Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Well, it's the last day of 2006 and the New Year is hoving into view. Of course it is, I've just got used to writing 2006 on cheques, etc and now I'll have to make myself remember to write 2007 instead.

Christmas wasn't bad at all although it was much quieter than originally expected. The family gathering on Christmas Eve was cancelled due to family illness, although I saw my mother a couple of days before that. Instead we went to see the Husband's sister and her family and his parents a couple of days after Christmas instead, when everyone was feeling a lot more relaxed, much better.

I think that I've made a rod for my own back as I gave ther Husband an iPod for Christmas. So I've been hardly able to get near the computer as he is having a wonderful time adding music from some of his huge library of CDs. Still, he's enjoying himself and I hope that the iPod soon becomes an everyday item to him.

I hope that all my friends had a wonderful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Chrstmas is coming - and I'm running around like a blue***** fly

Like most woment at this time of the year I am incredibly busy at the moment preparing for the festive season to come. The whole thing will start tomorrow when I go to Wales to see my mother. Then Sunday, after all the usual frantic last minute shopping of vegetables and fruit etc, the Husband's family is coming to us for the day. We've just discovered last evening that more of them are coming than we originally thought. So in a few minutes we are off out for more food.

Christmas Day will be the four of us until mid-afternoon, after the Christmas meal, and then the Stepson will be off to his mother for a few days. I hope the Stepdaughter will stay the rest of the day with us but on Boxing Day she will probably be off to see some of her friends. The Husband has also invited all his family over here for New Years Eve but that hasn't been fully agreed yet. Some time between Chrstmas and the New Year I'll probably make another visit to Cardiff.

So, that is what we are up to and why I'm not around much at the moment. Probably most people are doing similar things this time of the year. That's why everyone I see in the town shopping looks so frantic.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Intimate Strangers

There is an absolutely fascinating article on the BBC website (here) talking about how many people you see everyday who you don't know or speak to but recognise and wonder about them. I have to admit that this piece really intrigued me as did the many comments left there, most of which endorsed the whole concept. I see people everyday, some I recognise, fewer I smile at and a couple I say "Hello" to, although I don't know their names or anything about them. Of my neighbours I would recognise two - both of whom I've chatted to when I've been working in my front garden or have been walking past their gardens when they were working in theirs. But I don't know their surnames and very little about either of them. Another neighbour I don't know at all.

The trouble is that we British are not that forthcoming, well especially those living and raised in the South of England anyway. We tend to be reserved and diffident people and talking to complete strangers is considered a real taboo over here. It would be like stepping out of your own National characteristic and my own innate shyness. I was struck by the piece of the person from Nottingham who did start to talk to someone, who then changed their routine so that they never met again.

I am really attracted by the idea of doing something like this. I just wished I had the courage.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Here is a qote from Thursday's Telegraph newspaper:-

US Puzzled by Princes' English
Princes William and Harry were subtitled when a recorded interview with them talking about the concert in memory of their mother was shown on American television because station officials thought viewers would not understand what they were saying.
CBS used subtitles when the princes were asked how people could get tickets. William says: 'They have to be very good and ask Santa nicely.' Harry interrupts: 'Or ring his mobile.'
William responds: 'Harry, shut up!' CBS said: 'They speak so quickly.'

I know I have made comments before about two Nations divided by a single language but both Princes speak received English and if British tv programmes and films are shown in the US without subtitles then I am sure that the lads could be understood.

Flight of the Hamsters.

If you want to waste a few minutes with a bit of fun here is the answer. Funny and daft.... so far I'v got to throw one hamster 90 feet. I am sure I can beat that though. Eventually. and with lots of practice. (grin)

Try it here:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Decorations

All the Christmas decorations are up now at home. The Stepdaughter and her brother came over for the tradition of decorating the tree and the house on Sunday. I just sat back and let them get on with it as they really enjoy themselves doing it. The family tradition for the Christmas tree does not follow the elegant, "less is more" and single coloured theory. Instead we go for adding more and more decorations, that we've had since their childhood, and then when every branch and twig has something dangling from it then add lots and lots of tinsel (needless to say all that lot goes on after the three strands of lights). We used to add chocolate decorations in years past but gave up after we discovered that by Christmas Day they were all gone- the Stepson as a boy had an unerring ability to find them.

I wanted to take a photo of the tree but it just wasn't possible to get the impact: either I stood back far enough to get in the whole tree and you couldn't see the decorations other than a coloured blur or too close and it didn't look like a tree at all.

Buffy in her blog here has talked about setting up a new tradition. Instead of sending cards, a tradition that has become to some extent mechanical and without true meaning she plans to write a letter a day to all her family and friends. It sounds an excellent idea in many ways but as far as my personal family is concerned they would think I'd gone bonkers if I tried that. It's just not the way we think or act. But they know where I am and that I am there if I'm needed.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I learnt something today. That it's not easy taking photos of cats. Pickle was sitting in a pool of sunlight in the sitting room, looking really relaxed. So I dug out my camera. However, as soon as I sat on the floor to take a picture she became intrigued and came over to find out what I was doing. So I ended up with a series of action shots which I hope give some idea of what she looks like.
Unfortunately I haven't any pictures of how interested she was with the Christmas tree we put up in the other corner of the room on Friday. Today the Stepdaughter and Stepson (now back from Cambridge for the Christmas holidays) are coming over to decorate the tree and the room. I hope to take pictures of that in due course.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I took some pictures of our trip around King's and Trinity Colleges. However the sun was already setting and so they were not as bright or as good as I would have liked but at least they give you an idea. The first picture, the one with the people on the bank of the River Cam is the Husband (in the hat), the Stepson (the tallest) and my sister-in-law, her husband and her youngest daughter.
I've had an interesting couple of days recently. Thursday the Husband and I went to London for the day. We started by going to St Thomas' Hospital for my eye clinic. This time they used a new piece of equipment on my eyes which scanned the back of my eye - wonderful because they didn't have to use eye drops to dilate my pupils which make it difficult to see for the rest of the day. From the hospital we popped up to Oxford Street where we braved the crowds Christmas shopping and just generally shopping. That road is always incredibly busy with people no matter what time of year or day. We soon tired of the crowds so after some lunch we walked the few years to Manchester Square to the Wallace Collection. The Husband had never visited it, despite being born a Londoner and I hadn't visited it for at least 20 years but the magic of the place remans. It's fascinating to realise that the building, which is crammed from floor to ceiling with paintings and art treasures of all kinds, was owned by one family which was responsible for putting the collection together. The only problem was that there was so much there you just couldn't take in everything. But then the idea of such a collection is that you go back to it time and again, each time discovering something you missed before. (It's a good thing admission there is free.)

Saturday we made another visit, this time to Cambridge to visit the Stepson, and we took the Husband's sister, brother-in-law and niece. The day was a really good one. They drove up from Whitstable to our place and then we all drove up together. As the city was built before cars were invented parking there is always totally impossible so we used the park and ride which was as efficient as ever. We met up with the Stepson who showed us his room and gave us a guided tour of his College (Pembroke College) including the College chapel, which was built by Wren before he started on St Pauls Cathedral in London. Then we went to Browns, the restaurant parents always take their undergraduate offspring to, to fill; them up. The meal was really good, serving a range of English dishes including their traditional and very famous Steak, Guiness and Mushroom pie. Then we took around the university areas of Cambridge, especially King's College and Trinity Colleges.

After we had said our goodbyes to the Stepson we returned to our home and we had a scratch meal together (fortunately I had made a pot of soup the day before so there was plenty for us all to eat). Then after a good chat John's sister and her family set off back to Whitstable.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Casino Royale

On Wednesday the Husband and I went to the cinema to see the new Bond, James Bond in action and I have to say that Daniel Craig didn't make a bad fist of it at all. With appointing a new Bond the film makers decided to start at the beginning of the series of Ian Fleming books. I haven't read this book in about 30 years but I have to say that the overall "shape" of the film was vaguely familiar, so I assume that the film bears some resemblance to the actual book. However, the character of "M" was played by Judi Dench, as she did in the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, which seems a little perverse to me.

Anyway the film was really quite good and really exciting at places. I am not a lover of violence although I've found with past Bond films that the fights and violence had an almost cartoon quality which made me not take it seriously. However with this film the level of violence seemed much higher and certainly had a much greater impact on me. I felt rather uncomfortable with the fights at times because of this. There were virtually none of the special spy equipment that was so important in the previous Bond films. Generally the film was played seriously with very few quips or puns.

