Sunday, December 28, 2008

A good Christmas. There were just the five of us on Christmas Day – the Husband, Stepdaughter, Stepson, Father-in-Law and myself. It’s extraordinary how much shopping, cooking and general Christmas preparation there was in the days running up to The Day for such a small number of people.

I suspect that part of the thing is the expectations put on everyone by the media for THAT Meal. I lost count of the number of articles in magazines and newspapers on the run up to Christmas on how to cook That Dinner. In addition for the two weeks before Christmas the tv channels had lots of programmes by all the famous chefs on how to cook the meal – I wouldn’t mind but all of them had different ways of cooking it and on what accompaniments to include and how to make them: Nigella Lawson soaked the turkey in water overnight, Jamie Oliver forced flavoured butter between the skin and flesh of the turkey, etc, etc. Those who are not confident on how to cook the meal would find it easy to get confused over what to do. It is, of course, a basic roast meal, only with several additional dishes and shouldn’t worry anyone if you take it a step at a time. Certainly our Christmas dinner turned out very well indeed.

Anyway, the Father-in-Law has returned home in time to spend the afternoon and evening of Boxing Day with his daughter and her family. We are now having a good time relaxing and working through the Christmas leftovers. But what do we do with all that leftover cream? We always buy too much cream, both plain and flavoured, and never learn to buy less.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas seems to have come very quickly this year, not helped by the fact that the media have been forcing it down our throats ever since Bonfire night.

For our family Christmas started yesterday when the Husband and Stepson went to their church for the annual carol ceremony. Today the Stepson comes to stay with us for a few days. Tomorrow the Husband and I drive over to Whitstable to pick up the Father-in-Law and drive him back here. The following day, Christmas Eve, we’ll have a family day with the Stepdaughter arriving after work presumably in the evening. Christmas Day we are all together until after lunch, when the Stepson goes back to his mother’s house. And Boxing Day we take the Father-in-Law back home to Whitstable where he will spend some time with his daughter and her family.

Listed like that it doesn’t seem a very pressured time. But I’m finding myself getting all tense at the thought of all that Christmas involves: including all the food shopping, cooking etc. Such pressures are put on ourselves this time of year, mainly by ourselves, to make everything perfect. And it doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s just the family enjoying ourselves by being together.

Don’t have a perfect, stressful Christmas. Instead have a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas, everyone.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wonderful News

Shortly after 8.00 am this morning the Husband and I received a phone call from the Stepdaughter. She had heard that she had passed her last set of exams and is now entitled to have the letters CII (Chartered Insurance Institute) after her name. This is exceptionally good when you realise that she did all her studying and work for her exams in addition to holding down a full time job in the insurance industry.

Well done. We are proud of you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas shopping

Does anyone else have difficulty buying presents, whether Christmas or birthdays, especially for men? I know I do, especially as I refuse to go the boring route of socks. I think the thing with our family is that we are all strong minded individuals with our own personal interests and passions. So we decided some years ago that the only thing to do was to issue a “wishlist” of things you would like, so that other members of the family can decide what to buy you that they know you would like.

The one who is especially difficult to buy for is the Stepson. He has, like the rest of us, very individual likes and dislikes. He has, of course, a passion for history and is currently working for his Ph.D at Cambridge University. He has interests and loves outside this too. I well remember trekking the shops looking for a port decanter and cheeseboard for his 19th Christmas on this earth, for him to use at parties in his rooms at college. His wishlists then can be quite something. When they eventually arrive.

So last year he did not produce his list until it was too late to buy anything online (our family works on the principle that the only way to buy Christmas gifts is on the internet when you get the best prices and don’t have the stress of battling through crowds in shops). This year all three of us – his sister, the Husband and I – all have been making the point (i.e. nagging) to him for some time that we need his list before it is too late this year. So yesterday, he sent out a rather exasperated e-mail. It says:

Right here is my wishlist: Beauty and the Beast; Little Mermaid; I
Claudius; Drop the Dead Donkey 1-3; Frasier 1 & 2. Right, back to

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Catching Up

Several things have happened since I last posted here and up to now I haven’t written about them. The first one that happened, because I just wanted to process it in my mind before I wrote about it. Subsequent things happened once I had thought about the first. Then, once everything had more or less settled down, the Husband took over the computer. He’s out tonight so I can use it – I strongly suspect that tomorrow he’ll be on it again.

The first thing happened on the Friday after I last posted here. I received a phone call from my brother to say that my mother had been taken into hospital after another heart attack, her heart already badly damaged from other attacks, and that I should get to the hospital as soon as possible as it could be the end. So the Husband and I threw a few things in an overnight bag and set off for Wales. The journey should take about 3.5 hours - it took us 5.5 hours, with several extensive traffic jams and torrential rain. When we finally got to Cardiff we went straight to the hospital where she was clearly very ill indeed, and also in massive pain. We stayed late into the evening and then onto my brother's, who put us up for the night. 08.10 the following morning we got a call to go straight in as her health was deteriorating. When we got there though she had rallied a bit. She continued to do so enough for the hospital to send her back to her nursing home (it employs trained nurses, experts in chronic care) as they needed her bed for another patient. She remains very, very weak and can hardly stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time. We came home eventually and tried to settle down. She is no better though and I doubt will ever be. I've been told that she could have another heart attack at any time and that the next one will probably kill her - this could be tomorrow or months ahead - and that I should keep my mobile phone on and with me at all times. Needless to say I've felt devastated about this and it has taken a while to feel human again. Every time I speak to her on the phone her voice is so weak and she can only stay awake for a couple of minutes. I now wince and worry every time either the main phone or my mobile rings.

Life continues though and with something really good. Saturday 29th November was the Stepson's graduation ceremony when in addition to having the Bachelor of Arts (BA) he now also is a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil. Cantab). The Husband and I went, of course, and met up with the Stepson’s mother. The ceremony was very similar to the one we went to the summer of 2007, although each college was presenting just a few graduands at the Senate House rather than masses of BA’s and beforehand lunch was in one of the rooms of Pembroke College, rather than a marquee. After the actual ceremony the Stepson was busy for an hour and so we went into the Fitzwilliam museum and saw and excellent exhibition. Then when he was able to join us we all went off and had lunch in a local restaurant. It was a wonderful day and going made you feel better just concentrating on life, youthful energy and the future. We expect two further graduation ceremonies: in two years time the Stepson's current B.A. will be converted to an M.A and then in three years time hyis Ph. D. We can hardly wait.

The day before we went to Cambridge I broke a tooth and have spent the time since trying to get it sorted out. I’ve had a great deal of pain, three appointments with the dentist and another one tomorrow. If I can get near the computer afterwards I’ll write more on the saga and the wonders of Cerec.

I haven’t been able to get near our p.c. much the last couple of days because, at this time of the year the Husband likes to take it over almost completely. He goes to two evening classes each week, one on music appreciation and the other to learn how to sing. He is doing great guns on both and is especially bucked at the complementary things his singing teacher has said about his voice. Anyway, each Christmas he likes to put together a playlist of Christmas music on iTunes. This can take a while because he’s rather slow at the computer and he always complains that Apple’s constant upgrades of the iTunes software make the system less easy to use. I have a very strong suspicion he plans to take over the computer tomorrow as well, to finish what he is doing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Last Thursday I and a number of other Red Hat ladies from my Crimson Crumblies Chapter in Chelmsford in Essex made a long planned visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington.
It all started after the Husband had been to the new Jewellery Gallery at the V&A, on a visit to London with some of his music friends, and he had said to me “you ought to take your Red Hat ladies there, it's wonderful”. And so I proposed the visit and some time ago arranged it for that day. It turned out to be just what I had needed to take my mind off other things.

