Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Ducks In A Row, And Ready To Go

Back to Dorset this morning, the holiday's over. Inevitably that has meant that much of Monday was spent in washing, packing, sorting and tidying. We're not back at Cornerstones for a couple of months, but there will be friends here before we return. I have got all my ducks in a row...

The back two have been in the bathroom for a while - the front two are prizes I won at Anglian Water's Exhibition in Norwich last week. 
But where did this ducks in a row phrase come from? It was very popular in business circles at the turn of the millennium, implying you were organised and ready. It was claimed Stephen King first used the phrase in a novel of 1970...but then more information emerged. People had lots of theories about the origin
  • baby ducklings following their mother
  • the line of metal ducks at a mechanical shooting arcade
  • "ducks" as metal weights formerly used by engineers to define a curve
  • "ducks" as cargo bins which must be lined up on the dock before being loaded onto a ship
...but most etymologists seem to think it came from duck pins – a popular name for the skittles used in a type of bowling popular in Europe and America in the 1700s. In a newspaper of 1889, 'The Plaindealer' made this comment about the politics of the time "the Democrats are getting their ducks in a row, and their ticket is promised to be very strong."

Personally I think the skittles idea is quite believable - and the metal weights and cargo bins seem to be too specialised for general conversation. The experts have not arrived at a unanimous decision on the idiom's genesis, but “to have one’s ducks in a row” is now synonymous in Western culture with efficiency, organization, and preparedness.
Whatever the origin, I know we are ready and will be travelling south very soon!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Goodbye Auntie Helen

This picture was taken outside Leicester Cathedral a few months ago. On the big screen you can clearly see the Queen meeting Helen Sculthorpe, a wonderful lady in her 90s, from Kirby Muxloe. Helen was one of the recipients of the Royal Maundy Money. 
Helen was a single lady and had no family of her own, but was loved by all, and known as Auntie Helen to so many folk in our village. She was a member of our church, but lived next to the Parish Church, and they considered her an honorary member.  Even those who didn't know her recognised her as The Dog Lady, what she didn't know about labradors wasn't worth knowing. She'd been in the Land Army in Ww2, worked on farms, been the village postie, worked at a Christian Conference Centre... 
She was a dear friend, always encouraging, faithfully praying for people, supportive of the youth activities, a very special person. She was not blessed with financial benefits , but her life was abundant and rich in so many other ways. 
We heard last night that Helen had gone into hospital on Saturday and passed away quite unexpectedly. 
Many friends back in Leicester will be mourning her passing, and I feel for them in their sadness. We have happy memories of so many great times with Helen. But I cannot be sad for her. She may have met the Queen in April - but now she has met her King face to face and heard Him say Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord. 
Rest in peace, rise in glory. Helen Sculthorpe 1924 - 2017 

Sunday, 20 August 2017


Barcelona, Charlottesville, Turku...so many sad places...too many to list this morning. 
God bless all those who work to bring peace, hope, light and love to the dark corners of our world.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Small Is Beautiful

Regular readers know that we love pootling round Charity Shops - we have certainly found dozens in Norfolk this holiday. But it is sad that in so many towns, the high streets are partly big chains [Poundland, Boots, Superdrug, WHSmiths] partly CS, and more and more empty shops as business rates rise and owners of independent shops close as their owners struggle to make a living [let alone a profit]
But here are a few 'little shops' we have been to this week [we didn't actually purchase stuff in all of them] and I thought they were worth a mention.
An old friend, struggling with depression, mentioned she wanted to start reading the Bible again - but couldn't find one at home. I said I'd send her one - the sort which includes helpful links to "what to read when feeling sad/lonely/ill/happy etc" and a daily reading plan.
Green Pastures Bookshop [opposite Dereham Baptist Church] not only had a suitable one for me, but when I explained why I was buying it, the assistant gave me a jiffy bag so I could post it promptly.
Merv's Hot Bread Kitchen in Wymondham is great for sourdough loaves and other speciality breads- plus a great range of home made hot sausage rolls, bacon baps etc. Thank you Jon and Liz, for introducing us to this one!
Nuts'n'Bolts is a hardware store in Attleborough. Great range of products at good prices. Their cookware stuff is at prices to match, and sometimes beat Lakeland. For instance - those Maslin Pans - if you cannot find them for a fiver at a Yard Sale, and don't want to spent £50 or more on the pukka Kilner pan - they are half that price here!
Susan's Work Basket is another treasure hidden away in Attleborough. Staffed by enthusiastic women who certainly know their wool and fabric, the range of haberdashery is brilliant. And I spotted some Scandi Xmas fabric I'd seen in John Lewis last week - but cheaper!
Finally Aldridge Crafts, also in Attleborough. This is run by Jane and Susan, and they were runners up in a recent "Norfolk Independent Craft Retailer" Competition. Jane is a real crafting specialist, and we chatted away about die cuts, stamping, patchment craft, jewellery-making and more. She has a slot on the Hochanda Craft Channel on Tuesday week. I shall try and catch that. 
Many of these shops also sell online [not the bakers, obviously - bacon baps don't travel well]
It is not true that the big stores are necessarily cheaper - and often the personal service from independent retailers means you can obtain specialist items which would be too much trouble for a chain store to order in. I like the opportunity to look at products, feel the wools, taste samples of the food, assess the weight of the tools, and judge the quality for myself. You cannot do that when you buy online. 
I hope that Jack Of All Trades in Wimborne finds a buyer soon, and doesn't disappear.  The lady who runs the local Post Office up the road from us here, in Hockering, is retiring soon, and looking for someone to take over this vital village amenity. We were sorry when the little cookshop in Fakenham closed some months back.
It is a case of 'use it or lose it' with these retailers. I am grateful to all those who have taken time to find the items I am wanting to buy, and given me lots of free advice! I wish them well - and hope that these good little shops are able to survive in this difficult economic climate.

