. I had soup, and soft Baba Ghanoush with morsels of flatbread. 
After lunch I went into Boot's Pharmacy to say thankyou for the help I'd received on Sunday, and that I felt the two staff members should be comnended. The lady said she would pass this on to the manager, and also let Sundays team know I'd been well looked after by the NHS. 
We mooched around a few CS then came home. Tea was more soup, and then stewed apple with creme fraiche. 
All in all a very good day. I am honestly having a great holiday, despite the accident. 

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Things Can Only Get Better...

Warning - don't read first paragraph if you are squeamish. Monday - the Emergency Dental Clinic in Perth gave me at 10am appointment ["You are a trauma case, we'll fit you in as fast as we can"] Wonderful Chris did temporary repairs to teeth, and took X-rays. The first one encouraging - no sign of fracture or root damage. Yes I have lost the bottom bits of my upper incisors, but they can get rebuilt/crowned. Second X-ray of my lip was worrying. Lots of dental fragments embedded in the wound. He arranged for me to go to maxillofacial unit at the hospital in Dundee in the afternoon. Gifted Sri Lankan doctor Navini performed necessary surgery to remove everything, and stitch me up. Normally they would ask me to go for a postop checkup. "But I live in Norfolk, England. 400miles away". But the senior surgeon was born in Essex and said he knows the "MaxFax" team at Norwich very well, and would be happy to pass me on to them to check me out. My Norfolk dentist has given me an appt. for when I get back. 
Better news - woozy from anaesthetic and with many stitches and a huge "trout pout" I went with Bob back to Perth to see our nephew and family. [the October Wedding] They were so kind, and I enjoyed a small bowl of custard. Gillian said that the drive up to Dunkeld - through Glen Almond- was lovely. 
Tuesday dawned bright and beautiful. I had painkillers and scrambled egg and we went up to Dunkeld, Jeffrey's Furniture Emporium was quirky. The papier mache fox holding business cards was wearing a stunning embroidered satin coat. It came from Paris, and was not for sale [it cost the owner £4500!]
On to lunch in Pitlochry. I had excellent soup eaten slowly, and tore up my bread into tiny bits [like a strange Baptist communion "croutons"] so I could eat it with minimal mouth action. 
I was definitely feeling brighter, although smiling was still painful and I was very aware of my stitches. We drove on to Aberfeldy by way of Dull. Yes, Dull, a small Scottish village twinned with Boring, Oregon. Seeing a sign for café I urged Bob to turn into the car park. Splendid tea and cake at the Red Deer and Safari Centre. I managed ¼ of Bob's coffee and walnut cake. And 1½ cups of tea. Not at all dull
The swelling is going down, things definitely improving. We drove through Aberfeldy back to Crieff. 
A lovely day, glorious surroundings, and a lazy evening in front of TV with my knitting. Bliss! Thank you again for all the kind words, loving thoughts and prayers.