The original plan was for most of us to set off for London from our local Chelmsford station, meeting up later those who came into London on different railway lines. However, when I arrived at Chelmsford station just before 10.00am I discovered that a major signalling failure meant that no trains were going at that time to or from the London Liverpool St terminus. As my travelling companions arrived I explained the problem and it was decided to try another station and hence another line into the London Fenchurch St terminus. This plan worked and we arrived at the V&A museum, albeit about 90 minutes later that originally planned.

After lunch in the restaurant we headed off to the Jewellery gallery. As all visitors to the V&A find we got a little distracted on the way by the fabulous other exhibits – we walked through a gallery with some wonderful silverware, both old and new, which we really enjoyed, plus some religious exhibits and stained glass. The Jewellery gallery itself looked relatively small but it has a huge number of exhibits and to see them all takes a while. So we spent quite a while looking around them all.

Afterwards we headed back to the restaurant for tea (the restaurant is renowned for the quality of its food and drink) and when I telephoned home the Husband was able to tell me that the Liverpool Street trains still had problems, so we retraced our journey of the morning and found ourselves back in Essex by early evening.

I enjoyed arranging the visit for our Red Hatters and I hope the others felt that it made a good day’s outing. (It was nice and distracting too.) I am now thinking what we can do next in 2009.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pickle has gone. An X-ray and a scan earlier this week made it clear that she had a cancerous tumour and the cancer was quite quickly spreading through her body. I had a discussion with the vet this afternoon and made the decision. We are all sad at the moment, although we know it was the best thing for her.

I am keeping a close eye on Nimrod now. He came from the same litter as his sister and so I need to make sure that he manages this change in his life all right.

Friday, November 07, 2008

My hands and arms are lacerated. I have masses of scratches all down them and they are sore and itch like mad. Why? Pickle is on a course of antibiotics.

I feel a little embarrassed to admit such difficulty in giving her such medication because I learnt how to put pills quickly and easily down cats’ throats when I was in my late teens and up to now that method has worked without any problems. But, of course, this is the first time I’ve tried to put a pill down Pickle’s throat. It was only after she and her brother became members of our family that the two of them developed completely different personalities. This didn’t surprise me excessively: every cat I’ve ever known has been their own “person” and with a personality to match. So when it became clear that Pickle is grumpy, demands to be stroked and then when she decides she’s had enough then bites the person stroking them and is the very opposite of a lap cat I thought it was just the sort of cat she is. She is also very intelligent – the usual methods to trick a cat don’t work on her. (The rest of the family calls her Bin Laden, after Osama…. .) I’ve seen her send off a much larger fox that had the temerity to stray into our garden while she was sunning herself outside. But at a routine visit to the vet for her annual vaccinations there was a conversation about how grumpy she was – I think she was trying to attack the vet at the time – and I was surprised when the vet said that she was like this because she is a tortoise-shell. Up to then it had never occurred to me that the colour and pattern of a cat’s coat could have any influence on their personality but he says that he has never known a pleasant tortie, that they are very all very difficult to deal with and bad tempered. Certainly she is a completely different personality from her laid back but lethal (to the local bird, rodent and squirrel population only) brother, Nimrod the Mighty Hunter. He has always treated her with respect but it is obvious seeing them together that she is the boss of the two.

Dealing with Pickle up to now has been easy because she has never been ill and so the only trouble has been catching her and battling to thrust her into the cat basket for her annual vaccinations at the vet’s surgery. However, she is almost 14 years old and it became clear to me recently that she was not well. Pickle has always been a very large cat, not in terms of her body size – she has a much smaller frame than her brother or, indeed most other adult cats – but because of the vast amount of cat food she eats: she’s always been fat. But about four weeks ago she began to lose weight and she has continued to do so. Now she is almost skeletal. So a visit to the vets became necessary and we went on Monday. Blood and urine samples were taken from her and tests taken. At the moment the vet is convinced there is something the matter but he isn’t quite sure what and so as a start she is on a 10 day course of antibiotics, one pill twice a day at that, to get rid of the infection in her system before he investigates further.

What hadn’t occurred to me was that despite her clearly not being well she has more then enough spirit to fight me off. I work on the principle that I am bigger than her and am doing something that is necessary for her health. But all the usual methods of getting pills down a normal cat’s throat don’t work on her. Now I am swathing her in a towel to try to keep her claws under control, wedging her bottom into the back of the sofa so she can’t run away and trying to force open jaws that she is doing her best to force shut.

I wish I could say that great fun is being had by all but, of course, it is not. I have to do this, she is part of our family and this is necessary medication to try to make her better. I just wish she would realise it’s for her own benefit. However as a result I am a mass of scratches, something that is likely to continue for the next 8 days until the course of antibiotics is finished.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What on earth is going on with the weather? For some time now all the so-called “experts” have been wittering on about global warming, the melting of the Polar icecaps and the risk of us all suffering from skin cancer due to all the cancerous rays from the sun reaching us through the holes in the ozone layer.

And what have we actually experienced in the weather? Well, in Britain we’ve had two summers which have been cold and wet. Exceptionally wet when one considers the summer that we never had this year. It was as cold and damp as our usual autumn. Last winter (2007/8) wasn’t too bad, I suppose although I say this as someone who lives in East Anglia. Scotland and the North had a bad winter for weather, although it meant the resurgence of winter sports holidays in Scotland which became great popularity and lots of snow and skiing for the first time for some years.

And what has brought on my moans about the weather? This lunchtime’s weather forecast where we were told that today we are seeing the weather we normally don’t see here until the end of December/beginning of January – snow showers not only in Scotland but in many other areas in the North and the Midlands and freezing weather everywhere with temperatures only a few degrees above zero.

Global warming? Ha!

But seriously, are the “experts” who are predicting global warming talking the news media into a panic? Or are the news media currently trying to persuade us all that we are all doomed? I’ve been convinced for some time that the current “Credit Crunch” would not be half as bad if the TV and Newspapers haven’t told us for months now how the world is on the edge of a financial precipice and we are all doomed. No wonder so many have heeded what they have seen or read and given into panics on the price of shares and all the other mysterious financial things that make up the International money markets today.

Another example of believing in so-called “experts”. In today’s edition of The Times there is a half page article which starts by saying that the huge flocks of Beswick’s Swans which normally arrive at the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust by 21st October have yet to arrive, preferring to stay on the Siberian tundra. The experts say that this is because the Arctic is so warm that the swans are happy to stay put and not attempt the journey to the Gloucestershire wetlands. The experts also say that there is a risk that the swans will lose their collective memory of their journey to the British wetland and may never return here again. But then, if you continue to read on past the first couple of paragraphs in the article you discover that past records of the swan’s arrival show that they do not necessarily arrive on 21st October: in 1969 they arrived on November 6th; and in 1981 and 1982 they arrived on November 3rd. So, my interpretation of the article is that someone –whether “experts” or the newspaper, I don’t know – is trying to whip us up into a frenzy of panic about global warming. I don’t think I am going to be immediately frightened though. I think I shall wait for another couple of weeks before deciding that some swans have decided not to join us here in Britain this year. And another couple of years thereafter to see whether the swans will come next year or the year after.

What I won’t do is to shout we are all doomed on the basis of supposition from so-called “experts”.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Engineer's Guide to Voting (Ginger Cat for President)

And here is that other TouTube piece Paul Klausman mentioned. Enjoy!

I am staggered. When I found the YouTube video "An Engineer's Guide to Cats" I thought it funny and quirky. I also thought that my friend CopCar would especially like it, given that she was an Engineer for so many years. And so I posted the YouTube video here, on this blog.