I know that there has been a lot of fuss at giving Daniel Craig the role of Bond but in my opinion he did a very good job. I certainly wasn't worried that he is fair (rather than blond, despite what some commentators have said) or that he is only 5ft 11ins, rather than 6ft, his blue eyes at times have a real impact.

Generally the film was worth going to see and definitely took my mind off the fact that half my face was frozen following another visit to the dentist (one more to go!).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Teeth. Don't talk to me about teeth.

This morning I had almost finished drafting a paragraph for here about those people who wish that they live in a previous age but of those things that they would particularly miss - like up-to-date dentistry, giving as an example the fact that I had a toothache last week and the way that a dentist can help today that years ago ago they could not (i.e. X-rays, fillings rather than extractions and antibiotics for infections). However I didn't post the piece as we were going shopping and so I thought that I'd post it in the afternoon.

Then over lunch, carefully eating on the other side side of my mouth and there was a crunch. And I realised that a crown fitted only last month had come off. It cost me almost £300 and I had been assured that it would be there for at least 5 years. OK, I didn't lose it and Ihave an absolutely excellent dentist who uses the latest technology from Scandinavia (I think that the machine that produced both that crown and a bridge I also have came from Finland). He will sort out both problems, the crown tomorrow and two more appointments dealing with where the abscess is once all the antibiotics have had full effect. But the whole experience just reminds me of getting older and the fact that one's teeth reach a stage when they begin to disintegrate slowly and slowly. I just hope that false teeth are far away in the future. Somehow I am beginning to doubt it.

And until tomorrow I'll have to eat like a rabbit with my front teeth. SIGH.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

This site is really enjoyable.

Why? Because....

  1. The photos are from NASA
  2. It's a good lesson in astrophysics
  3. The music is by Eric Idle
  4. It made me laugh.

Make sure your speakers are on for this.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

I make this quite frequently at home as it's both popular and delicious. It's also easy to make.

I kilo sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
1 red onion, diced
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons curry powder, amount to your own taste
1.2 litres vegetable stock
1 400 gram tin butter beans

Heat the oil in a pan add the sweet potato, onion and some salt & pepper, stir well. Put the lid on the pan and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the curry powder, stir well and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the stock. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked. Turn the heat out and add the tin of butter beans. Cool for a few minutes then bled/liquidise until the mixture is smooth. Check the seasoning.

I find that if I make the soup the day before we want to eat it, cool it completely, put it in a bowl and in the fridge overnight that the flavours have a chance to mature and develop.

Adding the whole tin of butter beans makes the soup very thick. If you'd like something a bit thinner then drain the liquid and rinse the beans before adding them to the soup.

Monday, November 20, 2006

And I'm Back

Well, after the computer had been in a computer workshop for a week and a half it became clear that even if they got it running it would no longer do everything we want of it. So I bought a new one. And that's when the fun began.

Up to now any computer I've bought has been put together by the Stepson who is exceptionally good with computers, despite being a History graduate. He, of course, is currently at Cambridge so I had to try to put it all together on my own. He would probably have had it working in about 15 minutes. Faced with all the hardware and a tangle of wires and plugs and feeling very nervous I decided to aproach the problem like knitting an extremely complex Aran pattern, bit by bit. Slowly (OK then, very, very slowly) it all came together.

Then I had to go on to stage 2 of the process of getting the computer working - adding all the essential software as it came with just Windows and a few totally unnecessary free programmes. So I added the software (and hardware) for Broadband access, Internet Security, the printer's system, anti-spyware, Adobe reader, IE7, Webshots, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, iTunes and 27 already purchased audio books that were on the C drive of my old computer and needed to be re-downloaded. I'm sure there were other things I did yesterday but these are the things that really stuck in my memory.

Luckily all the e-mails that were sent to me while the old computer was off-line arrived once I had set the new one up, as they's all been sitting in a "pot" held by my ISP. There was over 1,300 of them, although a huge number of them were Spam or otherwise unnecessary. Is everyone drowning in Spam, as I am? Fortunately my Internet Security software has an Anti-Spam facility. It has a "learning facility" or something and the sooner it learns what is Spam the better.

It's odd though. At work I had internet access within a few months of it becoming promoted generally to the world. At home I've had a home computer with internet access for something like 10 years. But that isn't really a long time when you take into account my life-span generally. But I was staggered how much I missed having access to the internet. I look at many sites during the day as well as reading lots of e-mails and I missed having access to friends and family. Also not having access to Word became a problem as well. It's odd how computers and internet access has become significant to life generally, at least to that part of the world capable of affording it.

Anyway I hope that at least now I will have a relaible computer system after having one that played up quite regularly. Now life can return to an even keel, at least until some time in January when I will probably move to a new ISP.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Computer is Dead

Tuesday of last week I wrote of my frustration at the way my computer was playing up. The following day I couldn't get it to do anything. It turned out that my Hard Disc had died. I've lost everything - all the software on the hard disc, documents on Word and Excel, e-mails I was planning to reply to, e-mail addresses, reminders of passwords, everything.

It took until Tuesday of this week for a new Hard Disc to come by Courier and be installed by one of the Stepdaufghter's boyfriends. Then I discovered that there were further problems and yesterday I took the computer to the workshop. I have no idea if the patient will survive or if I'll have to replace it. I'll let you all know in due course.

Oh, I'm writing this on a computer in the public library. Can't get used to its keyboard at all.

If anyone world like to write to remind me of their e-mail address I'd be very grateful - there is plenty of room left in my space in my ISP website for e-mails.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I have returned from another visit to Cardiff (I wonder if it would be cheaper to buy myself a train season ticket) and yesterday was, in effect the first "normal" day for the better part of a week. And it was good, a quiet day when life got back to normal and I did some cooking and other normal things, all went well. Today, however, has been different, a day of frustration after frustration. And most of it has been my fault.

Yesterday evening I was having some trouble with downloading an audio book and I decided to tidy up the computer system to make it neater and quicker. No problem with the anti-spyware software, I've used it lots and lots of times before. But then I decided to use the software for tidying up Registry keys etc. Then I went to bed. This morning turning on the computer and I got some error messages which just would not depart from the center of the screen. OK, I thought, I know how to deal with this, I've had it before when I've used the registry key cleaner, just have to insert the Microsoft Windows disc into the computer for a couple of seconds and all will be well again. Could I find it anywhere? No. I spent the morning looking for it. It's astounding how many discs one accumulates over the years so I took the opportunity to do a fair bit of "weeding" of those discs I no longer needed. It was during lunch that I suddenly realise that there was another way to sort this problem out: by restoring what the Registry software had removed. And it was sorted out in a matter of minutes.

Then there was the problem I had downloading that audiobook. After e-mailing the Help Desk for the audio book website ( I got an almost immediate response to say that my surmise that it was because I'd updated my computer to Internet Explorer 7: CopCar had mentioned that it was available and she found it good (see here) so I did it too. I managed to sort the problem out in a few moments once I knew what to do. And the books arrived into my iTunes. Success!

This afternoon I made the mistake of trying to move the Audible Download Manager to my F drive, failing horribly and then failing also to move it back to my C drive. So I've just sent a long e-mail to Audible's Help Desk, long because it all got very complex and I had to expalain just what I did. I am awaiting their response.

I've been sitting at this computer since 9.00am, with breaks for lunch and tea, and at the moment I'm fed up with the sight of it. So I'm turning the whole lot off for the evening and tomorrow I hope I can do some fun things on it as well. Oh, and sorting out the Audible thing too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's amazing to think how tough some plants are. Take this hardy fuscia for example. When we moved into this house 11 years ago the lady who sold it to us said that she would like the fuscia for her new garden. So when the Spring was upon us the Husband dug up its roots with a spade and mattock and carted what we thought was the entire plant around to her n a wheelbarrow. However, the following year I suddenly realised that there was a small twig with leaves and flowers growing there. I had thought of digging it out but what with one thing and another we just ignored it ... completely. Each year it grew a bit more and we ignored it No feeding, no watering, nothing. The only time I gave it a haircut was this Spring, when I did the other two hardy fucscias in the garden. And now it's a beautiful bush in full flower, some 3-4 feet high and the same diameter.

Isn't Nature wonderful at times.

