Monday, 27 March 2017

Resting From His Endeavour...

.-.  ..  .--.
Many of you will recognise that line of dots and dashes - it is RIP written in Morse Code. 


Last week, the great Colin Dexter, writer, cruciverbalist, Archers Addict and lover of fine ales, died at the age of 86. 
I started reading the Morse stories as a student in Oxford, and loved them - and then really enjoyed the subsequent TV adaptations. I was not alone in this - Dexter deftly combined the intellectual rigour of the Golden Age Detectives [like Wimsey]with the contemporary policework of shows like Taggart. It is just 30 years since John Thaw, and a fresh faced Kevin Whateley brought the books to our screens in January 1987. The TV adaptation, in their turn, have led to many hitherto overlooked literary police personnel becoming Sunday night viewing.
There have been many fine tributes - many newspaper obituaries, a Guardian Crossword last week with a detective theme, and calls for a memorial statue to be put up in Oxford [my goodness, I am sure Dexter must have done so much to broaden the demographic of the tourist traffic in the city of dreaming spires]
On Saturday afternoon, the Radio 4 Drama was "A House Of Ghosts"  - a drama written by Alma Cullen about one of Morse's earlier cases with Lewis. Cullen was involved in writing some of the screen plays for Morse episodes, and I listened with interest to the production. It is still available on iPlayer, and the stellar cast were superb. More here
I thought that the triumvirate of Morse/Lewis/Strange was portrayed excellently by Neil Pearson [Between the Lines] Lee Ingleby [George Gently] and Pip Torrens [Poldark]. They were not seeking to recreate the original actors exactly- but somehow it felt 'authentic' The plot was good, with nods to a number of Morse memes [the car, the crossword, the booze, Lewis' domestic arrangements etc] which felt plausible rather than contrived. It was almost up to Dexter's standard- perhaps I am being picky. Certainly rated*****

I am sorry that ITV have not shown any evidence of marking either 30 years of Morse, or Dexter's death, and glad the BBC picked this one up. Having made a lot of money out of the sequel [Lewis] and the prequel [Endeavour] ... and maybe they have a Hathaway planned, who knows... you would have thought the commercial channel might at least have acknowledged the contribution of this truly gentle-man. 

He loved playing cameo parts in the Morse productions, walking or sitting in the background, not speaking, like Alfred Hitchcock [Dexter acknowledged he was not a brilliant actor, suffering from deafness which ended his teaching career in his 30s]. He always said his favourite crossword clue was "Nothing squared is a cube" - which is simple, but so clever. Like Endeavour Morse, he kept his first name fairly quiet [it was Norman, Colin was his middle name] 
Here he is in a cameo role, sitting behind Sir John Gielgud!


RIP Colin Dexter, and thank you. .-.  ..  .--.
[in case you are still scratching your head, nothing squared for a mathematician is 0 x 0 , i.e. OXO, a cube]



Sunday, 26 March 2017

Pause In Lent #4 - Being The Light

Yesterday morning I was sitting in bed enjoying the day's first cup of tea [thanks Bob] when I looked across to the black trousers hanging over the chair. 
There was a line of bright light. I described it as an oval, Bob said it was a rectangle with rounded ends. In fact it was a whole line of overlapping circles [think Audi logo] 
It was created by the sunlight shining through the slit in the curtains. But that slit isn't a perfectly rounded shape. How does that happen? In the 4th Century BC, Aristotle asked how it was that light passing through quadrilateral holes, like woven fabric, produced circles not rectangles. 

As a child I looked at the light streaming through the leaves on the trees and asked my Dad the same question. Why can I see lots of little circles? Dad explained that these were solar images, and it was all about the way the light creates a diffraction pattern. Each little circle is an image of the sun. He told me about pinhole cameras, and why we can safely observe an eclipse by holding one piece of card with a tiny hole in the middle and looking at the image of the sun produced on the second card below it. [full explanation here
As I looked at the bright light yesterday, I remembered my early physics lessons from Dad, and then thought about my responsibility as a Christian to be the light in this dark world. My life should shine for Jesus. There are many times when I am not a good reflection of God's image. But that doesn't mean I should give up.[And I  realise how much brighter the light when I am alongside my church family, and we shine together] Matthew 5:16 says Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven

May His beauty rest upon me, as I seek to make Him known
So that all may look to JESUS, seeing him alone.




Saturday, 25 March 2017

Home, Sweet Home

In the middle of all the bad news stories this week, here's something good to pass on. Back in 2010, on one of our visits to London, Liz took Bob and me to the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton. [That's East London, not too far from Moorfields Eye Hospital]
This is the 'Museum of the Home' Very cleverly laid out, in a row of old 18thC Almshouses, you walk from one end to the other, seeing eleven different 'domestic' room scenes. Then you can visit the café and the shop, and sit outside in the beautiful gardens [also laid out in different historical settings]. 

