Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One of the things we do when we put up Christmas decorations is to replace the normal candles in our big candle holder with Father Christmas ones.

Although we've done this for some years this time the Stepdaughter took a step back and said "those Father Christmasses are doing the Nazi salute"

Well, taking another look at them I feel that their arms are at the wrong angle for that. I feel that they are just waving at us.

They certainly give me seasonal feelings and nothing else.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hmmm. I'm feeling a bit dubious at the moment. I've just back from an appointment with my doctor to monitor my blood pressure. Again. This time it was 150 over 85 which is a lot better than a few months ago when he first put me on BP pills. (Loathsome things - difficult to swallow as they disintegrate in the mouth.)

He said that as a last stand before doubling my BP medication I should use a home kit to monitor my BP every day - just in case visiting the surgery is making it go up. So I bought a kit from the chemists and am trying to learn how to use it. I'm not sure I've got it right though. Just now it said that I was 189 over 122. Either I'm not using it right or perhaps the mere effort of using it makes my BP go higher.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Christmas Decorations are up

It took the Husband later than usual this year to decide to put up the decorations, not surprising given what he has been through. But in the last few days he decided the time is right and called the Stepdaughter around the other evening to help put them all up.

I've taken pictures of some of the decorations but not of the chains. Luckily these are chains we've had for years because it's now difficult to find them in the shops. I can't imagine why as I always feel that they give a really Christmassy feel to a room.

And yes, that's a picture of us to the left of the clock, taken on our wedding day. 14 years ago now.

How time flies.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Now This I Couldn't Resist

I'm Charles the Mad. Sclooop.
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

You are Charles VI of France, also known as Charles the Mad or Charles the Well-Beloved! A fine, amiable and dreamy young man, skilled in horsemanship and archery, you were also from a long line of dribbling madmen. King at 12 and quickly married to your sweetheart, Bavarian Princess Isabeau, you enjoyed many happy months together before either of you could speak anything of the other's language. However, after illness you became a tad unstable. When a raving lunatic ran up to your entourage spouting an incoherent prophecy of doom, you were unsettled enough to slaughter four of your best men when a page dropped a lance. Your hair and nails fell out. At a royal masquerade, you and your courtiers dressed as wild men, ending in tragedy when four of them accidentally caught fire and burned to death. You were saved by the timely intervention of the Duchess of Berry's underskirts.

This brought on another bout of sickness, which surgeons countered by drilling holes in your skull. The following months saw you suffer an exorcism, beg your friends to kill you, go into hyperactive fits of gaiety, run through your rooms to the point of exhaustion, hide from imaginary assassins, claim your name was Georges, deny that you were King and fail to recognise your family. You smashed furniture and wet yourself at regular intervals. Passing briefly into erratic genius, you believed yourself to be made of glass and demanded iron rods in your attire to prevent you breaking.

In 1405 you stopped bathing, shaving or changing your clothes. This went on until several men were hired to blacken their faces, hide, jump out and shout "boo!", upon which you resumed basic hygiene. Despite this, your wife continued sleeping with you until 1407, when she hired a young beauty, Odette de Champdivers, to take her place. Isabeau then consoled herself, as it were, with your brother. Her lovers followed thick and fast while you became a pawn of your court, until you had her latest beau strangled and drowned.

A severe fever was fended off with oranges and pomegranates in vast quantities, but you succumbed again in 1422 and died. Your disease was most likely hereditary. Unfortunately, you had anywhere up to eleven children, who variously went on to develop capriciousness, great cruelty, insecurity, paranoia, revulsion towards food and, in one case, a phobia of bridges.
I’ll be glad when tomorrow comes and we’ll no longer be pestered by political canvassers. Yes, we’ve an election in this ward tomorrow. December is an odd time to have one but it has become necessary due to the exploits of our previous councillor, who was also Mayor for the Borough of Chelmsford.

You could, I suppose, call him a Naughty Boy. Personally I would call him a Complete Idiot. Let’s face it, if you are Mayor and are using a Council’s computer on official business then you don’t download child pornography onto that computer. Of course the police found out and undertook a formal investigation. And then the local media found out and so on and so forth. Finally he resigned as our councillor and as the Mayor.

There are four political parties all desperate to fill his place: the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib-Dems and even UKIP. The trouble for us is that they don’t have every ward in the Borough on which to disseminate their efforts and so this time everything is concentrated just on our ward. So we are being pestered and pestered. Hardly a day goes by without at least one paper or leaflet being thrust through our letterbox. I’ve had telephone calls and one candidate knocked on the door. Yesterday I handed to the Husband a handwritten envelope addressed to him that I assumed was a Christmas card. It wasn’t, it was another leaflet.

We’ve even had a leaflet from the UKIP candidate which really amused us. Talk about a total lack of understanding of the extent of power held by a local councillor: he clearly thinks that being elected will make him controller of our government. But other than that light relief we are just exasperated at the amount of stuff they have sent us. The paper recycling sack is full of it.

Oh well. It’s a prime lesson how the actions on one can affect the many. And the sooner tomorrow comes the better.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Yesterday was a good day, busy but good. The Stepson came back from Cambridge for the weekend, spent Saturday with his mother and came to us on Sunday and stayed overnight. His sister came round yesterday with her boyfriend.

It was just a normal Sunday really. I cooked a meal. Then we sat and talked and talked. The Husband pursuaded the Boyfriend, a techie in work life, to look at our computer. He did a lot to the machine but in the very limited time he had we still haven't worked out how to transfer files of audiobooks recorded from cassettes into iTunes. I'll have to have another look at that.

The Husband has just returned from driving the Stepson to visit a friend in Bishops Stortford and turning on the computer I see that the Step Daughter has sent us something that made us smile. Some of them make you think too. So, here it is....

The Philosophy of Ambiguity

1. Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.
2. One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor....
3. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
4. If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?
5. The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.
6. I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.
7. What if there were no hypothetical questions?
8. If a deaf person swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?
9. If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?
10. Is there another word for synonym?
11. Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all?"
12. What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?
13. If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?
14. Would a fly without wings be called a walk?
15 Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?
16. If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked?
17. Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?
18. If the police arrest a mute, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?
19. Why do they put Braille on the drive-through bank machines?
20. How do they get deer to cross the road only at those yellow roadsigns?
21. What was the best thing before sliced bread?
22. One nice thing about egotists: They don't talk about other people.
23. Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?
24. Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
25. How is it possible to have a civil war?
26. If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown too?
27. If you ate both pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?
28. If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?
29. Whose cruel idea was it for the word "Lisp" to have "S" in it?
30. Why are haemorrhoids called "haemorrhoids" instead of "assteroids"?
31. Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them?
32. Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?
33. If you spin an oriental man in a circle three times does he become disoriented?
34. Can an atheist get insurance against acts of God?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sometimes change is sad but inevitable.

When we moved into this house, about 12-13 years ago there was a cherry tree in the front garden, almost on on the boundary to the pavement. It had obviously been there for some years, we assume since the house was originally built. I used to enjoy the green leaves that really added something to the view from any of the front windows of the house from spring to autumn. And, of course, for about a week every Spring it was a mass of pink which decorated the entire street. For this beauty we used to put up with the layer of pink petals that used to cover every surface of the car, flower beds and drive immediately afterwards.

Anyway last spring there wasn't as many blossoms as usual, in fact they were very sparse. And as the summer continued leaves on the branches died several months prematurely. It became clear that the tree was in a poor way. I knew we had to do something about it and we had decided to remove it. I was getting a bit worried in fact as after every strong wind there would be twigs laying on the road and in the garden. My (always active) imagination began to play visions of a branch falling onto a passer-by on the pavement. But I'd no idea of where to find a good tree surgeon.