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's odd the way that some foods act as a trigger for becoming a manic and overeating everything around them. The type of food varies from person to person but that particular item makes all willpower disappear immediately and diets come to an abrupt end. Some people find that eating just a crumb of cheese does this, for others it's chocolate or sweets. For me the fatal one is ..... Crisps. I don't know why but all I have to do is to eat just one solitary crisp and I become a manic, consuming not just all the crisps in that packet but also every other food I had previously given up while trying to lose weight.

I have, over the last few weeks lost almost a stone in weight and some inches from my body to boot. I still want to lose more and, hopefully, make a rather obvious stomach disappear. I am not eating much at all - 2 slices of toast for breakfast, homemade soup and some fruit salad midday and two (small) rolls filled with cold meat in the evening, with some fresh fruit for munchies if I'm hungry. Eating like this makes me feel healthy and the weight is shifting, slowly but it is shifting.

However, walking today through the local Tesco I still avoided the isle where the crisps were set out. Just looking at the huge range of colourful packets of them, whether Small, Medium or Large, made me think how ephemeral a diet can be. I swear that eating them acts like a compulsion to me, then I just have to eat all sorts of fattening foods, not just that day but the next day and the day after and the next .... I suppose it's a bit like an alcoholic afraid to have one drink, in case it starts him drinking too much again. So it's self- discipline for me, with the hope that yet more pounds and inches will disappear.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Two weeks

I notice that it's two weeks exactly since I last posted. Thinking back over the two weeks I realise that the first of the two weeks I seem to have spent a lot of time battling the weeds that have appeared in the garden since the drought came to an end. It's odd but despite spending quite some time outside it still seems in need of more attention. We have had a lot of rain over the last couple of days and the sooner I can get outside again the better.

The Friday before last (13th) was an interesting day as the Husband and I went up to London as we had tickets for a film premier. We started the day though with a trip to Tate Britain (the origial Tate) where we saw the Holbein in England exhibition. This was really good, and we both loved his portraits, especially the two of Erasmus and the only one of Henry VII definitely painted by Holbein. Then we noodled around the main galleries for about 30 minutes, got something to eat and then walked across to Piccadilly to see their current exhibition of Rodin sculptures. I've always loved Rodin's work and although The Husband wasn't originally very enthusiastic about visiting the exhibition he said that he enjoyed it as much as I did. Whet I found most fascinating was that in addition to his most well-known works - like the Kiss (two version of this), the Thinker (ditto) - outside in the courtyard of the RA were a reproduction of his Gates of Hell, made after his death but something on which he had worked various elements throughout his working life. It was incredibly imposing.

After this we went to the cinema. I've mentioned several times here of the fact that the Husband has been a film star(!) One of his friends and former colleagues from work has an absolute passion to become a film maker and started by making two small 3 minute long films, one this year and one last, each filmed on a sealed container of Straight 8 film that could not be edited at all. The Husband "starred" in both these films. The first film was called Earth to Earth, I am not sure if this will work but you may be able to see the film here. The second film was made in january/February this year and is called "Go, Got, Need". This has been successfully shown on a tv channel from Holland and can be seen here. Anyway, that's the background. Nick Scott the passionate film maker wanted to try and break into the film beusiness and with a lucky windfall (he won £5,000 on a £3 bet while playing internet poker) he has made one. The film is called "Breaker", 10-15 minutes long and last Friday was shown at the Curzon Soho cinema. He used professional actors for this one, so the Husband didn't have the opportunity for more acting. More about Nick's production company at

Then came the week just gone. I spent it either in the dentit's chair, waiting for my dentist to ring me or just waiting with trepidation for the problem to be sorted out. The latter was the worst. I had an absolute butcher for a dentist as a child and this has left me with a real terror of the profession. However I do have a very good dentist at the moment and so when a few days ago I lost a crown I went to see him. I had two options to sort out the problem: a new crown using the new wizzy technology he now uses and costing me almost £300 ; or to remove the tooth altogether which as I don't have many other teeth up there would cause me difficulty eating. After spending Monday and Tuesday waiting for the dreaded work my first appointment was first thing Wednesday morning. The next appointment should have been an hour and a half later (once the bleeding was under control) but I had a phone call to say that they had had a power cut and they would ring me when they could fit me in. So spent the day hovering, waiting for a call then finally came at 8.30 at night to say sorry and could I come in for two appointments on Friday instead. I said Yes, put down the phone and within 30 minutes the temporary dressing in my mouth dropped out. Thursday wasn't a good day for me, waiting.... Fridayand by the afternoon it was all over. And I felt like an overcooked piece of spaghetti.

Saturday (yesterday) was a visit to the in-laws in Whitstable, Kent. A good day.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dogs vs Cats

Dog's Diary:

7 am - Oh boy! A walk! My favorite!
8 am - Oh boy! Dog food! My favorite!
9 am - Oh boy! The kids! My favorite!
Noon - Oh boy! The yard! My favorite!
2 pm - Oh boy! A car ride! My favorite!
3 pm - Oh boy! The kids! My favorite!
4 pm - Oh boy! Playing ball! My favorite!
6 pm - Oh boy! Welcome home Mom! My favorite!
7 pm - Oh boy! Welcome home Dad! My favorite!
8 pm - Oh boy! Dog food! My favorite!
9 pm - Oh boy! Tummy rubs on the couch! My favorite!
11 pm - Oh boy! Sleeping in my people's bed! My favorite!


Cat's Diary:

Day 183 of my captivity...
My captors continued to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal.

The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from clawing the furniture.

Tomorrow I may eat another house plant.

Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded - must try this at the top of the stairs.

In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair - must try this on their bed.

Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body in an attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear in their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was. Hmmm, not working according to plan.

There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the food. More important, I overheard that my confinement was due to my powers of inducing "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.

I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit.The bird, on the other hand, has got to be an informant and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room, his safety is assured. But I can wait; it is only a matter of time.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Many thanks for all the kind comments about my mother. Her health remains very poor at the moment, there seems to have been very little improvement since she went into the hospital and she seems likely to be in there for some time to come.

Anyway life is still going on, sort of, although the news in that front isn't good. The rest of us are all fine. The Stepson is back at university, having started his third year there. The Stepdaughter is very busy, studying yet more insurance exams and dealing with one of the plane crashes that has happened recently (she is in avation insurance). The Husband is fine, though he is starting to develop a real interest in Wagner's Operas, especially the Ring cycle. I'm not all that enthused - before I was married I had a boyfriend who used to take me to Covent Garden and this has left me with a dislike of all sorts of opera. Still, I normally just duck into another room when he is watching a DVD of a Wagnerian opera, so that works out fine.

The evening classes in curtain-making have been a disappointment as they have changed their structure and focus completely over how they were done last year. I am going to have to work out what I am going to do with all that fabric I bought before I broke my finger, so I'll let you know when I've reached a decision, which isn't yet as other things are filling my mind.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sorry I'm not around much at the moment and when I am I'm more than a bit distracted. Basically my mother, aged 85, is far from well and we can't see a happy end to the situation. I had to make an emergency dash yesterday to the big University Hospital in Cardiff to see her. Basically two of her vertibrae have fused together, another one is broken badly and the doctors don't know why or how it has happened. And the drugs she takes for her arthritus don't seem to be working properly either, something else the medical profession doesn't understand yet. So she isn't eating because of the pain she is in - not a good thing now she has diabetes. She's in hosptial for an indefinite period of time for tests, bone scans and more tests

Please think a special thought for my brother who lives in Cardiff and takes the brunt of the pressure of the situation.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Chicken and Watercress Soup

Here is a recipe that is very popular with the Husband. It's also cheap and easy to make and adaptable as you can add other ingredients to the finished soup. I've thrown in a handful of frozen sweetcorn into the soup in the past and to the batch I made this week I added a leftover sweet potato, peeled and diced, and just simmered it in the soup until it was cooked - it made a really good addition to the chicken and the watercress.

Chicken and Watercress Soup

1 kg chicken wings
1 medium white onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

1 large potato, peeled and diced
the chickenmeat from the stock (excluding the bones and skin)
salt and pepper to taste
bunch or bag of watercress

To make the stock put the chicken wings in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then drain and rinse with fresh water to get rid of the excess fat. Then place the wings in a clean pot, cover with cold water again and add the other stock ingredients and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for an hour. Be sure to remove any fat that comes to the surface. Add a little extra water if the level falls below the bones.

Pass the stock though a sieve into another clean pot. Bring to the boil and add the diced potato. Simmer until the potato breaks down and thickens the soup (I cheat and use a potato masher when it's cooked).