The very comprehensive website is here.
However, the Museum have been concerned for some time that they need to upgrade their facilities, in a carefully planned way - adding more study space, a better-laid out café etc. and open up the treasures to a wider audience.

They've just announced that the "Unlocking The Geffrye" Project has obtained almost all the funding needed. The Museum will close at the start of 2018, for around 18 months, and re-open in Autumn 2019.
The visitor space will be increased by 75%, a really significant change. The original architects for this scheme had their somewhat controversial plans refused by Hackney Council in 2013, but now architects Wright&Wright have come up with some more acceptable ideas. Look at these
This new development will benefit the local community and help retain the Museum as an asset for all visitors, for many years to come.
I look forward to visiting again in 2020, ten years after my original trip, just to see how it looks! But maybe I will manage another peek before then, who knows?
The Geffrye Museum is about domestic home life - unlike so many National Trust properties. NT houses often have the upstairs/downstairs feel about them - Lords and Ladies and their elegant rooms, contrasted with the basic bedrooms of manservants and maids. At the Geffrye, you get to see the 'ordinary' rooms, where people lived, worked, ate and slept. 
Thank you to everyone who read my post about the Whitechapel Foundry and signed the petition. I know lots of you have done this, and shared it in your corner of social media. In a bad week,let's focus on some good stuff...Some words from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4 
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 




Friday, 24 March 2017

Going Crackers About Easter

Years ago, with time to waste waiting for a train I wandered round WHSmiths at the station, and idly looked through their display of Easter cards. "Oh! These are no good, they're all religious" said the woman next to me. "But I'm celebrating the resurrection of Jesus!What do you celebrate at Easter then?" I said [Perhaps a little too brightly] Poor woman scuttled off towards the platform!! 
I thought of her this week, when I read in various places that "Easter is the new Christmas". 
Carole Middleton, MIL to a future Defender of the Faith, advises chocolate eggs and mini meringues, and bunny hop races in your bunting-hung garden. 



Krispy Kreme have a special range of Easter themed donuts, including the Lucky Strawberry Ladybug. 
Meanwhile, another company has brought out a Cheester Egg, for those who dislike chocolate. £14 for this egg - or more if you get the whole hamper.

Waitrose report an increase in 'the demand for Easter Crackers' [people go into Waitrose and demand them?] It's a bit crazy if you ask me. My children enjoyed a few  Easter Eggs, and we had a Treasure Hunt round the house and garden involving dreadful doggerel clues with rhyming couplets. 
"The next egg is a little higher
It's on top of the____________"
[ tumble dryer, deep fat fire, electric wire, funeral pyre, bicycle tyre, Cathedral spire...] 
But the main reason for celebrating Easter was, and is, the joy of the resurrection and the New Life and hope which Jesus brings. 
I loathe the fact that the Christian season has been hijacked for commercial gain. I am sorry that Good Friday is just another working day for so many people. But I suppose the upside is that I have an opportunity to share my faith with people. 
[BTW if you ARE planning to post any Easter cards, Christian-themed or otherwise] buy your stamps NOW as they go up in price at the Weekend! 


Thursday, 23 March 2017

An In-Convenience Truth

I was at Waterloo Station yesterday morning, about to return home after 2 days of WWDP intense committee stuff. I needed the loo [ the WaterLooLoo?] but remembered that you have to pay. Dived into WHSmith and bought a chocolate bar. Made my way to the stairs

First Sign - Oh bother, I thought it was 20p. And I have one 20p coin, and no 10p coins,. Maybe someone downstairs will have change.


Second Sign - That's irritating - they want 30p but admit that there is a fault with their loos.
I continued down the stairs.
The fault? the turnstiles have broken 


- so there is no barrier needing 30p, ladies can move in and out quite freely.
Third Sign Well, I hope the engineer takes her time in arriving, and I happily accept the apologies of the Station Manager!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Pictures, Picnics, Paddling And A Postbox