Then one day last week I heard the sound of a circular saw close by and looking out of the window I realised that one of the houses nearby was having some work done to their sycamore tree. In fact they too were having the tree chopped down. This was a magnificent specimen but I knew that they wanted to get rid of it and clearly they had found a company capable of doing the job. And to my eyes they looked very capable.

So I nipped along and had a word with one of them and asked for an estimate to remove the cherry tree. He had a look at it and told me that at some stage it had been pollarded and then left to grow naturally, something that always weakened a tree.

Two days later an estimate arrived in the post and it was much less than I expected both to cut down the tree and poison the roots. So yesterday I rang them up and asked them to do the task. Their first action was to contact the council to check that there were no planning restrictions on the tree and no preservation order. They rang us back this morning to say that they had heard from the council, all was well and they could do it today. I nipped down to the bank, for obvious reasons, and by the time I had returned home they had already started.

It didn't take them long. And when they put poison on the roots (to avoid suckers - a real problem with cherries) they also did so on my neighbour's sycamore, which explains how they happened to be in the area.

When he had finished the tree surgeon told us that the cherry's trunk was almost completely dead and that if left the branches could have been a health & safety hazard. So we were right to have the tree cut down.

But it hasn't stopped both of us feeling sad that the tree had to go. It was lovely in its prime. But life moves on. In the Spring I shall look for something pretty to cover the stump.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Upon due reflection I would have to say that my favourite piece of kitchen equipment is my stockpot. After I retired I started make a lot of soup and realised early on that my largest saucepan wasn't big enough and even the pan from the pressure cooker wasn't really up to the job. So we went shopping for a stockpot and bought the biggest and heaviest domestic one we could find. Even in a Debenhams 20% off sale it was still a lot of money but it was worth it, definitely. I use it frequently and it has the weight and the volume I need, although at times I still wish it was a bit bigger, especially if I've sized up a recipe as I often do. Anyway, here it is, full of scotch broth and sitting on a chopping board made by my father when I first left home. When he retired from work he developed a fascination with woodwork and although this is just a big piece of wood with no carving on it at all it is definitely fit for purpose as a chopping board.


The Beeb has been showing a wonderful series on BBC4 called "The Genius of Photography", described as the first real documentary describing the history of photography from the very beginnings and the way that the taking of photographs has affected the way we look at the world and the way it still affects us. The most recent one, shown last Thursday was about pictures taken of family life, not happy family pics but pictures of family life showing real lives. We saw pictures of people in the act of taking drugs, pictures one photographer took of his alcoholic father living in a high-rise block in a less then salubrius part of outer London. There was also one Japanese photographer who published series of books of pictures from his marriage day, throughout his marriage until his wife's illness, death and the subsequent funeral. Although it might not seem so we've found the series fascinating and many of the pictures really speak to you. Very, very thought provoking.

In this latest programme several of the photographers were takinhg pictures of everything in their lives and I've found it reminded me of something I had planned to do early this year - namely to take pictures of my life and what interests me. And why shouldn't I start to do so.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I seem to be going through a period of lethargy at the moment. I have a list of things to do and no wish to get on with any of them. For example the garden needs work, I have all the materials to do a crochet-a-thon but haven’t started it yet, I’ve put my (unfinished) knitting to one side, there’s a pile of papers and books in the study to sort out, and so on……and I don’t feel like starting any of them. The weather doesn’t help – it’s so damp and chilly that it makes me not want to do anything. And when I do try my chest starts to complain – having asthma that is triggered by damp weather isn’t easy, especially in a wet winter in England. Even working on the computer isn’t easy at the moment.

But just before the cold wet weather (and the wheezing) started I found a wonderful site where it’s possible to spend a lot of time improving my vocabulary and at the same time helping to feed the world’s poor. The Free Rice site is well worth a visit.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A couple of days ago I went to Cardiff to visit my mother. We chat on the phone every other day but I thought that she might welcome a visit now as my brother is on a three week holiday in Chile hunting cacti. Before I went I had been a little worried that she may not recognise me as some of the painkillers she has been put on, since several of her vertibrae crumbled due to osteoporosis, have made her mind wander into another world. Fortunately though they are now trying her on painkiller patches which help with the pain without afecting her mind. So she was with it, recognised me and was able to chat without any problems. It was a good visit.

Going from Chelmsford in Essex to a suburb of Cardiff involves a mile walk to the railway station, a train to Liverpool St station in London, a tube to Paddington station from where I take a train to Cardiff Central followed by a taxi out to the nursing home. I was lucky this time and everything ran like clockwork going there, so it took just over 5 hours. The journey back was almost as good with just the train delayed going back to london from Cardiff Central.

I am, however, not sure how I shall be able to see her over the Christmas period as, apparently, Liverpool St station is going to be closed from before Christmas until 1st January 2008. Some sort of bridge repairs I think. I suppose it's not surprising as that train journey goes through the area where the Olympics will take place in 2012 and I suppose British Rail is making sure the railway infrastructure is sufficient. However, it makes travelling up to London (and for me onto Cardiff) very problematic over Christmas with long bus journeys to get to tube stations.

I suppose I shall have to drive there, not my favourite journey as the A12, the M25 and the M4 are all very busy roads and I dread to think how long it will take. Then there is the fact you have to pay a toll to cross the Severn Bridge to go into Wales, something I bitterly resent. I never feel at home in Wales and would willingly pay any amount to leave there but not to go there. Oh well, I'll sort something out somehow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Last Friday I posted a piece and a pattern for my Third Red Hat scarf. Well, I finished that scarf the day before my first cataract operation and when that was over I found myself at home with nothing to knit and with every published knitting pattern in such tiny print it was, for me, impossible to read at the time. But I could still remember the pattern of the scarf I had just finished so I bought a ball of green double knitting yarn (again I've last the ball band) and used the same pattern as before. I find the difference,using one colour rather than two,absolutely fascinating.

Monday, November 12, 2007


The Husband made an experiment yesterday. He added a piece of music to his iPod and then played that piece from the iPod and at the same time played the original CD in the DVD player – flicking from one channel to another on the hi-fi to which both the iPod and DVD player were connected. There was absolutely no difference in the sound quality at all that either of us could hear. And when he played the CD on his (very expensive) Naim CD player there was a only a very slight difference: the depth of sound on the Naim was hardly different from when it is played on the DVD player.

Incidentally, yesterday he also played a CD with what I believe to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, so beautiful it tears my heart to bits every time I hear it. This is the Eclogue for piano and string orchestra by Gerald Finzi. It’s a sure sign the family is returning to normal – last week we couldn’t have listened to it as it would have been too sad.

Friday, November 09, 2007

cash advance

Is this good? As someone who left school at 16 and went straight into work I am very aware that I'm not a genius. But I hope I'm not stupid either.

Anyway, I don't want to frighten away anyone by the extent of my erudition. (Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it - grin.)

Free Knitting Pattern: My Third Red Hat Scarf

I am staggered to realise that I finished my second Red hat scarf in May. Almost immediately afterwards I started on my third Red Hat scarf and finished it the day before my first eye operation. What with one thing after another I put it to one side and just stuffed it in a cupboard. I dug it out this morning and took this picture of it.

Because I finished it four months ago I can't find the ball bands and can't remember the actual yarn I used but I do know that both balls were Double Knitting and contained a high portion of wool. The scarf used one 100 gram ball each of Red and Purple. Oh, and I carried the unused colour up the side of the knitting so there weren't loads of ends to work in. Anyway, here is the actual pattern:

Abbreviation to note:
ssk = slip the next 2 stitches one at a time, insert left needle into the front of the slipped stitches and knit them together.