While you are doing this pick the meat off the chicken wings, discarding the bones and skin. Add the chicken meat to the soup base and season with salt and pepper.

To serve chop up a few stalks of watercress and put them in the soup bowls and add the soup. Within seconds they are part of the soup. Delicious.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Modern Fairy Tale

Once upon a time
in a land far away,
a beautiful, independent,
self-assured princess
happened upon a frog as she sat
contemplating ecological issues
on the shores of an unpolluted pond
in a verdant meadow near her castle.
The frog hopped into the princess' lap
and said: " Elegant Lady,
I was once a handsome prince,
until an evil witch cast a spell upon me.
One kiss from you, however,
and I will turn back
into the dapper, young prince that I am
and then, my sweet, we can marry
and set up housekeeping in your castle
with my mother,
where you can prepare my meals,
clean my clothes, bear my children,
and forever feel
grateful and happy doing so. "
That night,
as the princess dined sumptuously
on lightly sautéed frog legs
seasoned in a white wine
and onion cream sauce,
she chuckled and thought to herself:
I don't think so.

Grin. Found on the web and I don't know who write it. But it speaks to me a lot though as I almost married someone like this - until I took a look at his mother one day and realised that this was exactly what she had taught him to expect of a wife and what hell she would put me through. I got out and have never regretted it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It's working again, I think

The computer seems to be working properly again. I have to admit that although the Stepdaughter promised to find a Rentageek to work on it before she could pin her mates down to a time and date the Stepson came back and insisted on working at it. I was a little dubious - let's face it he's reading History at Cambridge and his computer experience is all what he has picked upby trial and error as first a schoolboy and now a student. It took three days but he seems to have sorted it out and the computer now seems to be working properly.

I have one problem though. The reason why I wanted to move iTunes to a new hard Disc with greater capacity is because it contains lots of audio books and unabridged books by such as P D James, Ngaio Marsh and, one of my favourites, Ruth Dudley Edwards. Each book having several CDs. All the tracks that make up each disc and hence each audio book have transferred. However the playlists of each book did not transfer over. As a result for each disc of each book just the tracks that make up each disc show up on iTunes as numbered as Track 1, Track 2, etc with no identification of which disc they come from and what the book actually is. As each disc starts from Track 1, and I failed to add anything that identified each book, it means that I now have the major task of identifying each book and working out the sequence of tracks that make up each disc and the order of discs tat make up each book. I think it's going to take me ages. Oh well, I should have added proper identification in the first place.

A few days ago I made four attempts to answer CopCar's question without success and I don't know if that was because of my computer or Blogger itself. So here goes. CopCar asked "Either those Yorkies are smaller than I think of Yorkies being, or Nimrod is, indeed, a mighty hunter--and larger than I had in mind. I'll need to go back for another look at the photo of Nimrod with your hat. Are Yorkies noisy? " What I tried to say was this: I may have exaggerated Nimrod the Mighty Hunter's strength somewhat but he is tough. Also although I've not seen the neighbour's dogs yet from memory Yorkshire Terriers are quite little things. I saw here that on average they are about 6 ins tall and about 7 lbs in weight, although I am sure I have seen adult Yorkies that are smaller than that. Anyway Ce Sera sera.

I have several letters to write now the computer is working. So Buffy and Peter (my cousin) -expect notes from me in the next few days.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Well, I managed to post here yesterday although it took ages. So I'm back again today. All is well, other than the battle of the Hard Discs. Life is generally going on. The Husband and I plan to go up to London soon to do a museum or art gallery - we planned to go today but there is something wrong with the overhead lines of the trains at the moment and we decided not to risk it yet. We had to put up with the trains when we were commuting to work every day and the luxury now is that we don't have to unless we want to and know that things aren't too bad.

We now have new neighbours. They moved in just before the Bank Holiday and comprise a couple, some kids and two dogs. They are obviously busy at the moment getting the house sorted out but seem nice people. I do have one concern, though, that keeps creeping through my mind loke a fog since they arrived: their dogs... I haven't seen the dogs yet but understand that they are Yorkshire Terriers. All the Yorkies I have seen up to now have been quite small and every time I think of that I contemplate the skills of Nimrod the Mighty Hunter. His kills have in the past included rats and squirrels which are a fair size for a cat(he lets smaller live prey loose in the house but never larger creatures which he kills and leaves the bodies in the hall for us to find). I now have a fear that I'll wake up one morning to find a dead dog there. Now I know that this is quite an unreasonable fear - as far as I know Nim has made no attempt to go into the garden since it became the dogs' territory - but I just don't want us to have poor relations with our next door neighbours, not to mention that I like dogs as well as cats. Oh well, Ce sera sera.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Rentageek needed

Well I haven't thrown the computer out the window yet but it's been a close thing.

As I think I've said before, I wanted to transfer all the music, including iTunes, and photographs to a new hard disc to free up space on my Drive C. So I bought something called "My Book" from Amazon, an external Hard Drive which has 250 GB. I installed it without any problems last week and subsequently have spent hour upon hour upon hour ever since trying to transfer files to what has become my Drive F. I've tried everything, from using my iPod as a hard disc to transfer files over, reinstalling iTunes on the F Drive and even straightforwardly trying to drag folders from one drive to the next. Nothing has worked and I now seem to have links all over the place between the two drives. The end result is that the computer is now just working much slower than before, despite all the extra hard disc space, and I'm not getting anywhere.

I tried asking a question at Yahoo answers but the only reply received didn't help either. So out of sheer desperation I've sent out a cry for help this afternoon. My Stepdaughter has some of the best person and networking skills of anyone I have ever met. As a result she has a huge number of friends and acquaintances and so I wrote this afternoon to ask whether she knew anyone who could help me. She has focused in on one person and I am now waiting to hear when he can come around. In the meantime I am stuck with a computer going about the speed of a snail. Very frustrating!

I sincerely hope this goes through.

Friday, August 18, 2006

What a Week

This has been one of those weeks when all I've wanted to do was to hide in bed and pull the duvet over my head. Nothing seriously wrong, just a lot of niggles.

It all started on Sunday evening. I'd cooked a meal for the three of us (the Stepson is with us for the moment) of a chicken roast in the oven with batons of leeks and, when cooked, the flesh of the bird, the leeks and the juice from the chicken all mixed with some cooked tagliatelli - quick, easy and nothing one would think to hurt one. However while I was eating there was a crunch and one of my crowns came away, leaving a nasty hole and no existing molars on the upper left side of my mouth.

Monday I had an appointment at the glaucoma clinic at St Thomas' Hospital, on the banks of the Thames for a regular check-up. They checked my pressures and they were fine at 18, which was a relief because at an appoinment at my opticians a couple of months ago they were worried about my pressures - fortunately a false alarm. Then after the fields test they took a picture of the back of both eyes. To do this eye drops are used to dilate my pupils and then a sort of flash camera is used. The outcome of this, though, is that afterwards I can't see properly for at least 4 hours. In particular any sort of light is very difficult and I cannot focus to read anything other than the largest of print. The Husband had promised that he would come up and meet me after the hospital appointment to help me home. Unfortunately when I finished he wasn't there and when I rang he said that he had decided not to leave home. So I ended up wandering around central London, fortunately cloudy and no sun, for about 4 hours until I could see well enough to find my way home.

Tuesday was the trip to the dentist where I discovered that my very good dentist is on holiday. The new one there was very complementary about my regular one's skills (he called the crown that had come adrift a "minor miracle") and didn't want to do anything to the tooth in case my own dentist could repair it somehow. So the hole in my mouth continues. My new appointment is at the end of the month.

Wednesday I felt grumpy, and generally rested after the tiredness and tensions of the previous two days.

Thursday was nice as the Stepdaughter came around in the evening . The Husband made a paella which tasted nice and we all watched "Topsy Turvey" about the writing and first performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado".

This morning the digestion of both the Husband and myself is not working properly - presumably the paella. (The Stepdaughter has just phoned up and she is having problems too - almost definitely the paella.)

Friday, August 11, 2006

My Red Hats, Part 2

Here is Nimrod investigating the hat I bought from eBay. I took this and afterwards I wished that I had crouched down to get more to his level before taking the picture. However If I had done that he would probably have promptly left the hat and approached me so that I could make a fuss of him {grin}

My Red Hats, Part 1

Just over a week ago Buffy said here that she would like to see the Hats I now have to wear to Red Hat Society events. Well here they are. The picture at the top shows the hat I bought on eBay, after I exhumed an old Hotmail e-mail address and reRegistered. (The things I do for my interests!) The lower of the two pictures shows the hat I bought in Debenhams and wore to the gospel concert I went to the first week in July.