CopCar almost immediately responded in the comments, saying

Although I cannot run this video on my computer (security issues!), I can only assume that it is one that I saw on a local TV channel, whose co-author/ producer/director used to work for me at the Little Airplane Company (Cessna). The young man, Paul Klusman, is quite delightful to know, and I have exchanged a few emails with him about the video. On 1 Oct 2008, he wrote, "I'll be in an article in the NY Times this Sunday. It is about single guys who have cats. This cat thing is going to just keep going I guess!" I'm happy that you found his video on cats. Cop Car

P.S. He also wrote, in the above-mentioned email, "We still need more ladies in engineering today. Perhaps I'll do a video interview with you some day to inspire more ladies to go into engineering. I probably never told you this but I really admire how you did not let your gender stop you from doing what you wanted to do. I particularly admire how you got checked out in every taildragger Cessna ever built. I would have LOVED to have done that!"

CopCar subsequently sent me an e-mail that she had received from one of the Engineers who made that original video. It says

I have a new cat video up on YouTube: "An Engineer's Guide to Voting (Ginger Cat for President)" that your friend may also enjoy.

It is not quite as popular as the first cat video but still well received. I tried to figure out a way to contact her but did not see a means for this on her blog page. If you are in touch with her you might mention the new video. Also I was recently featured in the NY Times in an article about single, straight guys who own cats:
Thanks and good to hear from you,Paul

And so I went looking for the New York Times article. And I enjoyed reading it so much that I'm posting it here for us all to enjoy. As I said it is from the New York Times.

IF you ask Adam Fulrath who is the love of his life, he will barely blink
an eye before responding: Parappa.

Mr. Fulrath, a 37-year-old design director at Time Out New York, keeps five
photographs of Parappa, a shorthaired, bicolored, mixed-breed cat, on his desktop. He knows that it might be considered a little weird that a grown man would be so enamored with his kitty, but Mr. Fulrath, who is into video games and comic books and calls himself a “straight, geeky guy,” doesn’t care. “She’s my primary relationship,” he said.

Mr. Fulrath is one of a growing number of single — and yes, heterosexual — men who seem to be coming out of the cat closet and unabashedly embracing their feline side. To that end, they are posting photographs and videos of their little buddies on YouTube and on Web sites like, and Twittering
about them to anyone who will listen.

Indeed, it seems that man’s best friend is no longer a golden retriever, but a cuddly cat named Fluffy. This movement, such as it is, is in direct contrast to the most notable in the recent spate of reports about the relationship between a man and a cat, which were far darker; they focused on a young actor who was recently on trial in New York City for killing his girlfriend’s cat — he said it attacked him — only to have a jury decide after several days that it could not reach a verdict.
If it had been a little less violent, that case might have been more in line with what the world seems to expect of men and cats.

The image of the crazy spinster cat lady persists, and plenty of people do wonder about a guy with a cat. As a writer on
put it: “Single men and cats are like a burger and broccoli. Separately they are okay, but together it just seems off.”

But those who see a growing link between men and cats see that attitude (not to mention the cat slaying) as old-fashioned.

Clea Simon, who wrote “The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats,” said: “I do think it has become more acceptable for men to own cats — partly for practical reasons, like the growing realization that they’re better city pets, and partly the whole acceptance of our cross-gender traits that men crave intimacy, too.”

Stacy Mantle, the founder of, a magazine for pet lovers, said that men are becoming more “cat literate” because they themselves are evolving.
“It’s the unevolved members of the species who tend toward abuse of cats — and oftentimes, women and children,” said Ms. Mantle, who owns 18 cats.

Although there are no hard (or soft) statistics (it is rare to find an owner, man or woman, walking a cat in public), it seems that single, heterosexual male cat owners are on the rise. Over the last few years Sandra DeFeo, an executive director at the Humane Society of New York, said she had seen an increase in the number of single, straight men who are adopting cats.

Carole Wilbourn, a cat therapist (yes, really) in Manhattan, said that
the number of her single, straight male clients has risen about 25 percent over
the last five years.

When the Web site asked its readers, “Do Real Men Own
Cats?” almost 84 percent of respondents said “yes.” “Only intelligent, aware,
caring men love cats,” one reader said. And in a 2005 survey by Cats Protection,
an animal welfare agency in the United Kingdom, the majority of the 790 people
who responded said it was cool for a guy to own cats.

This line of thinking does not surprise cat lovers, many of whom believe that only pillars of virility and masculinity would dare to own one. They are quick to point out other well-known macho cat owners: Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Victor Hugo and Marlon Brando, who reportedly found a stray cat on the set of “The Godfather” and incorporated it into a scene.

John Scalzi, 39, an author in Bradford, Ohio, has been a cat guy his entire life. In September 2006, he posted a picture of a piece of bacon taped to his cat, Ghlaghghee (pronounced Fluffy — an ode to George Bernard Shaw), on his Web site Thousands of viewers apparently found this hilarious.
Mr. Scalzi, who is now married and has a daughter, blames Hollywood for the continual bad rap that has befallen the male cat owner. Originally, he said, only strong men like Don Corleone, or the villains in a James Bond film, had cats.
“But then in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, Hollywood decided that we need to have the token gay man as the witty sidekick friend of the main female protagonist,” he said. “ ‘What kind of signature thing can we give him to convey that he is not an
entirely masculine being? I know! We’ll give him a big fluffy cat!’ ”

In fact, Mr. Scalzi thinks that dogs are for the weaker of spirit, since the dog
is, in effect, “your wingman.” “If you’re feeling insecure about your space
in the world, you get a dog because he will always back you up,” he said. “He’s
the insecure man’s best friend.” A man with a cat, on the other hand, “is
secure with himself,” he said. “He’s sharing his space with a predator.”

Many women agree that guys with cats are extra special. “They make the best
boyfriends because they’re totally cool with staying home and watching a movie,”
said Elizabeth Daza, 28, a video producer in Manhattan, who dated a cat-owning
man for eight years. “Straight men with cats seem to be really secure and stable. They don’t need to be running around the park and proving their masculinity like the dog guys.”

On a practical level, cats are easier, male owners say — especially if they (the men) travel a lot. They can leave the cat alone for days on end, and the cat will survive.
“I would feel guilty if I had a dog and was out of the country for three weeks,” said Mark Fletcher, 38, an entrepreneur in Redwood City, Calif. who has two cats, Einstein and Babe (as in Ruth).

What’s more, cats are relatively low maintenance. “A dog is a lot of work,” said Nader Ali-Hassan, 29, an account executive with a digital marketing firm in Cleveland.
Although he is married, he has had cats his entire life, and even has a picture of Ringo, a longtime feline companion, in his office. “Maybe it’s not the most masculine thing in the world, but I’m comfortable enough in my own manhood,” he said. “The cat’s nice. I come home after a long day of work, it sits in my lap, I pet it, and then it goes about its business.”

SOME guys are even using their cats as vehicles to celebrity, like Paul Klusman, 39, a Wichita, Kan., engineer who catapulted to Internet fame after posting “An Engineer’s Guide to Cats” on YouTube in April. The film, which features his three cats, Oscar, Ginger and Zoey, garnered about 3 million views. Mr. Klusman said he received about 300 marriage proposals from “lonely cat ladies from all over the world,” in addition to more risqué propositions. “Any single, straight man who has the slightest bit of insecurity about his own sexuality will probably find it difficult to admit to owning or even appreciating cats” he said, echoing Mr. Scalzi’s sentiments.

Of course, it can become tricky, like when the cat gets in the way of a relationship.
The Cats Protection study found that single male cat owners were more likely than their female counterparts to have made, or consider making, a sacrifice for their cat — including giving up a holiday or going into debt for their cat if necessary.