1 100grm ball of DK each in Red (M) and Purple (C)

Using M cast on 49 sts. Follow stitch pattern as follows:

Row 1: (WS) K1, P3, *K11, P4; rep from * to last 15 stitches, K11, P3, K1.
Row 2: K4, * P11, K4; rep from * to end.
Row 3: K1, P1, * P2tog, P11, P2tog tbl; rep from * to last 2 sts, P1, K1.
Row 4: K2, *ssk, K9, K2tog; rep from * to last 2 sts, K2.
Row 5: K1, P1, * P2tog, P7, P2tog tbl; rep from * to last 2 sts, P1, K1.
Row 6: K4, * [YO, K1] five times, YO, K4; rep from * to end.

Using M (Red) and C (Purple) as follows:
2 Rows M (R1 & 2)
2 Rows C (R 3 & 4)
10 Rows M ( 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
And continue……

I hope this is all understandable. If not give me a shout and I'll try to explain a bit more.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Spiced Parsnip Soup

I am never sure about the copyright issues of quoting a recipe here that I have found in a magazine or a book. However, sometimes I find something so good and easy - I don’t believe in making too much fuss when cooking - that I really want to remember the recipe for future occasions and also to let my friends know about how good it is.

Here is a case in point. In the November issue of the Country Kitchen magazine was a wonderful soup recipe. When I made it the Husband said “this is a keeper – you should make it again”. And so I am writing the recipe below and say to everyone – here is a reason to buy Country Kitchen magazine. A good advertisement for the magazine (especially as their website still shows their July issue.)

Oh, I made one small change to the published recipe. I like my soup thicker than the finished article so I added a tin of Butter beans and blended them in too. It all depends on your own particular tastes, of course.

Spiced Parsnip Soup

1 tsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
0.5 tsp ground turmeric
700g parsnips, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

Heat the oil in a deep pan and fry the onion over a gentle heat until it starts to soften. Add the spices and cook for a few minutes before adding the parsnips. Stir well, season with salt and pepper and sweat over a medium heat for 5 minutes.

Pour in stock and the simmer for 15-20 minutes until the parsnip is soft. Blend until smooth. (It was at this stage that I decided to blend into the soup a tin of butter beans to thicken it a little.) Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a swirl of plain yoghurt, if you wish.

(Like many soup recipes this is best made a little before you plan to serve it and store it in the fridge for a while. I usually make it the day before we plan to eat it. This allows all the flavours in the soup to come out fully.) Delicious.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It is all over now. And it all went well.

On Thursday the Husband and I set off for Cambridge to pick up the Stepson and bring him home, ready for Friday. He had lectures in the afternoon and would not be free until after 6.00 pm and so we went up to Cambridge earlier in the day and had a look around. As it was a typical dull late October day we ended up in the Fitzwilliam Museum and spent a couple of hours looking at some of the pictures until the museum closed. Some of the pictures were wonderful: there was a Canaletto of the Interior Court of the Doge’s Palace that I would have cheerfully have gone to prison for attempting to steal (I didn’t, of course). After the museum closed we walked around the shops until the Stepson was free to meet us. And then, after a meal at a local Pizza Express we set off for home.

Friday was the day of the funeral and so the Husband, the Stepson, Stepdaughter and her boyfriend and I set off for Whitstable in Kent. We went to the Father-in-law’s flat, from where the funeral cortege left for the crematorium which was at Barham, a good 35-40 minutes drive. The grounds of the crematorium were lovely, situated on the top of a hill so you could look down into a valley of English countryside showing wonderful autumnal colours. We met up with lots of other members of the family and went in for the service. It was a nice service, the Mother-in-law had been a practicing Christian and so it was very much along those terms with two good “old fashioned” hymns all of us knew “All people who on earth do dwell” and “Praise my Soul the King of Heaven”. I remember both from my schooldays – it was good to have a chance to sing them again.

After the service we all made our way back to Whitstable. As the Father-in-law lives in a flat too small to hold all the mourners a function room had been booked in a local hotel which also provided a very good buffet meal. The whole family had a good chance to get together and to chat. After it was over the Father-in-law went home and we went with him and spent a few hours with him. In the evening we made our way home again.

The following day we drove the Stepson back to Cambridge, a rather lengthier drive than we were expecting because a crane was being moved through the town and so all the roads were gridlocked. And then the Husband and I returned home and have tried to relax after a trying period.

The past few days have not been easy on anyone and all of us have had memories and feelings with which to come to terms. Now we are returning to a normal life, except for the one person who is no longer there.

And so I am hoping that this blog will now resume to normality.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A busy couple of days ahead.

Tomorrow the Husband and I are off to Cambridge to pick up the Stepson. It's not an easy journey from Cambridge to Chemsford by public transport: the only way of doing it is to take the train from Cambridge to central London and then another train from London to Chelmsford. However by car it's relatively easy (except dealing with the M11 when it goes down to 2 lanes just when it becomes hilly and lots of lorries are crawling along. So we thought we'd take the opportunity to look around Cambridge until he finishes all his lectures/tutorials/etc. Then we'll have a meal together and then come home.

On Friday the three of us plus the Stepdaughter and her boyfriend will set off to Kent for the funeral. We are go down toWhitstable and then set off for the crematorium, which I think is the other side of Canterbury. Afterwards there will be a family get together when we'll have the opportunity to meet some of the Husband's family again. It will be nice to meet them again even if on such a sad occasion.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sometimes when you have a problem it helps to sit down and think about it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Well, things are slowly settling down now. Most of the tasks necessary after a death have been completed, mainly by the Husband: all the legal things like death certificates, informing everyone, sorting out the no-longer-needed clothes and effects. I certainly do not envy him the hard work he has put into all this. The funeral is this coming Friday, the 2nd. After the cremation there will be a small family get together in a function room in one of the local hotels. I am looking forward to meeting the Husband’s side of the family again, although I regret the reason for the get-together.

Still, I hope in future to be around here a little more than has been possible lately.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sad News

The Husband's mother Joan died in the early hours of this morning. We were expecting it, her health, which has never been good, had deteriorated badly over the last few weeks and the doctors had said some days ago that she had not long to go. Her immediate family had the chance to see her over the weekend - the Husband, his sister, his brother-in-law, the Stepson and I went to the hospital in Canterbury on Saturday and saw her. Although her mind was going she recognised us and was able to say a few small things. The thing was that although she hadn't been told the end was near she clearly knew: she always said "see you soon" at the end of a visit, but this time she said "goodbye" to each of us. The Stepdaughter went yesterday (having brought a bad throat under control) and told us later that her grandmother said little but clearly knew she was there. She'd always had a close relationship to all her grandchildren and we are so glad that they all had the opportunity to see her over the weekend.

Now our thoughts must not only be on all the arrangements but also on her widowed husband. He is 85 years old and they had been married for 58 years. We are all worried about him and so the Husband is going down to stay with him for the next couple of days- he just doesn't want him to be alone. I am not sure of the extent I shall be around over the next few days but I am sure you understand. .

Friday, October 19, 2007

Life's a little serious at the moment as the Husband's mother is so poorly but here is a picture to cheer us all up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I haven't been around here much because for the last few days the Husband and I both have some sort of bug and neither of us has any energy at all. It's a bit like a cold, a bit like the flu and a bit like nothing on earth. So we haven't been doing much lately.

Having said that we both did things last Saturday - mainly because we'd both had them booked and it would have been next to impossible to have cancelled or to rearrange them. And we each managed what we were doing . But the next day, the Sunday, we were both worn out but have now recovered.