As you can see Nimrod decided to get involved in the action. I also took another picture of him with the second hat and I'll try to post that one too.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Good News

What I thought would be a difficult day turned out, in the end, to be a really rather good day. I spent a lot of it in hospital for yet another appointment with the consultant about my asthma. OK, I had to do loads of waiting, as usual for anyone attending a NHS hospital, but when I eventually saw the consultant he gave me some good news. My breath was stronger then before and it appear that the asthma is finally under control for the first time since I was diagnosed with it exactly two and a half years ago. Basically I've still got it, and will have it for the rest of my life, but I've learnt to manage it and can cope with it, at least for now. He has decided that I need not be one of his patients but to be treated by one of the asthma nurses at my GP's surgery - they will decide whether or not I need to go back to see the consultant again. Oh, and I am to try doing without one of the lots of medication and see how I get on.

As you can imagine I am really cock-a-hoop about this as it is the first indication that my health is really on the mend. Clearly I shall have to be careful at times, especially when it has been raining (fat chance at the moment!) or when certain pollens are around, but this is the first time I have had positive news about my asthma since it was first diagnosed.

Changing the subject somewhat why is it that waiting for a bus seems to take much, much longer than waiting for a train? It is an absolute nightmare trying to park at Broomfield Hospital. I have driven round and round before now trying to find a space - and when you do find one you have to pay a substantial amount to the privilege of doing so. So I decided to take the bus, which runs not too far from our house. It was a quick and easy journey and the total bus fare was only fractionally more than the car park fees, let alone the cost of runiing the car/fuel, etc. However waiting for the bus seemed to take forever, even though I have waited for much longer in railway stations for a train.

Monday, August 07, 2006

My Very Easy Gazpacho Recipe

I mentioned in the comments here that I was looking for a Gazpacho recipe for a nice chilled soup recipe in this hot weather. I found lots of recipes for it but decided in the end to devise one based on the major ingredients in most recipes. I didn't want all the faff of peeling loads of tomatoes and removing their seeds. So, I went for something simple and so here is a nice easy way of making Gazpacho:

I blended together until smooth a 500ml carton of Passata, a peeled cucumber, half a green pepper, a few spring onions and a handful of chives. Then I added some salt, freshly ground pepper a good slosh of Worcester Sauce and passed the Tabasco Sauce bottle over the mixture. Then I just poured the lot into a bowl and added a litre of tomato juice, mixed well and then put in the fridge to cool.

I had meant to add some garlic but just forgot -but it didn't need it. It is really nice and spicy and well worth doing again.

A Request to Everyone Reading this Blog

Last year, as I mentioned here, the Husband got together with some friends and made an amateur film. Basically they had a reel of film that couldn't be edited at all - everything had to be done once, so they had to get it right. first time. Anyway theirs, produced and directed by his friend Nick Scott is called "Earth to Earth" and was good enough both to be shown at Leicester Square and at last years Cannes film festival. Anyway now the film has the opportunity of appearing in a major film competition in America if it gets enough votes.

So I am writing to ask everyone to vote for it. To do so all you have to do is to click on the link, Register, get their e-mail with a password in and then vote for "Earth to Earth".

Incidentally it is possible to see the film. To do so you need Quick Time, which comes with iTunes. I've tried and it does work. All the actors are, of course, amateur and the two oriental gentlemen just happened to be around when they were filming it and got roped in. Nick also managed to borrow the telephones and the car close to the allotment where he was filming in South London on the coldest day of winter early in 2005. (The Husband is, of course, wearing a wig part of the time and certainly when holding up the trophy in the picture on the Slamdance website).

Also, if you could pass this request to any of your friends and ask them to vote also I would be very grateful.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I've never given much thought to knitting. Let's face it there are only two stitches to learn - knit and purl and each is so easy to do they take only about 30 seconds to learn. Casting off is just a matter of passing one stitch over the other and casting on takes only very slightly longer to learn. I've been knitting since I was about 6 years old and the whole thing is just second nature to me. I have huge problems sitting in front of the tv without some knitting to do.

Having said all that there is one job connected with knitting that takes a little longer: picking up stitches. This is one task that takes me a little longer to do, necessarily to make sure that all is even and looks right. Picking up stitches evenly around the neck of a jersey is relatively easy and doesn't take too long, however the task I have been doing the last few days has taken a huge amount of time, concentration and frustration.

I have finished the five major pieces of the cardigan I have been working on. I then put it aside for a few weeks to gather my strength for the task ahead [grin]. This week I have taken it up again and started work. It has taken hours. The band goes up one side of the cardigan, round the fiddly bit from breastbone to neck, around the neck, round the other fiddly bit and down the other side of the cardigan. A total of 511 stitches to pick up, small stitches given the weight of the yarn (4 ply - don't let's go there again!). I was aware that I had to get it right as if the border was done hurriedly there was a risk that the finished cardigan would just look tatty. It took me ages to get it right. All that frantic counting, never easy on a circular needle which, of course, moves a lot (I'd never get all 511 stitches on a straight needle).

To make it easy and the stites regular throughout I broke the long bands up the front of the cardigan into smaller sections, with a set number of stitches to pick up in each, each section divided by safety pins (using the pins I use when sewing together pieces of knitted fabric - the sort with big plastic heads doesn't really work as they work out of the fabric too easily when you don't want them to). And on the end of the circular needle that I wasn't actually using to pick up stitches I threaded a ball of Blutak covered with cling film to stop the stitches sliding off.

I did it in the end, it took ages but it looks right. Now all I have to do is to knit the band, not a straightforward task as it takes frantic counting to work out exactly where to put the increases to make sure that the fiddly bits on the way to the neckline lie flat.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Husband and I reek of garlic at the moment. After weeks of hot weather and high humidity I've been looking for cooling summer recipes - there is a limit to the amount of salads you can eat, day after day for weeks on end. So I went looking for a good cooling recipe that didn't take too much cooking and found one in Delia Smith's book on "Soups" that I tried on Thursday. Basically it is half a pint of natural unsweetened yoghurt put in a blender with two peeled and sliced cucumbers, 5 fl oz of soured cream and garlic cloves, blended until smooth and then seasoned, put in a tureen add 2 teaspoons of chopped mint stir and then chill until really cold and then serve.

Anyway, the blessed Delia always suggests too small portions of garlic - for example she suggests 1 clove in her Minestrone recipe when I find we need 5-6 cloves. So with this I used about 5 good sized cloves which proved far too much and so it's a good thing that we both ate it. However, the recipe is nice and refreshing in this hot weather and I'll certainly try it again only with slightly less garlic.

Oh, her recipe also suggests adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice - not a good idea as it curdles the mixtrue, although it makes no difference to the taste.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Yarn Comparisons

CopCar and I have been disussing, in the comments to Musings here, the difference in yarn weights between the US and the UK. It has become clear that misunderstandings have come up so I have found here a list of various yarn weights for the UK and the US (I've taken out the Australian/NZ comparisons as not germain to the subject and have had to adapt the chart as Blogger won't allow me to show it as two columns side by side). Hoping now we can both speak from the same page, so to speak ~grin~:-

Yarn thickness or weight conversion chart UK/USA

2 ply = light fingering
3 ply = fingering
4 ply = fingering / sport
double knitting =sport / knitting worsted
= knitting worsted
Aran =
chunky = bulky

I have to admit that on those occasons that I am following a US pattern usually, when I was following crochet patterns I would use our Aran yarn to match US's worsted and it seemed a near enough match in terms of tensions, etc.

Monday, July 10, 2006 - Real and Ongoing Difficulties

I have spent the last fortnight getting more and more frustrated with I used to use eBay fairly regularly, buying plants, secondhand books and (new) yarns for crochet. My feedback from that time was 100% and I received comments like "Prompt payment, smooth transaction. Recommended.", "Excellent ebayer, fast payment , thank you A+++++" and "great buyer, quick payment, many thanks".