Single men were also almost as likely as single women to break a friendship rather than lose their cat, and would consider choosing their cat over their partner.
This happened to Mr. Fulrath, who dated a woman who was allergic to cats.
“I thought, ‘This is never going to work,’ ” he recalled. “My cat takes priority over the new relationship.

Realistically, unless there’s something absolutely amazing about her, he

(I highlighted the bit in red.)

Talk about Serendipity. I saw something I liked, thought my friends would like it also and it turns out that the chap who made it is a friend of a friend. Thank you so much CopCar for this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scotch Broth and Facebook

Last June I wrote about having just joined Facebook and made a totally incorrect prediction. I said "I doubt I shall spend as much time on Facebook". I was wrong. It sort of sucks you in and you find yourself using it a lot. Also it's a very easy and quick way to keep in touch with family and friends. Both the Stepdaughter and Stepson are on Facebook as are two of my cousins plus several other members of their family. Then there are several Red hat ladies I know and keep in touch with. Using Facebook is a quick and easy way to keep in touch with them all.

Anyway, advertisement for Facebook over. One of the facilities on your own page is quick and easy way to say what you are doing at that particular moment. One day last week I stated that I was in the middle of making a big pot of Scotch Broth. And I was approached by two friends asking for the recipe. In addition to having it written in my personal book of useful recipes I was (and still am) absolutely convinced that I'd put it on the interweb somewhere. Do you think I could find it? Nowhere and I tried looking all over the place. I think it is somewhere in this blog but the blog has been going now for about three and a half years and my quick search through all the posts in the archives couldn't find it. So I typed the recipe onto a Facebook message and sent it out.

So this is why I am posting the recipe here and now. If it is a repeat of an earlier post then sobeit.

100 grms pearl barley
750grms shoulder of lamb cut into chunks ( and with the bone)
2.5 litres stock
1 tsp salt
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 leeks, chopped
300 grms swede (or turnip) peeled and diced
300 grms carrots, peeled and diced
200 grms savoy cabbage, shredded

Put the barley, lamb, stock and salt in a large pot. Bring to the boil, skimming off the froth that rises to the surface. Cover and simmer for an hour.

Add the onion, leeks, swede and carrots. Simmer for a further 40 minutes. Add the shedded cabbage and cook for 10 minutes or until tender. Remove the lamb and shred the meat, discarding the bone. Return the meat to the broth, heat through and season to taste.

This makes a lot but cooled and refrigerated it provides a meal for the Husband and myself for a day or two. Sometimes the soup is so thick that I let it down with some more stock so it goes still further. Delicious.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

From the letters page of Thursday's The Times.


Could I take the opportunity to gloat to my family. It seems that banking was not a more sensible choice than theatre.

Jimmy Jewell

Friday, October 17, 2008

I am back

I haven’t been around here for a few weeks, for which I am sorry. But life gets a bit complicated at times. You reach your late 50’s in a healthy condition, the kids have their own lives, you have finished with work and you don’t have to commute to the center of London every weekday. Everything should be going well with you. But, how often is there a spanner in the works. Because this period in your life is often the time when you find new things in your life to worry you.

That is the stage the Husband and I have reached. Each of us has one living parent: his father and my mother. And each of them have lives overshadowed by health problems. My Father-in-Law has mobility problems, since he lost a leg a few years ago. My mother has serious health problems and, at 87, her mind is at times a little muddled and forgetful.

I’m afraid that for a few weeks my life became overshadowed with my worries about the situation. And at the time I decided to suspend posting to my blog for a while as I found it difficult to think of anything to write. But time passes and you get used to the new situation and the different life that you are living. I think one of the things that has helped me is a passion for the quotations of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (AD121- AD180). I have a book of his sayings that I frequently read. Also one of his quotations appears each day on my desktop and I always read them and find comfort in them. Today’s quotation is;
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing
itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any

How true and something I believe in.

Anyway, I am back and feeling more with it. Hello everybody.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dames (1934) - title musical sequence

The Husband and I are on a Busby Berkley passion at the moment after he bought a DVD box set of some of some of Berkeley's Warner Brothers films. The plots of the fiolms are hardly of the best but this doesn't matter because the dance sequences are absolutely fabulous.

Monday, August 18, 2008

It never rains but it pours. And I’m not just talking about the weather although I can’t think of a day in the last three weeks when we haven’t had at least some rain. Now we haven’t got the flooding they’ve had in some places – I understand that Northern Ireland has been especially inflicted with so much rain that parts have been badly flooded.

As soon as my life begins to settle down to some degree of sanity then, of course, something happens. And in this case it isn’t just something, it’s Something.

My mother has been trying to persuade the nurses in her nursing home to let her out of bed and to sit on a chair. On Thursday, after what I understand was a lot of persuasion on my mother’s part, they finally agreed and got her out of bed and into a chair. Somehow while sitting there she tried to reach something and fell out of the chair. She has broken her knee. She said to me that it was hardly a fall but, as I had to point out to her she does have bad osteoporosis, so her bones are very brittle. At the moment she is in hospital with her leg in a splint. I spoke to her doctor on the telephone this morning and she’s likely to be in there for some time.

Oh well, we’ll cope with it all. It’s hardly the end of the world and soon, hopefully, her leg will settle down a bit.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A busy few days at the moment. Nothing particularly special, so to speak, but lots of things to do. Doctors' Appointments to check how my blood pressure and asthma are going, dentist appointment for an rampaging toothache that turned out to be an abscess, a visit to the glaucoma monitoring clinic of St Thomas' Hospital in London (my eyes are fine), the Stepson is in town and so we are having him and the Stepdaughter around tomorrow for a meal and family get-together, I'm off to Cardiff to visit my mother on Thursday and lots of other bits and pieces going on too. It's odd how everything like these all cram together in the same period.

And my mind is going around in circles. CopCar made a comment to my note about the petition. I feel I want to reply to this but at the moment I just cannot think of anything sensible to say, there's just too many little things going on. Hang on CopCar, I will reply.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yesterday, my friend Buffy added a comment – well, more like a question – to the comments for the piece I wrote on us buying a new car. Buffy asked “did the Husband get the Bang and Olufsen sound system?? You'll find him sitting in the car listening to his CD collection in the middle of the night, until the new car smell wears off! Lol”. Well that’s a story in itself.

Last Monday the Husband and I set off back to the car salesroom. The Husband has a set system for testing a new hifi system, whether it is the very, very good one we have in the living room, the much smaller and cheaper system I put in the kitchen, so that I can have music while cooking or the one in the bedroom, for music while getting ready for bed. The Husband takes several CDs, carefully chosen to test a new system with music both loud and soft, fast and slow (from memory he took Rachmaninoff, Finzi, Shostakovich plus Sting and the Police). He took all these on Monday, plus both our iPods and we tested out the Bang & Olufsen system in one of the cars in the showroom. I suspect he was already minded to buy the system; he certainly didn’t take any persuasion to buy it. When we plugged in my iPod we could see the playlist showing on a panel on the car’s dashboard – so it is easy to choose what to listen to provided, of course, that you do this before you start driving! The sound quality of the music system was excellent, so we’ve ordered it to be added to our new car. One of the good things about it is that someone looking in one of the car windows could not see the music system at all; it is invisible unless you dismantle the car’s innards. And it wouldn’t be worth while doing this to steal the hifi system as it will only work in the car.