The Husband had made arrangements to get the car serviced and to have its MOT examination. His brother-in-law always does it (he is a car mechanic) and Saturday was the only day he could do it before the old MOT expired and, of course, it's illegal to drive a car over a certain age without an MOT. So he drove down there very early in the morning (it had to be ready to be worked on at 7.30 am) and spent the day there visiting all his family. His mother is not very well so he visited her in hospital and spent some time also with his father.

I, however, was doing something completely different. A few weeks ago I'd decided to try something different and booked a place on a "Drawing for Beginners" one day course at the Adult Education Institute in Brentwood. It was a one-off course and it was then or never. I hadn't done any drawing since I left school 40 years ago and I had been told then that I was no good at any sort of art. But I thought I'd try it, just to see. I really enjoyed it and it was the most fun I'd had for some time. I'm probably not a born artist but that's not the point. It was enjoyable. I shall definitely try to find another class in the subject.

And now we are both trying to recover from this virus thing. The sooner it goes the better.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Outside the window in our sitting room can be seen a big hardy fuscia currently in full flower and in a flower bed to the right of the window. It would be a lovely picture and well worth looking at if it was not for what is connecting it to a buddleia in a flower bed on the left side of the window. A fine thread, a very fine thread, and to some a very attractive picture - if it wasn’t for the fact that its maker and occupant likes to lurk in the middle of the thread and in full view of the window. I really don’t like spiders and I’m sure that this one knows it. So it sits there and sneers at me.

That I could cope with, if they stayed outside. But this time of year spiders are trying to find themselves shelter indoors and for the last month the Husband has had the job of getting rid of them before I come across them. Frequently over the last few weeks I’ve heard his say “Don’t come in the …hall/dining room/bathroom” and then I’d hear thumps as the creature meets its maker. (We have an unspoken deal in our house. The Husband deals with spiders, whilst I deal with the mice that Nimrod has brought in and let go.)

Then there was yesterday. The Husband had gone up to London for the day as he and other members of his music group first went to see a film at the Barbican (“The Lives of Others” – he said it was very good) and then on to the newly reopened Royal Festival Hall for the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the London Philharmonic Orchestra by Sir Thomas Beecham. I find it nice to spend some time alone sometimes and I enjoyed spending some “me” time yesterday afternoon. However, come the evening I made a quick trip to the bathroom and there It was. A huge great thing with long legs not just lurking in the washbasin but actively running around it and making it clear that it was alive and ready to kill anything in its path. All right, I know all the received wisdom about arachnids and how useful they are keeping flies under control. I also know that I’m bigger than they are. Nevertheless that thing knew who was boss and that It was in charge of the bathroom. It was only when the Husband returned that the balance of power in our household returned to normal and the 8-legged creature was evicted.

There are times when it’s very useful to have a man around.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Yesterday was Monday, 1st October and a good opportunity to stop and to think a bit about life.

We have lived through the first nine months of 2007 and have three months to go before 2008 is upon us.

Tesco has been selling chocolates for Christmas for the last month and Marks & Sparks is now stocking mince pies.

I went into a card shop yesterday and saw Christmas cards on sale.

Yesterday a stall opened in one of the local shopping centers (mall) to sell calendars and diaries for 2008.

Does anyone else think that Society generally is always looking to the future and never enjoying the moment?

Still yesterday I heard some wonderful news of a new life. My friend Buffy has a new granddaughter – a little girl, born on Saturday and weighing 6 lbs 11 oz. Welcome to the world little one.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Friday we had the first Red Hat dinner of this autumn. Ther hadn't been any dinners over the summer period as there wasn't enough members available on any one date to make an event practical. But Friday there was a dozen of us. I had difficulties taking a decent picture as I was on the outer side of a dog-legged table and I couldn't move eaily from where I was sitting. So I just aimed the camera to the other end of the table. Generally there was a lot of chatter and much laughter at the dinner. It may not be a good picture but it gives some impression of how much fun was being had.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why is it that as soon as I can use the computer properly an IT item in our household decides to play up, requiring me to spend hours searching the internet for the way to put it right?

I decided to spend a small (ha!) amount of time this afternoon dealing with my iPod. I have an account with which by the payment of £14.99 each month enables me to download two audiobooks each month. As we both like unabridged books, which are of course, more expensive than the abridged ones, we save a fair bit. Anyway I bought and downloaded the two books for this month ("Monarchy" by David Starkey and "I, Claudius" by Robert Graves) and added them to my iPod with no problems at all. Then the Husband asked what versions of "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier were available. He had heard some years ago a cassette audiobook of the unabridged book read by Anna Massey and he felt this was the definitive reading of the book. Well, it wasn't available on (although they had other versions of the book) but it was on iTunes. So I downloaded it and tried to add it to his iPod.

That was when the problems started. His iPod froze and wouldn't do anything. Neither would it appear on the iTunes on my computer. I have just spent all afternoon trying to sort it out. I've tried searching My Computer, restarted the p.c. several times, redownloaded the iTunes software - all without success. I've also spent a dishearening amount of time trying to find the answer on Apple's support pages - which are totally impenetrable if you aren't a techie.

The iPod is only 11 months old and I have a horrible feeling we are going to have to send it off for repair. The Husband is the ultimate Luddite and I even have to turn on the computer for him if he wants to look up something. Giving him the iPod last Christmas was a not very subtle attempt on my part to get him to feel more comfortable around technology. He will not be impressed though if his iPod has to go off for repair.

Oh well, as a last attempt to sort the thing out I've put it on charge overnight. If that doesn't help I've no idea what to do. It shows how helpless we can be when something technological goes wrong. Perhaps Ned Ludd was right.

The next day, after it became clear that putting it on charge didn't help, I rang a technical help number I found on Apple's Support website. After double-checking that the iPod was still in warranty they did help me and finally we got it sorted so it's now working properly. What happens if it goes wrong again after it is out of warranty I do not know. Oh well, it's ok for now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm back

I'm back and I can see. The cataract operation on my left eye was in August and all went well, Then I went through what was for me a really weird period when I had what could best be called "limited vision". The sight in my left eye is the same as that in my right eye now - I can see long distance very well but everything else is out of focus. While waiting for my left eye top settle down after the operation I bought a pair of "over the counter" reading glasses which helped with reading the newspaper, etc. However, I discovered that everything between the close and distance work was just a blur which made my life rather interesting for a while. Shopping was a nightmare, unless the Husband was with me as I could not read labels of anything and you just don't know how much you read labels of goods in shops unless you dig out the reading glasses every time you want to read something and then put them away until you get to the next label to read - a generally time-consuming and fiddly thing to do every time you go shopping.

I did try to use the computer after the second operation, using the magnifier which is part of the accessibility package provided by Windows but it gave just a "letterbox" slot of magnified text. This was both disconcerting and wasn't much help when trying to navigate the Internet. As it was, virtually the first time I tried it I managed to click on the wrong link and ended up with a Trojan on my computer that I've now finally managed to dispose of.

I got my new glasses yesterday that have finally given me back my freedom. Varifocals, of course, so I now have full vision both with close work, what I call "middle distance" and they even sharpen up my long distance vision slightly. But for the first time since I was about 5 years old I can go out without glasses at all, a pleasure I cannot describe.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I am not going to be around at this blog for a few weeks. Not that I am giving up blogging or anything but I am having my second cataract operation on my left eye tomorrow and I don't expect to be able to read anything on the computer for a while. I know this because I am writing this with the benefit of only my left eye at the moment. When I had the cataract operation on my right eye I discovered that I could not read what was on the computer screen with that eye unless it was in huge print. Obviously I need new glasses but it isn't worth all that effort and expense getting new ones until both my eyes have been done and so I've spent the last two months working at the computer wearing my old glasses and with their right lense covered up. Generally life hasn't been very easy since the first operation as I've now one eye with excellent long distance vision and the other eye incredibly weak and fuzzy. So my sight (and life) has been quite weird and tiresome for the last two months.