Anyway, for no particular reason I just didn't have cause to use from last October until now, so I never tried to log in. Now, of course, I am a member of the Red Hat Society and need to wear Red Hats and, guess what? Buying a new hat is expensive! So I want to buy some which have been only worn once and now, while the wedding season continues, is the time to look out for them. But eBay won't let me log in under my existing User name at all. After a while I gave up and tried to Register under a new User Name. No success either as I just didn't receive the necessary e-mail from them. Emails that I send to bounce too. So over a week I posted no less than three separate e-mails to their Customer Support website but have received no answer to any of them. I had a long and expensive telephone call to a gentleman in India who is one of my own ISP's Technical Support Services: he tested everything and finally confirmed what I had already suspected: my e-mail is working perfectly but for some reason any e-mail I send to is bouncing and presumably visa versa and I was told that the problem is clearly at's end NOT mine. So I've made two more comments to this effect to their Customer Support - no answer to either of them.

After contacting them five times and each one being ignored I have to admit that I am rapidly losing impatience in eBay and my advice to one and all is: DO NOT USE EBAY.CO.UK!

Last Week

Last week was quite busy in the end and I didn't have much time to go online.

Monday was the Stepson's birthday. 20 years old, which I find incredible as I still at times visualise him as we first met, when he was a bright 6 years old. Now he is 20, about 6ft 3 ins tall and gangly with it and very intelligent to boot. We went to a local Tapas place and had a nice meal together. We all were able to drink except for the birthday boy himself as he was borrowing his mother's car to drive to Cambridge for a party with all his friends that evening.

Tuesday was unexpectedly interesting. About 2 months ago I contacted the local Adult Education Institute for a place on their Summer School but the course I wanted, "Understanding Your Digital Camera" was full. I wasn't particularly surprised it was full as most Digital cameras, including mine, have complicated and often incomprehensible instruction manuals which make it difficult to understand how to do more than the basics. Anyway I left my details on the waiting list and on Monday I had a phone call to say someone had dropped out and that there was a vacancy for Tuesday's course, if I wanted it. I said Yes so I took the train to Brentwood to do the day course. I really enjoyed myself and while what I learny wasn't rocket science it certainly gave me more confidence to use my camera. I also now have a list of things to buy for it too, like card readers, so that I don't use up battery time by plugging the camera into my p.c. - the tutor, a professional photographer, was very emphatic about that.

Wednesday was my first real event as a member of the Red Hat Society. I went, with three other members of the local chapter, to Capel Manor Gardens at Eltham where we met up with members of other Society Chapters and went to a gospel concert. I must admit that the music isn't the sort I usually listen to, and they were clearly amateur singers but with a huge amount of enthusiasm and were clearly really enjoying themselves. I think I shall enjoy being a member of the Red Hat Society as the others seem very nice and they seem to do lots of different things. I am aware, incidentally, that I am now a member of two organisations with exactly the same acronym: RHS. So I must be careful not to mix up the Red Hat Society from the Royal Horticultural Society!

Thursday I spent pleading to my hairdresser to fit in an appointment with her - my appointment was originally on Tuesday but, of course, I did the day course on Digital Cameras then. Fortunately she kindly fit me in. It's odd about my hair, really. For all my life up to about 2 years ago my hair was very, very fine and totally straight. Now it is much thicker, even coarser, and has a distinct and natural curl. Jo, my hairdresser, thinks that the texture of my hair is down to the fact that white and grey hairs are now coming through in profusion and they tend to be thicker and coarser than "ordinary" hairs. She is, however, baffled about where the curl cmae from.

I spent all day Friday and part of Saturday with my feet up after my left foot swelled up like a balloon. I originally thought it was yet another reaction to an insect bite but my GP said that it wasn't and prescribed some anti-inflamatories which seem to have done the trick. I can wear my shoes again.

All the time the week was continuing the Husband had the bit between his teeth to produce a definitive list of all the Classical music CDs that he has. He isn't a very fast computer worker (to say the least) but so far he has reached his discs with music by Chopin. As you can guess he has someway to go! And, of course, while he using the p.c. I cannot. Oh well, abstinence is good for the soul!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Although this academic year finished for the Stepson last week and he returned to us by Friday he had to go back to Cambridge today to get his second year examination results (they won't post them or contact the candidates in any way). He rang us up this evening to say that he had achieved a First! That's really good news, which means that if he continues to work well the chances are that he'll get a good degree next year. The Husband was kind enough to say that my influence had some contribution in his childhood as I was the one who encouraged the Stepson's love of reading, which helped to develop into his great love of History.

A fox seems to have taken up occupation in our garden. We've seen it wandering about the garden quite a few times. A couple of weeks ago, when the Husband was opening a window he disturbed the fox, which was sunbathing in the flowerbed immediately outside the window. This morning when I opened the curtains to that window there, on the grass below the window, was the fox which clearly did not realise that it was being observed and kept on sauntering across the garden. It's odd that there can be such mixed feelings towards foxes in this country. The country lobby just wishes that hunting was still permitted (my own opinion is that the banning of hunting was one of the best things to happen in this Parliament). In urban areas foxes are very popular with people. Not with our cats though: very shortly after the fox had sauntered through the garden Nimrod went outside and almost immediately shot back in through the catflap with his tail like a brush. I suspect that he didn't enjoy some of the scents he came across.

The finger seems to be healing nicely and I have started knitting without problems, though there is a limit to the amount I can do at any one time. I am working on a cardigan in 4-ply, suitable for summer evenings. Crochet I still cannot do - I think that I shall have to reteach myself to crochet so that I thread the yarn through my fingers in what is, for me, a different way.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Cat Who Scared The Bear

I found the picture and the story here. As you can see from that website that cat really did chase the bear up not one but two trees.

Never underestimate the power of a cat.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Beethoven's Ninth

Ok, I was wrong. When the Husband said that he planned to buy Beethoven's 9th on original instruments I begged him not to. It is a work I love and know well, always though with full modern orchestras and huge choirs. To my mind the best way to hear it is in the Royal Albert Hall (complete with the echo) with an augmented LSO and two or three choirs belting away to their hearts' content. The power is enough to blow you away. Incidentally the Proms always has the Ninth with a different very famous conductor every year and many come just to listen to that, so in the first half of the programme the RAH is half empty and than fills to capacity after the interval when the Ninth is performed.

Music played on original instruments can, in my opinion sound disappointing to someone who is used to hearing them played by a modern orchestra. I once went to a performance of the Messiah at Guildford Cathedral performed by a choir the same size as the one when the oratorio was very first performed and I'm afraid that I thought the whole thing sounded quite wimpish and it quite put me off such performances.

Anyway, and getting back to the subject, a CD arrived in the post today: Beethoven's Symphony No 9 in D minor, with John Elliot Gardiner conducting the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique on original instruments and the Monteverdi Choir plus four first rate soloists. He's just played it and I have to admit - I was wrong. It had all the force, power and vitality that I love in the Ninth but individual notes and passages were far more noticeable than often is possible when a full orchestra is playing. It was so good that the Husband did not mind when the last movement overlapped with the start of the Czeck Republic v Italy match. That gives you some idea how well this specific CD was rated in this household.


From the letters page of todays The Times. This really made me laugh.

Sadly, Helen Potts is wrong about the men removing their iPod earphones before saying hello (letter, June 20). This is not the modern equivalent of doffing one’s hat; it is merely proof that the male of the species can only do one thing at a time.

Cheddar, Somerset

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Horticultural Musings: June 2006

At the moment it has been warm and dry for a while and I am spending a lot of time outside, sometimes weeding, sometimes pottering around in the garden. The Husband has done very little out there this year, as he has had some vile virus since before the New Year. I, on the other hand, have managed to spend some time outside each day since Spring finally arrived in April. The garden is looking quite nice, if I say so myself. There are, however, some gaps in the beds, all ready for planting up - and that is when the difference in philosophy between the Husband and myself begins to appear. He likes lots of annuals everywhere, with brash and bright colours. I, on the other hand, prefer green shrubs and perennials everywhere. Usually we reach a compromise without any difficulty, as the bedding plants go in all the gaps between the shrubs and perennials. However, this year it is an unspoken rule in the UK that, at least in the South, bedding plants are not P.C., what with the drought (much of the South East of England is under, a least, a hosepipe ban and in some places a much more severe water shortage). Still he wants the annuals and I accept that as it is his garden too he has a right to plant in it what he wants, as well as what I want. But this year when all watering is being done by watering can he can water his plants, and I will water those of mine that have still to establish.