I have been driving for 40 years and, up to now, I’ve been able to sit in any car and drive off without any problem as usually they all have the same switches and levers, etc only, perhaps, in different places in different cars. But then up to now they have all, including our current Citroen Xantia, been cars that work mechanically. Nowadays new cars are basically a computer on wheels. Cars nowadays have all sorts of switches and things I just do not recognise and I can imagine it will take me a while to work out what they are and what they do. The thing that does throw me completely is that the car doesn’t have a handbrake. Instead it has a switch that automatically turns on the handbrake when the car stops and turns it on again when the car starts to go again. But still, I’ll get used to it and everything else. Eventually.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The other day I signed an online petition.

The Petition actually stated:
"By comparison to many other European Countries, Britain has fewer public holidays and none at all for a period of some three months between the August public holiday and Christmas. Moreover, Britain does not have a "National" day. So what better way to celebrate our Nation than to have a National Remembrance Holiday falling on the second Monday in November each year to reinforce Remembrance Sunday which falls on the second Sunday in November? Such a holiday will serve to emphasise our commemoration of The Fallen who gave their lives to save Britain and also the on-going importance of the survival of our Nation. The National Remembrance Holiday will further serve to break that period between late summer and Christmas when there is currently no public holiday."

Yesterday evening I received an e-mail to say that the Prime Minister's Office has responded. This is what was said:-

More than 500,000 people have signed this petition, and we are grateful to you
all for taking the time to do so.

Your support is a clear sign of the strength of feeling across the United Kingdom that we must do more as a country to recognise the contribution of our Armed Forces, and in particular those who have died or been injured in the service of their country.

The Government recently published The National Recognition Study (new window), undertaken by Quentin Davies MP, which looks at the ways in which the Government, other institutions and the country as a whole can do more to recognise the service of our Armed Forces and Veterans.

One of its recommendations was the institution of a special British Armed Forces and Veterans Day, which would complement the events held around Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday in November to commemorate those who have fallen in the service of our country.

These proposals are being given careful consideration by the Government, alongside other representations we have received to institute a new 'British Day', and as part of these deliberations, we will of course examine the case for introducing a new public holiday.

There is considerable debate amongst supporters of a new special public holiday to remember our Armed Forces and Veterans or our fallen servicemen about when in
the year such a day should take place.

While there are a very large number of people - including signatories to this petition- who believe the Monday after Remembrance Sunday is the best option, there areothers - including the Royal British Legion (new window) - who do not support that proposal, because they are concerned that a public holiday then would not be inkeeping with the solemnity and special status of the Remembrance Sunday commemorations.

Quentin Davies MP has suggested holding the new day close to the current Veterans' Day at the end of June, while others have suggested holding the day to coincide with the anniversaries of the D-Day Landings in early June or of V.E. Day in early May.

We greatly appreciate your contribution to this ongoing debate, and whatever the final outcome, we hope that all signatories to this petition will see that we have very much taken on board their desire to see much greater national recognition for our Armed Forces.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green Pea, Lettuce and Mint Soup

The other day I was looking for a recipe for a soup I could serve cold, as it has been far too hot and humid for one that had to be served hot. So I had a look through my recipe books and came across my copy of the New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Book of Soups. It had some wonderful recipes and I chose this one. So I had a go and found that it wasn’t good. It was absolutely delicious. And very easy to make. So, here it is.

Green Pea, Lettuce and Mint Soup

50g (2 oz) butter
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
350g (12 oz) potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
900 ml (1.5 pints) light chicken stock
2 handfuls lettuce leaves, about 200 g (7 oz)
125 g (4.5 oz) fresh or frozen peas
leaves of a small bunch of mint, shredded
150 ml (1/4 pint) single cream
Salt & freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter and cook the onion and garlic gently until soft in a covered saucepan, without colouring. Add the potatoes and stock. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the lettuce leaves, peas and mint. Cover and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Cool a little then liquidise the soup. Stir in the cream and add a little more water if you think it necessary to achieve the correct consistency. Season as necessary. Serve.

I used the type of lettuce with virtually no heart. I think that if I was using lettuces which have large hearts then I would shred them before cooking them.
I used frozen peas and when I looked at the mixture cooking in the pan thought that it would need many more peas. I was wrong – the amount in the recipe added just the right amount of flavour to the soup.
The recipe says that you can serve the soup cold or warm. I haven’t tasted it warm yet. I will do so. The recipe is so simple and quick and tastes so delicious I will certainly make it again.
I wanted to include a picture of the book’s cover but couldn’t find it online so I assume that my version of the book is not being published now although I see on Amazon that other books by the same company are being published.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Monday afternoon and evening I felt totally stunned, a feeling that began to wear off as Tuesday wore off. Why? Monday afternoon we bought a new car.

I am a great believer of buying a car that works, maintaining it properly and just keeping it going for as long as the car works and it is economic still to run. This is what we did with our current car, a Citroen Xantia SX 1.9 diesel. We have had it for 15 years, buying it very shortly after we married. We have had very few and those relatively minor problems with it over the years and it has never let us down (touch wood). Of course neither of us used it to drive to work. Taking the train to the center of London for work was both the most economic and far less stressful option of traffic queues and trying to find somewhere to park (our employer does not provide parking spaces for employees) and so the car has mainly been used for local trips and longer drives to visit both the Husband’s and my parents. So now, after 15 years the car has done less than 68,000 miles.

At the Xantia's last service we were told by my brother-in-law, a trained mechanic who has seen to the car’s servicing for years, that at the next service the car will need a new braking system, a new gearbox and lots and lots of expensive work done to the hydraulic system. As the cost of all this work will considerably exceed the value of the car we knew that we would need to replace the car before the next service and MOT in the third week in September. The road fund license expires at the end of August.

So we started thinking about possible replacements. We bought a copy of What Car magazine and read the comments and critiques of all the cars sold in the UK. I have also spent a fair bit of time looking online. We both agreed that our next move was to look around various car showrooms and to take several test drives of various cars before sitting down and discussing sensibly what car to buy. So we made our first visit to a car salesroom Monday afternoon.


We went to an Audi dealers in Chelmsford. We had test drives in two different cars (one of them an automatic which confirmed my total loathing of automatic cars). We chatted to the salesman about prices. And then out of the blue the Husband offered them a deal - What Car says that the most you can get off the model is £700, he asked for a discount of about £1,700 on the overall price. After a lot of thought behind the scenes they took the offer. And we shook on it. So we've bought a car. An Audi A4 Avant SE diesel. We are having only a couple of additions to it: an automatic handbrake switch, the reversing warning system the Stepson suggested (he drives his maternal grandmother’s car) and an adaptor for an iPod. And the colour of the car - Red (there were only three basic colours and we didn't like the other two - black and white - and didn't want to pay more for the metallics).

The car will be built to our specifications in Germany and shipped over here. We were told it will take 5 - 6 weeks before we finally get it. Then we will have to make moves to get rid of our old car.

At the moment the Husband is wondering whether to ask them to add a Bang & Olufsen sound system to the car. We'll see.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

At the moment the Husband and I are staggering around the house, mopping our eyes and, in my case at least, attempting to swallow a huge lump in my throat. We've just watched for the very first time Cinema Paradiso. It is wonderful, one of the best films I've ever seen. Charming, very funny in places and very bittersweet. It is a wonderful, wonderful film.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sometimes you read something in the news you just can't believe is true. How on earth can anyone put on a bra and not realise that it is already occupied.

From yesterday's BBC news:-

A teenager who thought movement in her underwear was caused by her vibrating mobile phone found a bat curled up asleep in her bra.

Abbie Hawkins, 19, of Norwich, had been wearing the bra for five hours when she
plucked up the courage to investigate.

When she did, she found a baby bat in padding in her 34FF bra. The reservations agent, who works at the Holiday Inn at Norwich International Airport, said she was shocked but felt bad for removing the "cuddly" bat.