I have to wait a minimum of four weeks after the op before I can go to the opticians to have my eyes tested for new glasses. But the wonderful thing is that I will be able to wear them for reading and other close work only and not to wear all day long. I've had to wear glasses all the time since I was 5 years old and over the last few years or so I've had varifocals with very strong lenses so it's all going to be worth it.

I'll be back as soon as I can.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Red Hat Videos on YouTube

I had a really pleasant surprise yesterday. I was contacted via YouTube from one of my fellow Red Hatters. She said

"Hi Adele

I'm a great fan of your blog and found the YouTube link to the Women in Art brilliant.

I put Red Hat Society in search and there are loads there! thought you may want to link these on your blog.

Have fun ......

Love Linda (Witham)

It is nice to be contacted at times and to meet up with friends.

And the links themselves are great fun. As I mentioned before I've never been able to embed YouTube videos in this blog so I've just put the links here:

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Why is it that Pickle has changed where she likes to sleep? She’s a cat who hates to be loomed over, much preferring to associate with humans by sitting next to them on the sofa (and nagging when she thinks it time for dinner). But now for some reason she’s decided to sleep just where we have to step over her to get to and from the sitting room. And gets grumpy when we do so.

Why is it that although you’ve carefully warned the company that sends you two Midsummer Murder DVDs each month that your credit card has been hijacked and given them the new credit card number, that a week later they send you a letter saying that your (old) credit card doesn’t work?

Why is it that GoogleMail decides to put an e-mail from a couple of friends into the most unlikely of folders on my Gmail system and I don’t notice the fact for two days?

Why is it that men (or, more precisely, the Husband) thinks it sensible to go for a 18 mile long walk when he has a huge blister on the base of one foot and afterwards complains of the pain? (Not to mention his bloody socks.)

And why is it that every time I go into town I see lots and lots of Scouts? This at least is easy to work out as the 21st World Scout Jamboree is taking place here in Chelmsford, or to be more precise at Hylands Park. Hylands, which is situated only about a mile or two outside the center of the town is a house together with a huge park that is used for all sorts of events. For example the V festival takes place there every year and so the grounds are an ideal location for the 40,000 scouts currently over here and from all over the world. But clearly they are not confined to Hylands as we often see some in town, often shopping for food, etc.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I've just stumbled upon.. Stumbleupon. I installed the toolbar on my p.c. just 10 minutes ago and have only just started to look at some of the sites that come up but the third one was from here and it's absolutely fascinating. I especially like the second one with someone wearing a Tony Blair mask overseeing John Major falling into a well. Great fun and Stumbledupon looks an interesting way of finding some of the more fascinating sites on the web. Including lots of cats.

I've also found a fascinating site, part of wikiHow called "How to Fit in when visiting London" and I have to say it made me grin. There's a lot of good advice there but also comments that definitely made me lift an eyebrow - for example "Do not attempt to keep up with your average Londoner when it comes to alcohol consumption." I'm certainly not sure I agree with their comments about drinking being a huge part of our social culture.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thank goodness I’ve got a good bank. Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from them. They asked me whether I had just that day spent a sum of money on my credit card. As the sum was in excess of £1,400 I was able to state categorically that I had not. It turns out that my bank had just received such a claim using my credit card number but the associated information (I assume they meant the usual things like card expiry date, its security code and my home address) was wrong. So the bank had smelled a rat and had phoned me up to check.

I was more than a bit taken aback that such a thing could happen, as I try to take such care with the way I use my credit and debit cards. On the net I am always careful to use the credit card only on a few websites, and those are ones with secure payment facilities. At home whenever I no longer need credit card receipts then I shred them and add them to the compost heap.

Interestingly enough the attempted payment was on a website that I do look at occasionally. It sells electrical goods and it’s a good place to use when seeking comparison prices on certain electrical goods. I’ve never actually bought anything from there though, as I’ve always managed to find the same goods at better prices on other websites.

How someone got my credit card number I don’t know. But it’s a good thing my bank checks such things. And they were willing to go that extra mile and ring me at home to check the validity of a payment. When I said that it wasn’t my payment they immediately cancelled my credit card and have put a new one in the post. I should receive it in a couple of days. Hopefully the number of that one won’t leak out. But if it does it is comforting to know that my bank is on my side.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I haven't mentioned my knitting lately but I have still been doing some. I finished a Third Red Hat scarf in red and purple DK wool the day before the cataract operation and afterwards I bought a ball of dark green DK wool and made another scarf using the same pattern. But I'm going through a phase of wanting to knit with finer wool than DK and at the moment I have absolutely no wish to block or to photograph either of them. That shall probably happen some time in the future, I expect.

And so I've gone back to 4 ply yarn. I wanted something that was easy to make, even when I can't see the detail properly, and so I chose a Feather & Fan pattern which works. All you need is the ability to count up to 6. I haven't finished this one but it's a pattern that I can knit over and over again.

Here is the pattern.

Loosely CO 56 sts using 3.5mm knitting needles and 4 ply yarn.

Row 1: (RS) Knit.
Row 2: Purl.
Row 3: K1, *[K2tog] 3 times, [yo, k1] 6 times, [k2tog] 3 times; repeat from * to last stitch, k1.
Row 4: Knit.

Follow pattern until scarf is the desired length.

Let's face it, you can't get an easier pattern than this!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rubbish and recycling

We have a small house and every room is lived in. However, in addition we have to house somewhere the various bags and receptacles provided by our borough council for their recycling schemes. So our hall, a small room, houses the following:

  • a green box: for tins; glass bottles and jars (without their lids); clothing and fabrics not good enough to be given to a charity shop; and tin foil. Everything must be washed and clean before it is put in the box.
  • a sack: for newspaper and general paper. But not for gift wrapping paper, envelopes with windows, brown paper or old telephone directories.
  • another sack: for plastic bottles. Again these must be washed out and the lids removed. No other types of plastic can be put in this sack.
  • yet another sack: for cardboard. All cardboard packaging must be flattened before it is put in the sack.

Outside in the front garden is a brown wheely-bin for garden waste of all types. Except for tree branches deemed not to be “very small”.

The council collect all of these containers on a regular basis. And if anything isn’t as they have deemed (i.e. if someone has left the lids on the plastic bottles, say), then it is just not collected. We also have a black bin, the dustbin, which, the council says, is only to be used for those items which do not fit into any of the recyclable categories I have listed above. (The bin-men check too. I have watched them look into our dustbin to make sure it contains nothing that shouldn’t be in one of the recyclable sacks or bins.)

I would like to think that I care about recycling. I certainly would want to make sure that whatever coming from our household that could be recycled was being so. In fact I now have a compost bin, started and kept going by myself, that takes lots of green matter from the garden as well as fruit and vegetable peelings and waste. I enjoy keeping an eye on it (and I’ve even turned it, as well.)

Despite this more and more I find myself resenting the fact that, with the exception of the compost bin, all the other recycling has been imposed on me and I have absolutely no choice in the matter. I look at the newspaper and it is full of articles telling me I must recycle. The television keeps on talking about how essential recycling is. And I understand the global implications, I really do. But as I get older I find myself getting…. well, I suppose I would say I am becoming a bit rebellious at constantly being told how to live my own life. I want to make up my own mind how I live and what I do, I want the decisions that I make to be mine only. And recycling is just one area of my life where my ability to make decisions on what to do and how, has been taken away from me by an outside authority. I have no choice in the matter. And I resent that.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Beautiful and from YouTube

I'm not a great fan of YouTube. There is a huge amount of dross on it and you can spend a vast amount of time searching through the rubbish to find the stuff worth watching. The fact that I've never managed to imbed any YouTube piece into this blog despite expending a great deal of blood, sweat and tears hasn't helped my attitude to YouTube either.