Talking about the garden there is a big gap in the bed just to the left of the Laburnum and in full view of the sitting room. The Husband has suggested growing some Nepata (Catmint) there, as it is a good looking plant and a perennial herb to boot, I think it a good idea too. There is, however, one major doubt in my mind. Our garden is not only occupied by Nimrod the Mighty Hunter and his sister Pickle it is also prowled by several other neighbourhood cats too (Nim at least isn't at all territorial). The thought of that lot rolling all over the Catmint .... well, it won't last very long. I've looked on the Web and see that experts recommend protecting it with wire netting or something. One school of thought is to place an upside down (hanging flower) basket over each plant and to let the herb grow through it as the basket will protect the main body of the plant from the loving attentions of cats. Sounds like a very good idea, but now I am trying to work out how to secure each basket in place. Nimrod may not be the brightest cat in the street but Pickle could win the feline equivalent of Brain of Britain without any difficulty and I am certain she would work out how to move the basket aside so that she could roll all over the actual plant and destroy it.

When you don't get on with your neighbours.....

You can find some pretty stupid things on the Net. Here is one of them.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Easy Apple Cake

1 lb (450 g) cooking apples
6 oz (175 g) self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
6 oz (175 g) sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
4 oz (100 g) butter, melted
sugar to sprinkle over

Heat the oven to 350 F, 180 C, Gas Mark 4 and line with greased greaseproof paper an 8 inch loose-bottomed cake tin.

Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and keep them in a bowl of water. Put the flower, baking powder and sugar into a mixing bowl. Beat together the eggs and the almond essence and stir them into the flour, then add the melted butter. Mix together well and spread half the mixture into the cake tin.

Drain and dry the apples on kitchen paper and arrange them onto the cake mixture. then top with the rest of the cake mixture (the butter will have congealed by now and so the mixture will need to be spread over the apples but if the apples show through at the end it doesn't really atter).

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes until golden and slightly shrunk from the sides of the tin. Leave to cook for 15 minutes and then turn out and remove the greaseprooof paper. Sift over the sugar. Serve either warm or cold. Delicious either as a dessert with custard or cream or alternatively as a cake at teatime.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The World Cup

Oh dear, IT has started and I'm already suffering. Three matches a day at the moment, at 2.00, 5.00 and 8.00 each day, and the Husband seems determined to watch them all. Fortunately I can hide in the study to get away from it, and have my own TV in there as well as my books but still at times the bellows, when a goal has been scored or failed to be scored, reach my ears like a mastodon roaring in a distant primeval swamp. And then he comes in to update me on what is going on and which team is the better and why. The computer is in the same room as the main TV and it's not easy to concentrate while a match is as, in addition to the noise from the TV, Himself keeps on commenting, loudly, on the game.

OK it's only on once every 4 years but that is more than enough. I still remember the last time the World Cup was on. I was still working then and one weekday morning I set off for work at the same time that the then England team strode on the pitch for an important match. As I strode towards the station I walked through streets that were totally silent and deserted, no cars or men to be seen. Walking through a suburban street with houses on both sides suddenly male voices could be heard from all directions, from each of the houses I was passing. I had no doubt that England had scored a goal. Of course by the time I reached work the game was over and England had lost but I still remember that and the commitment felt by virtually everyone over here.

I caught a couple of minutes of the opening ceremony last Thursday and have to admit that the Germans have proved to all their sense of humour - there was a delicious sense of irony in the start of the ceremony.

This time, of course, the World Cup is being held so close to home that many of our fans have gone over there. The media have been repeating the Fawlty Towers phrase for weeks - "Don't Mention the War". Hopefully there will be no trouble. But they do get totally emotionally involved in the competition.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The most amazing advert

Usually when the adverts come on the tv I automatically find something else to do until the programme I am watching returns -I tend to do the washing up in advertisement breaks, for example. However when this one came on tv I just stopped and watched, absolutely rivetted. I still do. Someone has just sent a link to the advert together with the following explanation of how the advert was created.

And you thought those people that set up roomfuls of dominos to knock over were amazing...

There are NO computer graphics or digital tricks in the film.Everything you see really happened in real time exactly as you see it. The film took 606 takes. On the first 605 takes, something, usually very minor, didn't work. They would then have to set the whole thing up again.

The crew spent weeks shooting night and day. By the time it was over, they were ready to change professions. The film cost six million dollars and took three months to complete including full engineering of the sequence.

In addition, it's two minutes long so every time Honda airs the film on British television, they're shelling out enough dough to keep any one of us in clover f! or a lifetime.

However, it is fast becoming the most downloaded advertisement in Internet history.

Honda executives figure the ad will soon pay for itself simply in "free viewing".(Honda isn't paying a dime to have you watch this commercial!). When the ad was pitched to senior executives, they signed off on it immediately without any hesitation - including the costs.

There are six and only six hand-made Honda Accords in the world. To the horror of Honda engineers, the filmmakers disassembled two of them to make the film. Everything you see in the film (aside from the walls, floor, ramp, and complete Honda Accord) is parts from those two cars. The voiceover is Garrison Keillor.

When the ad was shown to Honda executives, they liked it and commented on how amazing computer graphics have gotten.They fell off their chairs when they found out it was for real.

Oh. and about those funky windshield wip! ers...On the new Accords, the windshield wipers have water sensors and are designed to start doing their thing automatically as soon as they become wet.

The advert itself can be found at Enjoy!

Friday, June 02, 2006

It's the time of year when I always feel beleaguered and this year it's worse than ever. In a couple of weeks the insurance policies expire on the house, its contents AND the car, all on the same day, and it feels as if every insurance company in Britain and a fair assortment of the insurance brokers as well are chasing me up for my business. I've had literally dozens of letters from companies plus many, many e-mails on the subject. Goodness knows how they learnt about the expiry date. Well, chums, the building and contents insurance is sorted and so you needn't chase me up about that. We'll look at the motoring insurance next week but I've enough latters and e-mails on the subject, thank you, all ready to reach an informed decision. No more please.

The last few weeks have been interesting to say the least, since the arrival in the neighbourhood of some new visitors who are proving unwelcome to many of the other residents. In early Spring we became aware of a lot of fuss around a tree virtually next to our garden. When we looked we discovered two Crows being mobbed by several pigeons. This surprised us because Crows are not normally seen around here and the pigeons tend to be quite laid back and little normally fusses them. This fuss and noise associated with the Crows has continued on virtually a daily basis and we have seen them being mobbed many times since then. They are still around - both were sitting on the eves of our house only yeasterday, so they have obviously decided to move into the neighbourhood. And all the other birds, not just the pigeons, are not happy about it. Nimrod the Mighty Hunter is showing interest too but the Crows so far seem to be avoiding standing on the ground, so he is just a bit frustrated.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Similes and metaphors

I've come across these before and really enjoyed them. Rereading them now I find that they still make me laugh aloud.
Every year, English teachers from across the country (that is the US - Val) can submit their collections of actual similes and metaphors found in high school essays.These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country.

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E.Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Laburnum - a lesson in patience

We bought a Laburnum about 8 years ago and chose the L. watereri "Vossii" recommended in Dr. DG Hessayon's "Tree and Shrub Expert" as the best one to have. It was only about 8 feet tall when we planted it and it was generally very weedy. For years it did little and was a general disappointment, being the last tree in the garden to gain leaves, the first to drop them (in late August each year) and few of the racimes it is noted for. As it is planted in a very prominent position in the garden I am sure you can understand that this was a real disappointment. Two years ago I said bluntly that the tree would have to come out as it wasn't pulling its weight. The following Spring of 2005, after a very wet winter, it suddenly grew several feet and we had a really good display of racimes and the leaves dropped much later in the autumn too. This year the tree is a wonder with a huge number of racimes glowing with a wonderful yellow light. Obviously this is a tree that takes several years to establish itself so you need patience to grow it. But my goodness, it is worth it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Talking about dogs again, can you imagine doing this to any poor animal? I cannot imagine spending time knitting something like this!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What Breed of Dog Are You?

For a laugh I had a go at a test "What Breed of Dog Are You? ". Here are my results:-
Woof woof! You're a Scott!

No bones about it, you're an adventurous
Scottish Terrier. Fearless, feisty, and always up for a challenge, you like having things your way. Some people might even label you stubborn or headstrong. But we know you're just ambitious and motivated. (Being misinterpreted is such a trial, isn't it?) Besides, your can-do attitude serves you well when facing challenges at work or in your personal life. No job is too big, and absolutely no obstacle is going to stand in your way. You're always ready, willing, and able to rise to the challenge. A loyal, caring friend, you choose your pals very carefully, then stick by them through thick and thin. Woof!