Friday, 18 August 2017

If You're Happy And You Know It...

...clap your hands! This is one of Rosie's favourite songs at the moment. Bob and I looked after her overnight whilst Liz and Jon went on a camping/cycling jaunt. We enjoyed a trip to the playground, played chariot races in the garden, and had fun at bedtime. She is trying hard to say Grandma, and Grandad.
Then her Mum and Dad came back and we all went into Norwich together. Rosie was very determined about climbing the steps up to the Forum, where Anglian Water had a special exhibition.
I could bore you stupid about my brilliant grandchild. But I won't. I am sure many of you are equally proud of your own offspring  - and their offspring. Congratulations to all those older ones who have finished exams, and got their results this week. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Small Family Cooking Showdown

No, I haven't watched BFCS yet! The reviews seems fairly good though, and the presenters are all people I have enjoyed watching in other shows.
But I have been enjoying my holiday, looking after my grand-daughter...and doing my own cooking!
It is very tempting, on a 'self-catering holiday' to lapse into the 'I can't be bothered, let's eat out all the time' mindset.
Not in this family! We planned a few special treats beforehand [street food on Norwich Market, lunch on The Albatros, tea at Wiveton] and we are fortunate to have family around, so we have eaten great food with Liz and Jon, and with Adrian and Marion. The pre-ordered groceries from Sainsbury's meant there was food on hand - and we have foraged plums, blackberries and apples...and availed ourselves of the generous 'courgettes-free-help yourself' box round the corner.
But here we are, well into our second week, and it is time to re-assess the stocks. Bob is particularly creative with leftovers and loves having the free time to work in the kitchen. 

  • The leftover chicken and ham went into two pies [one eaten, one in the icebox] Bob made the filling, and turned the carcase into stock, for soup on Saturday. The pastry crust is 'potato pastry' - made with leftover mash. I do this by instinct now, but there's a wartime recipe here. The baking powder makes it rise, so you do need to roll it out thinly.
  • I harvested the rhubarb in the garden, and roasted it whilst the pies were cooking. Two boxes- one for now, one in the icebox for later in the week.
  • Leftover veg, on the edge of going soft, went into the oven to make ratatouille. Long slow cooking on a gentle heat, and I'll have a tray redolent of Italian summers...
As well as the rhubarb, we have also been able to pick our first crop of apples from the tree we planted some years back. half a kilo of small, but beautiful, fruit.
And the figtree has produced fruit for the first time since we moved it here in 2014, from the spot in our Kirby Muxloe Conservatory where it had lived for 10 years. It seems to have adjusted to living outside - and I picked, and ate, the one small fig.This does give me hope for future harvests. I am sorry to report that the crab apple tree has died and been removed, as has the plum tree. You can't win 'em all.
Other delights of holiday food have included full English Breakfasts, and kippers - eaten at a leisurely pace, because neither of us has to go off and do something important elsewhere.
But the best part of holiday meals has definitely been watching Rosie enjoying her food. She learns 'Baby Signing' at nursery, and can show us 'more', 'milk' and 'all gone!' etc. Signing hasn't hindered her speech in any way - she chatters about all sorts of things. I hope Rosie will be as good a cook as her parents as she gets older. Looking forward to the day when she says "Here's a cake I made for you, Grandma"

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

All's Well That Ends Wells...

Yesterday we went up to Wells Next The Sea - it was a beautiful sunny day. The tide was well up. I have never seen it that far in before, and blamed it on the combined effects of Brexit, Donald Trump and Global Warming!
We arrived around 10.45 and purchased ice creams to eat as we walked the long path out to the beach.

The beach was heaving with families having fun - the lifeguards and coastwatch in attendance. Bob and I both had a brief paddle [but didn't get our swimming gear out] then sat and read our library books in the sunshine.
We walked back to the quay - the boats were beautiful. A lot of the MPI vessels were in evidence - they are the ones which service the offshore windfarm.
I saw one gorgeous little boat which made me wish Steph was with us.
Liz, Jon and Rosie went to Bacton beach instead. They said it was much quieter - Rosie had her first proper experience of splashing in the sea, and she loved it!
Once back in Wells, we went on board The Albatros for lunch.
We both had Giant Dutch Pancakes - Bob's with Chorizo and Mozzarella, mine with Salmon and Dill.
Then on to Wiveton, so Bob could look round his favourite junkyard. But it was just browsing, we did not buy any old bicycles, Hornsea china, or Belfast sinks! If you recognise the name Wiveton, maybe it is because you have been watching "Normal for Norfolk" with the delightfully eccentric Desmond McCarthy
The junkyard is right opposite the turning for Wiveton Hall.
We went to the junkyard last week, and found it closed - so had tea at WH instead.
The TV programme has boosted attendance, which must be a help to Desmond's struggling budget - and on Thursday there were many people on the garden tour, struggling through the Maize Maze, and visiting the Gift Shop [where you can purchase many items bearing Desmond's logo]
We didn't seen DM - I was a little disappointed, I would have asked for a selfie! And his centenarian mother wasn't around either.
However I must report the tearooms were lovely. Beautifully decorated, attentive staff- and everything served on Emma Bridgewater china.
Lots of different teas to choose from - Bob had Lapsang Souchong, I had their special Normal for Norfolk Blend. At £2.20 a pot, this seemed a fairly reasonable price. The slices of cake were huge, so we shared one piece. Here we are [last week] enjoying ourselves.

As you can see, our holiday is full of food, family and sunshine. We're truly grateful for this time of rest and relaxation. How blessed we are!