However every so often I come across something I really enjoy. Here is one, it's really lovely, and I just have to watch it again and again. Enjoy:

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Graduation Ceremony

Last Thursday was quite a day. It was the day the Stepson became a graduate. Yes, he is now entitled to have the initials "B.A. Hons (Cantab)" after his name.

The day itself was very good. It was warm, sunny and, I think, the only dry day we've seen in the last month. The Husband and I arrived at the Pembroke College at about noon, in time for a few photographs.

Then we proceeded to the Stepson’s room where we met up with his mother and then the four of us went to one of the parlours in the library block for drinks. Then at 1.00 we all moved on to the College bowling green where, despite the fact that this is the oldest bowling green in the country, a marquee had been erected on the green. Lunch was excellent, a plate of various salads plus small portions of salmon, chicken, a quiche and vegetarian terrine, followed by fruit salad. Oh and a choice of wine or fruit juice. After this all the graduands (what they are called until they formally become graduates) headed off to have a photograph taken together. (I have a few from here but I wasn’t able to get into a good position.)

Afterwards we all headed off to the Senate House for Cambridge University. The Husband, his ex-wife and myself queued for some time while the graduands were given instructions on how to behave in the actual ceremony. The graduation ceremonies are in the same order as the date each college was originally created. As Pembroke was the sixth college to be formed as part of Cambridge university its graduation ceremony was the sixth that day (there were three ceremonies after Pembroke’s on the Thursday, a full day of graduation ceremonies on the Friday and on Saturday too, which gives one some idea of how many colleges form the university.)

The actual graduation ceremony was full of arcane moments and both interesting but baffling at the same time as the whole ceremony was in Latin, which I have never studied. There was a fair amount of university fellows doffing and then donning their mortar boards, a huge silver mace being carried and the statutes and regulations of Pembroke College being formally placed into position as the ceremony actually started. It was reasonably easy to work out what was generally going on though - the main part came when each graduate in turn knelt in front of the Arch-Chancellor of the University’s representative and was welcomed (again in Latin) as a member of the University. Then he/she stood, bowed to him and then left the hall, being given their degree certificate by the exit.

We stood outside the Senate building for a while as people queued to have formal photographs taken and to buy pictures of the actual ceremony (we weren't allowed to take photos or to film/video the ceremony). Then we all walked back to the college for tea and strawberries.

This ended the actual college programme for the day. I have to say the organisation of the day was incredible, but then one of the papers I saw said that Cambridge had been in existence for 798 years, so I think they've had enough practice to get it right (grin).

We stayed on and took the Stepson out for dinner in a local restaurant. Then we went back to the college and loaded up both cars with all the stuff the Stepson had amassed after a year in college. It was incredible how much stuff he carried out to be loaded into the cars, it just kept on coming (it reminded me of some of those daft comedy routines when the amount of stuff just seemed too much to fit into the room).

It was an excellent day. As the Stepson is staying on at Cambridge to do a 1 year Master of Philosophy course and then he wants to do a 3 year doctorate, both in his subject of History, presumably there will be two more graduation ceremonies to come.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

So we have a new Prime Minister. It will be interesting seeing the approach of a dour Scotsman as compared with the more populist approach we’ve had for the last 10 years or so. And hopefully we’ll have some more news now. There has been very little going on since Blair said that he would be going, it was as if everything was in suspended animation. TV news programmes have been short of real news for quite a while.

Off to Cambridge shortly. Apparently after the graduation ceremony there will be an English Garden Party. I’m glad to hear that Pembroke College has arranged for a marquee, so we will have somewhere to hide if any rains come a day or two earlier than predicted. And then we are off to a restaurant for a meal: the Stepson, the Husband, his ex-wife (after a bitter divorce) and myself. This will be interesting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How do you comment about the weather? Especially like a day like yesterday that saw flooding and disruption and even death to a few. I think we all knew that the rain we've had this June was exceptional, and we didn't really need the pundits to tell us that this is the wettest June since records begun - we could see that. But even so we weren't expecting what came last night. My heart goes out to all those thousands and thousand of households and businesses flooded so badly, to the cities towns and villages so badly disrupted and to the families suffering bereavement. Brace yourself, everyone. The experts say that by the weekend there will be much more rain.

Fortunately where we live we haven't been affected by the floods.... I hesitate over whether to say "yet" as there has been bad flooding to the North of East Anglia and that isn't too far away and it wouldn't take much for it to travel our way. As it is we've just been stuck indoors for days with wave after wave of rain. The Husband is totally stir crazy and getting quite grumpy as it has been too wet for him to do his daily 20 mile walk. So he went and spent a lot of money on a proper waterproof walking trosers and jacket. I suspect he won't let the weather defeat him in future. He can be quite single-minded that way.

Despite the weather I haven't spent much time on the computer - reading what is on the screen isn't very easy for me at the moment. I tried buying an over-the-counter pair of reading glasses and using them I can now read books and the newspaper with my right eye (but not, of course, my left). But I can't read the computer screen with the reading glasses though. Still I went back to St Thomas' Hospital on Friday and saw the consultant who is happy with the state of my right eye, it's healing nicely. For a couple of days before my visit to the hospital I rehearsed in my mind things to say say to try to pursuade them to get my left eye done too, preferably without being on a waiting list for another 4 months. However, when I saw the nurse at the start of my appointment she tested my vision in both eyes and said something like "your vision in each eye is now so different you must find things very difficult. Have you though of having your other eye done?" To cut a long story short I am now down to have cataract surgery on my left eye on 9th August. I'd have preferred sooner but at least it's not later. Hopefully I won't be as nervous next time.

We have been doing various things recently. The day after the op on my right eye it was the wedding of the Husband's niece down at Whitstable. The bride was a picture as was her mother. In fact everyone looked marvellous and it was good to meet up with members of the family again (why is it that families only meet up for weddings and funerals?).

Last Thursday the Husband and I drove down to Whitstable to see his mother as it was her 80th birthday. She didn't know we were coming and so it was a complete surprise to her when we walked in the door. She burst into tears, hopefully of joy. We went into town for a meal and then went back to their flat and just chatted for hours.

I'm just about talking to the Husband again. Last week, while watching UKTVFood channel I came across a wonderful soup recipe by Claire MacDonald that I decided to try. And so on Sunday I had a go. When it was finished I tasted it for seasoning and thought the mixture of sweet potatoes, ginger, limes and nutmeg delicious. So I put the stockpot in cold water in the sink to cool the soup down before putting it in the fridge. I was careful to make sure that the tap was no where near the stockpot. About 30 minutes later the Husband went out to the kitchen, fiddled about a bit and then came back to inform me that he had ruined the soup. Somehow, and I don't know how he managed to do it, he had poured a lot of cold water from the tap into the soup. We managed to ladle out some of the water and then we heated it up to try to condense the mixture somewhat. The soup still tastes nice, but not as good as before. I shall try it again - next time when he isn't around. The recipe, incidentally, can be found here and is well worth trying - just be aware that there's a printing error in it and it should mention limes, not lemons, that was clear from the actual programme.