Our Tuesdays have been crazily busy lately - I am in London this week for WWDP - but last Tuesday Bob and I had a whole day off together. We packed it full of enjoyable activities.
In the morning we went to The Pictures, following Steph's recommendation, to see The Lego Batman Movie. We got 'Senior' tickets, and took in a bag of cheap sweets and thermal mugs of coffee, in order to keep our costs down.
We really enjoyed it. The film had loads of references to other films and earlier incarnations of the caped crusader. We both watched the B&W Adam West TV Batman in the 60s and chuckled at some of links there.
Clearly aiming at audiences both sides of the pond, there were "English Robots" [aka Daleks] in evidence.
I think this will appeal to all ages - so if your kids or grandkids are pestering you to take them, then do go. I am sure you will have fun too *****
After the cinema, we drove on into Bournemouth and parked up on the East Cliff near the Red Arrows Memorial. The area remains fenced off, following the huge cliff fall last April. We walked down to the Russell Cotes Museum, and ate our picnic lunch sitting in the garden near the grotto. We first visited RCM in September 2015, and have always intended to go again.
 Bob was keen to look at the current exhibition "Meeting Modernism"  and I wanted to look at the drawings by Violet, Countess of Rutland. When we lived in Leicestershire, the "Kathleen Rutland Home for the Blind" was just up the road from where we lived. Violet was Kathleen's mother-in-law. She belonged to a group of aristocratic intellectuals who called themselves "The Souls" and drew portraits of many of them.
We spent a couple of hours looking at these two special exhibitions and generally enjoying looking at many of the other paintings and sculptures on display in this lovely house.
At one point I looked out of a bedroom window down to the beach below - it was a cool spring day and a little breezy.One or two people were walking on the sands.
RCM has loads of pictures and sculptures of bathers - not surprising given its location.
I thought these two, with mothers persuading their sons to have a paddle in the sea were great.
One is holding her son as he gingerly steps in the water [he's naked and she's in a diaphanous robe] The other, on the left, has her son in her arms- he looks a little more anxious. 
On closer inspection, she appeared more modest, wearing a finely knitted swimming costume. I have always believed knitted costumes are OK as long as they never get wet [at which point they sag uncontrollably]

I also looked at Dante Gabriel Rossetti's 'Venus Verticordia' [Venus, the turner of hearts] This is an oil painting - but the artist subsequently painted it again as a watercolour. The watercolour sold at Sotheby's in December 2014 for £2.8 million pounds!![Unlike Bob, I am fond of the Pre Raphaelites]
We walked back to the car, and I saw a lovely bed of golden spring daffodils, planted up with purple hyacinths and gold and purple pansies at their feet. Such lovely colours together.
The motto of Bournemouth Borough Council [I was confused by all the 'BBC' signs when we first moved] is Pulchritudo et Salubritas, which means 'beauty and health'.
The crest was on the street sign just beside the daffodils. 
I had to take a picture of the Victorian Pillar Box - one of the 'Penfold' design. There aren't many genuine Penfolds still in use!
Then after such a lovely day out, we returned home for a pleasant evening in with TV and a curry. 
There are more bulbs blossoming in our garden. These daffs are "Narcissus Sunny Girlfriend". Bob's sister and her husband gave them to us for Christmas- all planted up in the tub. There are 2 other sorts of bulbs in there as well - it will be exciting to see which ones bloom next.
Fine Art is wonderful - but the design and colours of nature are even more stunning.










Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Manchester "T" Cosy

One of Steph's early comments about her new company was that she loved the fact that the team drank plenty of tea during the working day. However, they did not have a teacosy. So she volunteered me to provide one [well, not many Mums can say their they have had teacosies exhibited in Norwich Cathedral] Things sort of spiralled out of hand - Tangible Branding is a consumer research company specialising in improving brand performance through discovering insight, making connections and generating ideas. 
 
They thought they'd like one with a 'Manchester' theme. That ruled out a simple knitted one. Unfortunately the office teapot is not a regular round Brown Betty, but the 'coupe' shape. So here's what I came up with...
The brief—to make a tea cosy for the team at Tangible Branding. This was to fit the existing white china teapot, which is not the traditional round ‘brown betty’ shape.
The cosy should have a ‘Manchester theme’. I decided to avoid football, music and TV links, and consider instead the architecture of the city.
1; because of the shape of the pot, I opted for a cuboid cosy—this reflects the idea of bricks and building
2; my base colour is grey—to reflect the rain for which Manchester is famous, but more importantly, the steely determination of the industrialists and entrepreneurs who built this city.
 3; I chose 7 landmarks, recognisable by their silhouette—the Town Hall, the City Library, Beetham Tower, Urbis, IWM North, the Hulme Arch, and the Lowry Millennium Bridge. These were created in felt with machine stitched embellishments. These were then handstitched to the base.

4; Then I picked 8 streets—Deansgate [of course!] Corporation Street, Canal Street, Quay Street, Albert Square, King Street, Piccadilly and Exchange Square. These names were embroidered on evenweave linen and attached to the base.
5; The top was decorated with a spiral of machine stitching—which leads into [or maybe out from?] the centre– where there is a button with the Tangible logo.
6; Finally the cosy fastens underneath the handle with a button and loop closure. Again I stitched a T for tangible
I stitched a label with all the details, and put that on the inside. And then I posted off their Manchester T cosy

[I have to say thankyou to Bob, who provided lots of encouragement during the process - including the name]