I have to admit being a bit surprised. I thought I'd be a dog that's a bit more laid-back like, say, a labrador. What Breed of Dog are you?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Tuesday evening and the Husband is off to his music appreciation evening class leaving me on my own for a few hours. A welcome respite in many ways. I lived in a flat on my own before I married and enjoyed the solitude. It's nice even now to be able to spend some time on my own and just do what I want to do without pandering to the whims and wishes of another. Although I love listening to music at times it is nice at times just to sit and listen to the silence. Then I feel peaceful.

It's odd. For over 30 years I worked in the very center of one of the busiest and largest cities in the world and still enhoy visiting it. There one experiences noise and the presence of others 24 hours a day. Even there though one can enjoy the solitude and peace of just being my own person.

None of this is to say I am unhappy in my marriage, Just to say that it is nice at times to know that you are your own person and have the opportunity to do what you like when you like in peace and quiet.

Having said all that Nimrod the Mighty Hunter has just come in the cat flap and is bellowing for his dinner. I have his orders to follow.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The best day of your life is the one
on which you decide your life is your own.
No apologies or excuses.
No one to lean on, rely on, or blame.
The gift is yours -- it is an amazing journey --
and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.
This is the day your life really begins.

Source unknown

... and I'm back

OK, so after some time in the workshop I have my computer back. It now doesn't take 20 minutes to start up when I turn it on and it has stopped crashing regularly. And I now suspect that I am receiving all my e-mails - before I have a strong suspicion that some e-mails just didn't reach me. I think the problem is that when you use your own computer regularly that you get used to it being there and you think it is there for all time. But this isn't true for me now. I find myself thinking that the life of this machine is finite and at some time I will have to replace at least the big box with the processor and all the hard drive. The thing that is worrying me is that I have so much stored on my machine that I just don't want to lose. On iTunes I have well over 6 GB of music and audiobooks, most purchased and downloaded over the web. I'd have real difficulty replacing that lot.

While the computer was away I spent a lot of time working in the garden, tidying up and hoping for rain. The UK is in a state of drought and the authorities expect it to last all year as the last two winters we haven't had enough rain to replenish the reserviors. As a result some areas of Southern England still have a hosepipe ban in place from last year (i.e. no use of hosepipes in gardens) and parts of Surry and Kent now have a water order, which means that they are banned from using water for non-essential uses, like washing cars or filling swimming pools. Everyone is hoping that no-one ends up with water rationed to the extent that water to houses is cut off and water has to be collected from stand-pipes in the streets. Fortunately we haven't a hosepipe ban yet where we live but looking to the rest of the year I am being careful with water now and only using a watering can on my pots and containers. We've had showers the last few days, and anticipated for the weekend also, which while not enough to have any significant effect on reservoirs has at least helped the gardens. Ours looks like a jungle, everything has grown so much.

The Husband is currently playing a new box set of all the Haydn string quartets which is certainly a change from the passion he has developed for minimalist music. For the past two weeks he has played nothing but Philip Glass, Arvo Part, Reich and John Adams. I must admit that I like this type of music also but am glad for a change after hearing it constantly for two weeks straight.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Computer Problems

I'm having huge problems with my computer at the moment as it keeps crashing so I've not been online much. I'm taking it in to the computer workshop to try to sort out what the problem is. So apologies to my friends who I've not been in touch with lately. I hope to be back online soon.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Herbal Musings

Now that Spring has finally arrived and the rain that has kept us indoors for over a week has finally left I've been able to take a look at the herbs I grow. I keep most of them in pots on the patio, only a few feet from the house so that if I need to use any of them while cooking they are close at hand.

The two bay shrubs, each in its own pot, are both looking rudely healthy - but then they always do. Neither grows very quickly, but then Bays don't, though I could have sworn that when they were much smaller and growing on the kitchen windowsill they grew much faster than they do now. Perhaps when they get used to being outside - though they've been out there for about two years once I no longer had room for them indoors.

I am staggered by the speed at which new shoots are growing on the Spearmint. I tidied it up about two days ago and it looks as if the shoots have doubled in size since then. The Chocolate Mint is also beginning to show now but is clearly a little later than its brother the Spearmint.

I am surprised and very pleased at the French Tarragon. It has a reputation of dying when faced with a frost and as we have heavy frosts here every winter so I grew it as an annual. We had a bad winter and I saw that all the twigs above ground in the pot were dead and so I expected that the whole plant had died. However now lots of healthy baby Tarragon shoots have emerged in the pot.

The Chives died right back over winter but suddenly reappeared a few weeks ago and now I have a very healthy amount all ready for harvesting. What did surprise me, however, were the tiny Chives shoots I found emerging in the two pots of Mint. I removed them but perhaps I shouldn't - I could have had the Battle of the Thugs.

In one pot I had a Basil, a Rosemary and an Oregano. I was expecting the Bsil to die and it did. Although hardy the Rosemary has also shuffled off this mortal coil, just leaving the Oregano beginning to show green leaves. I am not sure what to do with this pot. Neither am I sure what to do with the purple Sage in another pot. It looks a bit sorry for itself and something has been munching its leaves. I think I shall wait a bit to see if it perks up. If it doesn't I shall have to come to a decision about it.

The rest of the garden is finally coming out of the long and hard winter. Lots of shoots are emerging, some several weeks later than usual. I must be careful not to be too enthusiastic in clearing away something that is only just waking up for the Spring.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lemon Linguini, Chocolate Pots, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Yesterday lunchtime I received a phone call from the Stepdaughter to say that she had just bought a copy of the DVD, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" which was released over here yesterday. She suggested coming over here in the evening so we could all watch the film together. As neither the Husband nor I had seen the film I agreed and suggested putting together a meal for us.

So I went looking for suitable recipes. This was fortuitous as I am a member of a private group that shares recipes, with each month dedicated to a specific type of recipe. April's category of recipes is Pasta dishes and so I welcomed the opportunity to try something new that I could then let the other group members know about. In Nigella Lawson's wonderful (and very fat) book "How to Eat" I found "Lemon Linguini" that I decided to try. As a lifelong dedicated chocoholic I decided to try "Chocolate Pots" from "The Return of the Naked Chef" by, of course, Jamie Oliver. Both recipes are set out below.

The film? We enjoyed it more than I think we expected. I haven't read the book since I had been at school but could remember enough to know that the film kept reasonably close to the actual plot. I also appreciated the imagination used in the way that it was dramatised. The Husband doesn't usually like that sort of film but actually enjoyed it, even though he didn't expect to do so - he uses the excellent BBC dramatisation that had come out when the kids were young as a benchmark but decided that the film came well up to that standard. Also, he knows a lot about the history of trains and stations and frequently criticises new dramatisations of Miss Marple and Poirot as being wrong in their depiction of trains and buses of the period- he said that the depiction of Paddington Station and the train was correct (though he said that the train was somewhat cleaner than it should have been). Generally the film was well received in our household.

Lemon Linguini

750g linguini
2 egg yolks
150 ml double cream
50g freshly grated parmesan
zest and juice of 1 lemon
15g butter
parsley, chopped
  1. Cook the linguini according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. In a bowl mix together the egg yolks, grated parmesan, zest and juice of the lemon, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Beat together with a fork.
  3. When the lingini is cooked drain, retaining a small amount of the cooking liquid. Put the linguini back in the pan throw in the butter and swirl it about until each strand is coated with the melted butter. Then add the parmesan/lemon mixture and stir into the pasta. Add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water only if the mixture looks a bit dry - otherwise don't bother.
  4. Serve immediately, preferably with a green salad, with chopped parsley on top of the pasta.


The recipe is actually for six - I cut it down for the three of us.

The idea is for the sauce to taste subtly of lemon - add more or reduce the amount of lemon juice appropriately.

Nigella states in the book that this is best with linguini pasta - and that it would not work properly with something as fine as angelhair pasta. I suggest that you experiment, though.

Chocolate Pots

half pint single cream

200 g (7 0z) best cooking chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped

2 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons brandy, the best you can get

20g (3/4 oz) butter

  1. In a thick-bottomed pan heat the cream until nearly boiling. Remove from the heat, leave for 1 minute then add the chocolate. Stir in until melted and smooth. Once melted stir in the egg yolks and brandy, stir until smooth. Leave to cool slightly before stirring in the butter until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Pour into individual serving pots.


Serves four. It is very, very rich - so serve only a small amount per person.

I used Cointreau instead of brandy, which worked well with the chocolate/cream mixture.