We've got a few things coming up later this week. Thursday is the Stepson's graduation ceremony at Cambridge. Yes, he has his degree - a First. And although the usual allocation is two tickets per graduate he managed to get a third ticket, so I can go as well as his mother and father. I am really pleased about this as I am so glad that he is in the right place and enjoying his life now. After the graduation ceremony we shall all have lunch together - the Stepson, The Husband, his ex-wife and myself. That will be interesting. Afterwards we have to lug all ther Stepson's stuff home - he has said that it's a good thing there will be two cars to take everything of his back.

And on Friday the three of us are off to London for a concert which is part of the City of London festival. The concert is actually in Stationers' Hall and as the Husband went to Stationer's School as a youth he really wants to return to his old stamping gropund for a couple of ours. The concert is by the Schubert Ensemble and is pieces by Elgar and Saint-Saens (sorry, don't know how to add the accent to his name). I once went to Stationers' Hall for an event when I was at work and remember it as incredibly decorated and over-the-top. I am looking forward to seeing it again.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A National Shortage

I'm not finding it at all easy to read at the moment but I do attempt to read The Times, the daily paper that is delivered to our house each morning. I am tending to skim over much of the paper at the moment, especially those subjects that are discussed fully on the tv news but sometimes items are included in the paper that I just have to read in full. This was true on Saturday when I discovered the dramatic news that the UK is currently suffering a national shortage.... of ukuleles!

The full article can be found here but here is part of the article:

Music shops are reporting a national shortage of ukuleles after being caught out by a surprise British love affair with the Hawaiian instrument.
The four-stringed, instrument, beloved of George Formby and George Harrison, has become so popular in recent months that Chinese manufacturers cannot keep up with demand.
A ship of ukuleles is currently on its way to Britain from Shanghai, Britain’s main importer told The Times, but shops from London to Sheffield are warning customers not to expect new stock until next month.

However can we wait?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

At 3.45 am, just 10 minutes ago, I was lying in bed, unable to sleep. So I listened and instead of the silence of the night or cars passing or a train in the distance I heard birds. The dawn chorus. In just 7 days it will be MidSummer's Day, the longest day of the year. And in England this means for a few short weks we have just a few hours each night of darkness after the twilight and before the dawn. And the birds sing. Many have come to England in the Spring after spending the Winter in foreign parts, like South Africa. They will stay until the Autumn when they will go again, to return next year.

Just another element of life and Nature that brings hope. Especially in the middle of the night when one can't sleep and your thoughts dwell on disasters that will probably never happen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It always astounds me that the hardy geranium in the front garden does so well. I've said before that the front garden is incredibly dry and open to the elements. Well, this geranium is actually up against the front wall of the house - and the experts always say that you should never plant anything directly against a wall as it will be too dry. But other than a couple of handfuls of pelletted chicken manure in the Spring, if I remember,
and the odd watering can of water when it's been very very dry for quite a while I totally neglect the plants. And you can see how well they are doing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

At least the last few days are over. I have to admit that I was scared by the mere idea of eye surgery, especially under local anaesthetic only and dreaded the way that the 7th June seemed to approach with such rapidity. Well, it finally arrived last Thursday and so I set off to St Thomas’ Hospital, accompanied by the husband (it was made very clear that if patients aren't accompanied by a companion then the operation would not take place). By the time we reached the hospital my fear had gone up enough notches to reach the state of being terrified. But we took the lift to the 8th floor and arrived at the Unit for ophthalmic day cases. I was given several eye drops almost immediately by nurses, before seeing the surgeon who painted a huge arrow on my forehead pointing to my right eye in black felt tip pen. I was glad to see the precautions taken to make sure they operated on the correct eye (although it took about 10 minutes enthusiastic rubbing with surgical spirit the next day to remove the marks). Then they took me to the operating theatre. Lots of strange noises, having my eye kept open but unable to see anything but vague colours, hearing the surgeon talking to the nurses and a strange warbling noise in the background were not conducive to a relaxing atmosphere. I was never more relieved to hear the surgeon say it was all over. Then they took me straight back to the waiting area and immediately asked if I’d like a sandwich. After the surgeon had finished his list for the day he had a quick look at my eye and told me not to remove the dressing until the next day and to come back and see him in a fortnight.

The next day, Friday, the Husband helped me remove the dressings, tidy up the area and scrub off the felt tip pen marks. I was astounded how well I could see. I have been very short sighted since I was a child and worn glasses all the time since I was about 5 years old, so I was amazed to discover I could see distances without glasses. And the colours are so clear, I had no idea how the cataracts distort the colours you see – I still have a cataract on my left eye and the difference in colours between the two eyes is amazing. What looks like dark cream or even yellow by my lefy eye is clearly white with my right eye. And the garden looks so much brighter in colour. The difference is amazing. There are a couple of downsides in the short term. I now have one very good eye and one very bad eye for distance work which is a bit disconcerting. And I can currently not read with my right eye at all - the only way I can read either papers or the computer is to wear my old glasses with a tissue covering the right lense. But both problems will be resolved with new glasses once I can have them, probably in 4 – 6 weeks. Well, that the story of my cataract surgery. The Husband is emphasising how good my sight would be if I had the left one done too. He’s right, of course, especially given the cataract on that one. But I’ll have to see what the doctors say about that.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I'ver had a busy day today but stole a few minutes in the garden with my camera. The rock rose and the hardy geranium have both been in flower for a few weeks but this week has been the first time for a while that the weather has been good enough to take pictures. So, here they are.

I'm a bit busy and tied up with things at the moment but will be back as soon as possible.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A pity it's a hamster in the picture. Visualise a chipmunk getting ready to face Edward Scissorhands, Buffy's puss who is making sterling attempts to beat the hunting record of Nimrod, the Mighty Hunter. Full story here.

I haven't been around much. I spent the bank holiday weekend and the days following feeling uncomfortable and brain dead. I went to the dentist yesterday who told me that it wasn't an abscess, as I had feared, but s...., the infection you get in the tubes in your head. My brain isn't working at the moment and I've forgotten the word. Still I'm on antibiotics and I hope that soon everything will be back to normal and I'll be able to think straight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'm very fond of Nigella, otherwise called "Love-in-the-mist". The plants in our garden originated with a packet of seeds some 6 or 7 years ago. And they've come back every year by seeding themselves. They not only look very pretty they survive in the most problematic flower bed in the garden which has clay soil that is baked hard by the sun every summer.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A busy week in many ways. This is the week of the 24th Chelmsford Cathedral Festival and there have been events on all week. The Husband went to a concert of Purcell with the King’s Consort at the Cathedral on Wednesday evening and came home praising the music and the skills of the musicians. Together he and I went to two concerts at lunchtimes at local churches. On Monday there was an organ recital with the organist Edward Wellman who played mainly English music from composers such as Byrd, Whitlock and Hollins but also included JS Bach’s Fugue in D major and Widor’s most famous piece, the Toccata. Friday lunchtime, at another of the local churches we heard a duo called Flute Magic. The guitarist, Roger Montgomery, we’ve known for years as he taught the Stepson classical guitar. Roger is a very talented guitarist in his own right and am always glad to hear his wonderful guitar playing. At the concert he played with his daughter Ruth, a wonderful young flautist who plays professionally and teaches the instrument. She is profoundly deaf but it doesn’t stop her being a wonderful musician. She and her father played a number of Latin pieces by such composers as Piazzolla and Machado, a piece writyten by Roger as well as a wonderful flute solo by Reade. It was well worth going, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

As we shall be going to the wedding of the Husband’s niece on 9th June, I also went out to buy an outfit for the wedding. I found something I like, a skirt and top in a flowered fabric and a jacket in a pink self-brocade, and a wonderful pink hat covered with flowers and feathers. The photo the Husband took of me wearing the outfit really made me wince, I am not photogenic at all and I’m sure that the face in the photo looks nothing like the face I see in the mirror everyday but here’s a photo of me in the new outfit.