"It looked cosy and comfortable and I was sorry for disturbing it," she said. She was sitting at her desk at work when she decided to investigate the strange movements in her underwear. "I put my hand down my bra and pulled out a cuddly little bat.

"That shocked me very much at the time, but it scuttled off under the desk into the dark. I was shaking from head to toe.

"It looked quite cosy and comfortable in there so it was quite rude of me to take it

"When I realised it was a bat the first thing that occurred to me was how did it get in there.

"I felt quite sorry for it. Perhaps I should have left it there and given it a good home.

"I did not notice anything as I put my bra on. The night before I had had one or two drinks and I was getting ready quickly.

"The bra was in my drawer but it had been on the washing line the day before.

"When I was driving to work, I felt a slight vibration but I thought it was just my mobile phone in my jacket pocket."

The bat was captured by one of her colleagues and released.

I haven’t been blogging much this year. Not for any major or horrid reasons, just that I’m having difficulty finding new things to talk about. Life keeps jogging along and I go with it.

The weekend before last was nice. Thursday 3rd was the Stepson’s birthday (22) and so he came up to see us all the previous weekend – he is working too hard on his studies to take off his birthday. So the Husband and I dropped down to Whitstable the Friday of that weekend, picked up the Father-in-Law and brought him back here to stay for the weekend. In fact the Father-in-Law thought we were crazy as we drove over there after lunch and insisted on turning around immediately to drive him back. When he saw how busy the M25 was by 4.00pm and how long the queues were for the QE2 Bridge at Dartford he then understood why we hadn't wanted to wait any longer. Saturday lunchtime the three of us met up with the Stepson and Stepdaughter at a good local Italian restaurant and after a very good meal we returned home for the rest of the day. The following day I cooked lunch ( a nice piece of sirloin but what a price! - £31, but it tasted wonderful and we had plenty over for other meals) and we all stayed together and chatted until after tea when we drove the Father-in-Law back to Whitstable.

Actually on the Stepson’s birthday the Husband and went up to Cambridge to meet him for lunch – the only time he was able to leave his studies. He really is motivated to do well. Afterwards the Husband and I had a quick look around the Fitzwilliam Museum for a couple of hours. It was a nice day, except the city was absolutely crowded with people. What we hadn’t realised was that this was the University’ Open Day for prospective new students. All of whom had brought their parents and some of them had brought their siblings also. As Cambridge University takes approximately 1 in 5 of prospective applicants it gives you some idea of the numbers involved. We had wondered why the car park at the Park and Ride was so full on an ordinary weekday. All was well during the day but the queue for the bus to take us all back to the car park was like a rugby scrum. We eventually got on the third bus going back and fortunately we had seats.

Other than that I can’t say we’ve done much. The weather hasn’t helped as we’ve had rain most days. The number of dry sunny days we’ve had over the last couple of weeks can virtually be counted on one of my thumbs. So I’ve had little opportunity to do much in the garden, which is growing and growing in so much warm and wet weather. The problem is that the weeds like this sort of weather too and so the best description for the garden at the moment is “unkempt”. This isn’t helped by the fact that when the Husband mowed the lawn he managed to cut the electrical cable in two by passing the mower over it. No-one was hurt, as he had used the circuit- breaker thingy, but his attempts to find a thing to repair the cable have been thwarted by the lack of such equipment in the shops. At one time lots of different electric equipment could be found but since the Health & Safety lobby has got going the amount of home electrical work that can be done by a householder rather than a qualified electrician is virtually none. He says he shall continue to look for the bits, especially as my look on the web this morning shows that a replacement cable from Flymo will cost about £16. So, Buffy’s requests for more pictures here of the garden will be answered once the weather clears up and my asthma allows me to get outside again. So, watch this space for that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Has anyone else noticed how easy it is to get sucked into things on the Internet? You are chugging along quite happily reading all your e-mails (a lot of them if you are me and a member of several Yahoo Groups) and RSS feeds (thank you, Google Reader) and then suddenly something new catches your eye and you get carried away. This happens to me every so often.

Chatting to my cousin by e-mail the other day he said that I could see lots of photos of his family on Facebook and also another cousin and pictures of other members of the family were to be found on Facebook too. Well, I have never ever thought of joining Facebook. For a start from what I have heard it is really meant for a younger generation than my own. Then there is all the fuss about some people putting too much information being put on Facebook and so being made available to the entire world. And then there was the fact that I’ve managed quite well without Facebook up to now and so why bother to add it to my list of things to do. But I wanted to keep more in touch with the family and to see those photos. So I joined….

At the moment I am just starting to use it. I have to admit that my initial reaction is to be very, very careful with the information I am putting on it. I am not the only person on Facebook with my name and so I thought it necessary to post a photo to make it clear who was me (so to speak). Does that mean that I’ve put my own photo on there? No, the world can see a photo I already had of Nimrod the Mighty Hunter. That will do. I am being almost paranoid about what information I am posting there.

Somehow I doubt I shall spend as much time on Facebook as some – I’ve heard stories of some young people being on there for hours every day. Not me. But it does seem a way to keep in touch with some and so I shall visit there. If you want to contact me there just let me know…….

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Here are a few more pictures of Saturday that Blogger didn't allow me to post yesterday. There is a lot more to see at Wisley with acre after acre of lovely gardens.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The RHS (Red Hat Society) at the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society)

Saturday was a very special day for the British Red Hat Society. The reason for the occasion: the launch of the new official Red Hat sweet pea, Ruby Red Hat, at the Royal Horticultural Society's main headquarters in Wisley, Surry.

A member of our local Red Hat chapter, the Lady Boz of the Crimson Crumblies, works for a local nursery and when they developed a new sweet pea in a wonderful shade of red her boss offered her the opportunity to name it. And so she called it Ruby Red Hat.

Lots of things happen before a new plant can finally be recognised as one that can be sold under a new name. Ruby Red Hat has been through them all and is currently on the Royal Horticultural Society’s trail fields. And on Saturday about 90 of us from all over the UK converged on the Royal Horticultural Society’s headquarters at Wisley.

We all met together at the entrance of Wisley gardens at noon and had time to look around the gardens before we all met at the trial fields at 1.30 actually to see Ruby Red Hat growing under trial.

Then the gentleman who had developed the sweet pea gave us a brief talk. Then came the official photos.

In the afternoon we had more opportunities to look around the Royal Horticultural Society’s wonderful gardens before we all met for a formal Tea in one of the main restaurants on the site.

We were also incredibly lucky with the weather. As we drove into South East England the clouds cleared up and by the time we reached Wisley it became a delightfully warm and sunny day. It really was a very special day and it was lovely to have the opportunity to talk to lots and lots of other Red Hatters and in such a very special and beautiful place.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Husband is feeling a great sense of achievement at the moment - the Wisteria has flowered for the very first time.

It doesn't sound a great thing, except we planted it as a young plant against the back wall if the house at least 12 years ago. Neither of us had any experience of this type of plant and, of course, we were both working at the time and so we left it to do its own thing. This was a big mistake as we later discovered as it needs proper pruning to shape the plant and to encourage it to start flowering.

Once we had both finished with work the Husband decided to try and get the wisteria to flower. So for a couple of years he pruned it, albeit rather tentatively. Nothing happened. The Husband got a little frustrated about this and announced that the wisteria had one more opportunity to flower or he would dig it up and throw it away. I wouldn't call his pruning this time as tentative - it was more like buchery. Real kill or cure. After he had finished this task there was very little left, it looked like a few stems and very little green.

And it worked. We've had a good first flowering from the plant. And, hopefully, we'll have more flowers on it in future years.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Does anyone else have the problems I do in choosing greetings cards? Every time I go in a card shop to buy a card my brain fuses. It isn’t the massive amount of choice in cards, it is because I have such difficulty finding any cards that I would actually want to buy.

Virtually every card is addressed to someone – and nowadays the cards will be clearly marked on the front of the card as for: husband, wife, brother, sister, friend, best friend, fiancee, aunt, uncle, gay lover, dog or cat (I’m not joking about these last three, I have actually seen greeting cards for sale addressed to them). And inside these cards is some sickly sentimental verse which usually is so bad it makes William McGonagall seem like the poet laureate. (The standard of verse in Valentine’s cards is especially notable.)

The less said about the so-called “funny” cards the better. I usually look for something like this for my nephew (aged 22, and so of the right age to receive such a card). You have to plough through a huge amount of dross to find anything that is reasonably humorous without being totally offensive. Who on earth sends some of these cards with humour that borders on the obscene? And what does the recipient think?

What is wrong with a nice card with a nice picture on the front which says inside “Happy Birthday”? That’s what I like to find but usually I have the dickens of a job to find anything suitable. I like to think that by sending a card that it goes without saying that I am thinking of the person. I don’t need to send card with some meaningless verse inside to say so.

The local card shop is exceptionally large and full of cards. But those of the type I like fill just a couple of feet of space in the very back of the shop and I generally have to hunt to find them. And even then the choice of decorations on the front of the cards often does not inspire. I can usually find something suitable for a lady with perhaps flowers or something else feminine and pretty on the front. But try to find a card for a man. Just what “manly” picture do you find on the front of a card? Racing cars, yachts and then only if you are lucky.

Often nowadays I go for a card with no writing inside. That always seems the best option. Then I can chose something with a picture I like and am suitable for the person I am sending it to and write something suitable inside.

Am I being too picky about greetings cards? I am just aware of a close friend who was sent an ordinary Christmas card with a printed verse inside that wished her “the best Christmas ever” two months after the death of her son. It was obviously done totally unthinkingly by a sender who just hadn’t thought of what was printed in the card. But seeing how much hurt that card caused made me think twice and forever about the potential impact of a sent greetings card.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

HMS Dasher

On 27 March 1943 HMS Dasher exploded and sank with the loss of 379 lives.

Dasher was built in America but was commissioned into the Royal Navy the following year. Such ships were desperately needed to provide air cover for the Atlantic convoys. These were Britain’s lifeline and were being remorselessly attacked by German submarines. In 1943 the ship’s flight deck was extended by 42 feet and it began to carry Fairey Swordfish aircraft. It undertook one mission successfully but after its second mission it suffered a major internal explosion and sank into the Firth of Clyde.

Various possible causes have been suggested for the explosion but exactly what happened has to date not been officially recognised. Her death toll, 379 out of 528 crewmen despite rapid response and assistance from local ships and rescue craft was amongst the highest in British home waters. Immediately after the explosion there was an official cover-up aimed at concealing what was a significant loss both in Naval and human terms.

One theory for the explosion and sinking of HMS Dasher is that a Swordfish aircraft failed correctly to land on the Dasher’s flight deck but instead crashed into the ship itself. This view is strongly held by several who remember seeing this happen, including a young woman who was taking her infant son for a walk on the sea front.

Another witness was a young naval telegraphist on a tank landing craft nearby. His name was George Humphreys and he is my Father-in-Law. For years he has talked of the day he saw a Swordfish aircraft hit the Dasher, after which he saw the ship explode. He originally told the Husband of this in 1960 and his story of the actual incident has not changed over the years.

On 28th, 29th and 30th March 2008, 65 years after the explosion and sinking, there was a memorial weekend for HMS Dasher. My Husband and his father flew up to Glasgow to become part of the ceremony and to meet some of the others also acknowledging the incident with their hearts and minds. Ceremonies took place where wreaths were laid at the memorial gardens at Ardrossan. The ferry that usually runs between Ardrossan and the Isle of Arran took a small detour to the site of the wreck, a further ceremony took place and the Father-in-law laid a wreath in the sea on behalf of both those who lost their lives in the explosion and its aftermath and also his friends who died during the Second World War.

George still feels very strongly of the need to remember those who were lost during the War, his memories are still sharp of that time. Those he met at the memorial weekend feel the same. It is easy to belittle these thoughts and feelings as being those of the old, but important to remember the lives and times then. They are a part of our history and a sharp reminder of the cost of the freedom we are lucky enough to enjoy.

Above is a picture of George Humphreys as a young naval rating during the war. Below is one of him laying a wreath overboard at the site of the wreck.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Easter is finally over. It seemed to go on for an awfully long time.

Easter always starts in our family on Maundy Thursday, not surprising as the Husband and I are both former civil servants and Maundy Thursday is still a noticeable day for the British civil service. And so we started with a big family meal in the evening with lots to celebrate as this was the day that the Stepdaughter finished her current job. The next day (Good Friday) she was setting off for Australia for a 3 week holiday and when she returns she starts a new job that she really looking forward to and at a considerable rise in salary. So she brought two bottles of champagne which we drunk during the meal which, which added to the usual wine made the amount for us to drink more than enough for four people. A good time was had by all.

Good Friday the Stepdaughter set off to Australia (not from Terminal 5, thank goodness), the Stepson disappeared meeting old friends and the Husband and I recovered from the night before. Later in the weekend we drove to Whitstable and picked up the Father-in-law, so that he could spend some time with us. We are conscious that he finds being alone difficult, especially after the death of his wife last October. We came back here and the Stepson came over. We spent that day and the next eating and talking. The day after we took the Father-in-Law home the Husband and the Stepson went up to London to go around the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and to see the Henry Moore sculptures on exhibition there. Too far for me to walk and anyway, all I wanted to do was to curl up in bed with the Cold From Hell which had appeared a few days earlier.

By this time Easter was officially over but it all still felt like part of the Bank Holiday, what with all the family things still going on. The Thursday after Easter became a special day for the Husband and his father as they set off for something special. I’ll describe this in much more detail, and the reason for the trip on another occasion but just to say now that they were away from home for four days. I spent most of the time in bed still with the Cold from Hell and was grateful for it.

The Husband returned home and things returned to normal on Monday. Easter is over at last. And I’m still croaking and coughing but at least the worse of it has gone.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Like most people I carry a mobile phone around with me whenever I am out of the house. Its now an essential piece of equipment for modern life, like carrying my glasses and my credit cards. The trouble is that I’ve been cursing my old mobile for ages because although it worked well, recharging it was a real pain. Connecting it to the charger was so very fiddly and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spent a long time and lots of curses trying to get the connection just right so that the phone would recharge.

After a couple of years of this I decided out of sheer exasperation to make a change and started looking around for a new mobile phone last November. The trouble is that I am one of those people who find themselves baffled by too much choice. I can remember years ago, long before I was married, going into the local Toys-R-Us for a Christmas present for my young nephew and leaving with empty hands after a couple of hours as I was just totally confused and baffled at the amount of choice available. There are so many different mobile phone models around, all with different facilities and all at different prices that my brain fused every time I went into my local mobile phone shop. And I’ve been going into the shop virtually every week, staring at the display of all the different models, failing to make a decision and beating a hasty retreat.

Then this Thursday I saw this one. Not black as in the photograph but purple. Just what a Red Hatter needs. It not only caught my eye, the price was reasonable and it has lots of facilities that I can play with. So I bought it, with real relief that my ordeal was finally over. Orange (the mobile phone service I use and have always received good service) transferred my (old) phone number to my new mobile overnight, and Yesterday it became my new phone.