I’m not best pleased at the moment. Yesterday morning there was a huge racket in our back garden and opening the back door I was in time to see a big black cat wearing a collar disappearing down the side of the house. It wasn’t Nimrod, who doesn’t wear a collar (he doesn’t like them) and was sitting on the grass looking quite disgruntled for a cat who is usually so easy going. It was in the afternoon when I went out to do some gardening I discovered that the olearia and a nice iceland poppy that had just started to flower were both lying flat on the ground, obviously casualties of the fight. I suspect neither plant is going to look its best for the rest of this year, although I am hoping that with judicious pruning of the olearia both plants will be OK next year. Obviously one of the downsides of having cats.

Tonight we are off to another concert, nothing to do with the festival but of the Mugyenko Taiko Drummers. We went last year too and I’m sure I wrote about them then. We are both certainly looking forward to seeing them again this year.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I've come to the conclusion that I'm a very contrary person at times. For months I have been complaining about the weather and its affect on the garden: it's too dry, the soil is baked hard, plants are wilting and so-on and so forth, on and on. Then we got news rain was coming and I spent a happy afternoon spreading handfuls of pelletted chicken manure on the garden so that the rain could wash the nutrients into the ground. And then it rained and I was happy.... Now, over a week later and I'm getting frustrated that it's still raining and I can't get outside. I think part of it is that I can see just how the plants have benefittedfrom the rain and how much greener they are and how much better they look. Also, I can see that the poppies are out but it's so dark and overcast and wet that I've not been able to get outside to take pictures of them. Oh well, why is England known as the green and pleasant land? Because the rain we receive makes the plants so green and fresh looking. It will soon become dry again and then I'll have the opportunity to get outside. I can hardly wait, I've already lists in my mind of what has to be done next - prune back the ceanothus, weed the aquilegia bed and find some nice plants to put alongside them (has anyone any ideas of good companions for aquilegias? I'd be very grateful).

A question for ornithologists. Over the last few days we've observed a collared dove making a nest in the laburnum tree in a flower bed only about 10 feet from our sitting room. Just now looking out the window I saw a bird fly into the tree, obviously to it's nest. But is this too late in the year for any young to grow up?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Husband doesn't like gardening and doesn't do the great proportion of the work outside - he leaves that to me. One exception is pruning the roses, almost all of which were drastically cut back and are only about two feet high at the moment. The one rose he didn't prune was a climber on the wall that flanks part of one side of the garden. Here are the flowers already blossoming there or about to come out.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

One of my aquilegias is out. Another is well on the way. I'm so glad - they are some of my favourite flowers.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Free Knitting Pattern: My Second Red Hat Scarf

After making my first red hat scarf I started on my second. And here it is, complete with the pattern. The good thing is that the pattern I used isn't difficult at all and you can do so many different things with it. I am considering, some time in the future, using the same pattern but no Contrast yarn, instead adding perhaps beads at each of the bottom edges.

I've started thinking about my third scarf. I've bought the yarn and have found an interesting pattern. Today I shall do the tension square so I can see how what I've imagined actually looks like in real life.

1 100g ball Sirdar Country Style 4 ply yarn - roughly US fingering weight (M)
1 50g ball Wendy Cosmic yarn (C)
pair of 4 mm knitting needles

2 repeats of pattern = 3.5 ins (9 cm)
8 rows of M + one repeat of C = 2 5 ins/4cm

The Pattern

C.O. 40 sts (multiple of 13 sts + 1)
Knit in pattern as follows:

Using M and Pattern 1:
Row 1: (RS) *K1, YO, K4, K2tog, sl 1, K1, psso, K4, YO; rep from * to last st, K1
Row 2: K1, P to last st, K1.

Repeat Pattern 1 four times (8 rows). Then put colour M to one side (don’t break the yarn, just thread it up the side of the knitting)

Using C and Pattern 2
Row 1: (RS) *K1, YO, K4, K2tog, sl 1, K1, psso, K4, YO; rep from * to last st, K1
Row 2: K to end
Row 3: as Row 1 of Pattern 2
Row 4: as Row 2 of Pattern 2

Repeat these 12 rows FOUR more times. Then using M and following only Pattern 1 continue to work until the piece is 22 ins long. Break the yarn and place the stitches on a stitch holder.
Make a second piece the same. Graft the two pieces together.

Friday, May 04, 2007

One of our rhododendrons has come out in flower. I've always loved the acid-loving plants like the rhodies, azaleas and magnolias and fortunately they like one of the beds in our garden.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I've had an interesting few days lately. It started on Sunday when our chapter of Red Hat ladies was one of many who went to London. We arrived at London by train after an "interesting" journey due to engineering works and, waiting for one of our party on the concourse of Liverpool St Station it was fascinating to see just how many people recognised us as members of the Red Hat Society. We were approached by two young Australian girls who recognised us and who said that they were well aware that the Red Hattters were active over there too, another lady approached us and took photos of us. Also we happened to meet the Queen of the Lake District Chapter, down in London with her mother and sisters to celebrate their mother's 85th birthday with a visit the previous evening to the London Palladium to see "The Sound of Music". They were going to same place as we were and so joined our party.

We were off to see "Menopause - the Musical" at the Shaw Theatre and arriving there it was fascinating to see just how many red hats were around. I would estimate that there were about 60-80 red hatters in the audience, which was predominantly female and "of a certain age". The musical itself had four female performers, was set in the Marble Arch Marks and Sparks and comprised many well-known popular songs with new words, all about the problems faced by those going through the menopause.
I have to admit that before I went I had had some doubts about the whole thing. I love good musicals and good music and knew that this one had received many very bad reviews, for example both The Times and the Daily Telegraph newspapers had said very unpleasant things about it, so I approached the performance with a few reservations. However, I enjoyed it a lot. OK, it's not likely to go down in history as a groundbreaking new musical but it spoke to its audience of the things that women of a certain age are going through, the way they become "invisible" to much of society, hot flushes, the inability to remember things, difficulty in sleeping, feeling that they have lost the boat in many things...... I reached the conclusion that the reviewers were young males who had absolutely no idea of what women actually went through. I have to admit that only those women who were either going through the change or have done so would really identify with the musical, but those who had were appreciative of the only thing around that actually covered what they were going through. However, I enjoyed myself and had a good time.
Monday was spent catching up with everything I should have done on Sunday and then came Tuesday: the Husband and myself's 14th wedding anniversary. We went up to London for the day and started off at John Lewis to buy my present. John Lewis has a wonderful selection of contemporary classic costume jewellery. In the past the Husband has bought me jewellery (usually earrings) himself, as he has an excellent eye for such things but for my birthday the earrings he bought me bore more than a close resemblance to a pair he gave me a couple of years ago. As it was he took one look at the silver earrings and said "these look nice" and I was obliged to say (tactfully) that I like them a lot, especially the identical pair he bought me about 5 years ago (and I wear frequently). Anyway, I found a really nice silver pendant that will go with many of my pairs of silver earrings, so that was nice. Then we walked though to Soho and found a good restaurant where we had a meal. Then we walked through to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. There they had a wonderful exhibition titled "Renoir Landscapes 1865-1883"
It was wonderful. Apparently it was the first exhibition specifically to concentrate on Renoir's landscapes rather then his better-known works which usually involve portraits or pictures of, say, cafe society. The paintings were wonderful and I was transfixed by many of them.
Yesterday I caught up with some things and an (almost forgotten) hairdressers appointment. Today I must get back to the garden. Yes, I'm still working at that, at times I feel I always will be. Gardening just never stops.