The first thing I did was to download onto my new phone a tune to become its new ringtone. Too many times I have been on a train or on a station and an ordinary ringtone has gone off and everyone in listening distance has reached for their own mobile phone to see whether it was theirs ringing. I did not want that, I wanted a ringtone that was special to me alone. So my old phone had the music from Mission Impossible (the tv series); this one has the film music from Superman (the original film – I’ve always loved John Williams music from this film). I am unlikely to find too many other people reaching for their mobiles if someone rings me.

I’ve got a lot to learn about my new phone and much I can do with it, from downloading music onto it to learning how to use its FM radio. Those I shall learn and play with over the future months. For the moment I have a phone that works effectively. And isn’t a pain to recharge.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The other day I’d moaned like the dickens here when virtually everything that could have gone wrong in my life did, although it was just lots of little things. I’m feeling a lot more cheerful now, although I can’t think of anything in particular that happened. I just got on with things and it all got better.

Last Thursday, though, I didn’t spend all day alone after all, because the Husband did a real Man thing. Last year he walked a minimum of 16 – 18 miles every day and became really fit. He stopped walking last October and winter put him off walking. As the weather has started to improve and the first vestiges of spring started to appear he decided that now was the time to start walking again. So, last Tuesday he walked 8 miles. And in the evening he complained that his feet hurt but that didn’t stop him walking 16 miles on Wednesday. He could hardly walk by the evening and was little better on Thursday morning. So he decided just to go up to London for the evening concert as he wasn’t up to walking around London and walking around exhibitions. So I wasn’t alone all day Thursday after all.

Friday I was, as he had another concert in the evening and felt able to walk during the day. But I wasn’t feeling down and enjoyed the solitude. I also managed to watch a DVD I was given for Christmas but that the Husband didn’t want to watch.

Sunday was nice as I am a member of the Crimson Crumblies, the Red Hat chapter based in Chelmsford and yesterday was the chapter’s third birthday and we all went around to our Queen’s house for tea and chatter. There was about 12 – 13 of us there, some of our members couldn’t make it, and a good time was had by all.

Today is not a nice day to be out as GB is being lashed by heavy rain and high winds. I was woken by the weather early this morning and it hasn't abated. We are staying indoors today in the dry and the warm. The only flaw at this moment is that the Husband is listening to Berg, not my idea of fun.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Dogs in Elk

I am crying with laughter. As I write this I cannot see the keys properly because of the tears (of laughter) in my eyes. The mental images I have.....

You can read it here:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

This is a post of me moaning. Avoid if you wish. I just want to get it all off my chest.

Yesterday was one of those days when I wished I had never got out of bed. Everything that could have gone wrong did.

First I had made arrangements for a Red Hat visit to the "From Russia" exhibition in the Royal Academy of Arts in Picadilly for this Thursday. But it had over the last few days became clear that this date wasn't suitable for many and so I've rearranged the visit for April. Fine for the many but I was looking out for something to do out of the house this week, especially as the Husband is out for two days.

Then I had a phone call to say that the day course in British Prehistory I was going to do on this Saturday had been cancelled due to lack of interest. I am fascinated by the subject. Clearly no-one else is.

Then the doctor had arranged an appointment for me to see the nurse to have my blood pressure checked. That was yesterday afternoon. Only the nurse decided to discuss my "lifestyle" and started wittering on about eating less and walking more. When I left the surgery I bought a big bar of chocolate. And ate it. I've spent my whole life being told what to do - first my parents and then, of course, at work. Now I'm free and NO ONE tells me what to do anymore.

I should have made some soup but I forgot to buy the onions. So the poor Husband went out again just to buy some for me. He is kind and knew how fed up I was.

Anyway, Monday is over and life goes on. Now what shall I do with the time that was formerly booked up?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Three of our Camellias are in bloom at the moment, only the white one has still to come out. The problem is that we are expecting snow and cold winds in the next couple of days and I suspect that these blossoms are soon to become damaged.

It's Mothering Sunday today and the Stepdaughter came around for most of the day. After lunch we watched the DVD the Husband has just bought - "Atonement", the one that has had all the plaudits and wone some Oscars and other awards. All three of us decided afterwards that it was one of the most depressing films we had ever seen and we all felt like slitting our wrists. So afterwards we watched "A Close Shave" with Wallace and Gromit, to cheer ourselves up. So the day ended up quite nicely after all.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sounds like good advice.
I'm not sure whether we are in Winter or in Spring. Neither seems to be the plants. We have had lots of the early Spring flowers out already, including crocuses, daffodills and snowdrops. Unfortunately the very, very mild weather we have been getting at regular intervals since December is being regularly interrupted by very bitter frosts at times. The first blossoms on our pink camellia came out two weeks ago, much earlier than usual, only to be very badly frosted last week. Still I suppose I shouldn't complain too much, living in a part of England that has lots of sunshine and mild weather and absolutely none of the heavy gales and snow that Northern England and Scotland has (sort of) enjoyed. I understand that Scotland has actually had a skiing industry this year, so much snow has fallen (unlike last year when there was no snow at all).

Thursday, January 03, 2008

When I was a child my father had a favourite saying “from the sublime to the gorblimey”. I’m remembering that saying at the moment as it is an appropriate description of the last week and a bit.

Christmas was good although it was very clear that we are going through a new phase in life now that the kids have grown up. The Stepdaughter is 25, the Stepson is 21 and they want to be away spending time with their friends rather than to be with us, the old fogies. Nevertheless Christmas Day was good: the Stepdaughter and her boyfriend turning up in the morning, there was cooking for the big meal, eating and drinking, mid-afternoon the Stepson left to stay with his mother, an evening with the Stepdaughter and boyfriend who then went home. Boxing Day was even quieter as it was just the two of us.

The Thursday was expensive as the tv in the sitting room had started to play up so we braved the sales and found a new one. Having paid for it we discovered that it would be a while until it could be delivered – in fact Monday 14th (an irritation as our old one has now completely packed up).

Friday was quiet and we prepared for the following day’s drive to Cardiff to visit my mother. Little did I know….

When I awoke on Saturday I had a pain in my tummy, which I ignored. The drive to Cardiff was better than either of us had expected as the roads, usually some of the busiest in the country, were clear of major roadworks or jams. But by the time we had got there my abdominal pain had begun to get worse. But we saw my mother, who was delighted to see us and we stayed for a couple of hours which was as long as she could cope with. The less said about the journey back the better what with the pain and the nausea I was now feeling. So when we got home again I rang the out-of-hours GP and made an appointment for his clinic in the local hospital for after midnight and the Husband drove me there.

I saw the GP who immediately sent me next door to their A&E department. To cut a long story short I was admitted to the hospital with suspected appendicitis…or kidney stones…or gallstones, no-one was certain at that stage. There followed a series of tests and scans, as well as some heavy duty painkillers for which I was very relieved. Monday morning I received a visit from the hospital Urologist who informed me that my appendix is fine but that the scan had shown a kidney stone which was causing the problem. About 10 minutes after he left I had a personal experience of the separation of medical disciplines with the arrival of a General Surgical team which informed me that the scan had also shown that I had a supply of gallstones but they weren’t immediately causing any problems. Wonderful. The next couple of days were a mixture of drugs to get the kidney stone to move through my system and painkillers.

Yesterday the Urologist returned to say that things were clearly getting better and that I could go home that day. So the Husband picked me up in the afternoon and I am at home again. The terrible pain has gone, although my side is still a little tender, not surprising I suppose. And so I am taking it easy and hope soon to be well and up and doing things again.

Then I suppose I shall have to find out how to manage kidney stones and gallstones in future. I wonder how you can prevent them?