Friday, 21 October 2016

Heartaches, Love And Faith

I can still remember it so very clearly. October 21st 1966. I was 11. I came home from school - Mum and Dad were out with my younger brother - so I put the telly on, just for the chatter of children's TV in the background. But there was no kid's telly. Just continuous news coverage of a small welsh mining town, and its primary school, engulfed in black slurry.
I sat there, alone, on the living room floor and I wept. My family came back, and then Colin, the Baptist Pastor from the next town, rang my Dad. A Welshman himself, he'd come from nearby Abertillery, and knew Ken Hayes, the Aberfan Pastor very well. As a family, and as a church, we prayed and wept for those grieving people. Such an awful tragedy - and one for which the NCB was entirely responsible, having been warned repeatedly that the slagheap was unstable - and yet they ignored warnings and then they blamed 'environmental factors' for the disaster.
This week we have heard further news of the Chibok schoolgirls, and reports of many unaccompanied refugee children from Syria. 

And my heart still aches. Last Sunday, I listened to Roy Jenkins preaching from the chapel in Aberfan. The congregation sang - in the stirring way that Welsh Choirs can do - the beautiful old hymn 'God is love, let heaven adore him'. The second verse really resonated, as I thought about the suffering of all these children and their families
God is Love: let heav'n adore him; God is Love: let earth rejoice; let creation sing before him, and exalt him with one voice. He who laid the earth's foundation, he who spread the heav'ns above, he who breathes through all creation, he is Love, eternal Love.
God is Love: and he enfoldeth all the world in one embrace; with unfailing grasp he holdeth every child of every race. And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow's iron rod, all the sorrow, all the aching wrings with pain the heart of God.
God is Love: and though with blindness sin afflicts the souls of all, God's eternal loving-kindness holds and guides us when we fall. Sin and death and hell shall never o'er us final triumph gain; God is Love, so Love for ever o'er the universe must reign.
Ken Hayes lost a son that day - but he conducted many of the funerals. He went on to be the chair of the bereaved parents' association. Some time later, he said these words
The end of chapter 8 of Romans is a great summary of faith - What can separate us from the love of God - It’s a passage I always use when there’s a personal tragedy or disaster and that’s a message we always try to emphasise - I am certain that nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither death nor life, neither angels or other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future…As far as we’re concerned now, we’ve still got two boys. We’re only separated for a time. One day we’re going to meet. The parting and the loneliness and being without him is terrible, but it’s not for ever.
 I too must show more love, and have more faith...

Thursday, 20 October 2016

My Girls [And My Man]

Trawling through some old files, I just came across this great picture. It is more than 10 years old now. It was Steph's Graduation on a hot summer's day in 2016.
So much has happened since then - but I am still so proud of my daughters.
On Monday Liz passed her driving test [first attempt] and tomorrow it will be Steph's 32nd birthday.
As Miss Jean Brodie would say "My girls are the Crème de la Crème" [I am not so sure that I am still 'in my prime' though] And I must also make a public apology to Bob. I muttered recently that his Panama Hat was starting to split in places, and said he doesn't make his clothes last as well as he should. Photographic evidence that said hat is at least ten years old demands I say sorry for such a remark - he is clearly being careful with his wardrobe.
Congratulations Liz, Happy Birthday Steph, and Well Done Bob!

Rebus Redux, And Remake

I have had two books on the go recently - first, this one, which came from Bournemouth Libraries.
I wondered how Ian Rankin would get Rebus out of retirement again, but he manages it very successfully. This book came out last year, so I am a little behind here. There was a Guardian review at the time [here] which I avoided reading, in case it was a spoiler. I have looked at it now, and can reveal it spoils nothing!
Rankin's grubby, grumpy, grizzled detective hasn't changed much - except he is noticeably older, and maybe a little wiser. I enjoyed it - but if you have never read any Rebus, do not start here - there are so many characters from the earlier books that you need that knowledge to make sense of things. 
My second book was Remake It [Home} which I picked up in the Oxfam Bookshop in New Milton [OB's are usually real treasure troves, and worth seeking out] It describes itself as "The essential guide to resourceful living, with over 500 tricks, tips and inspirational designs"

It is crammed with pictures of household goods and furniture. Some are by artists and designers, created from scrap, or recycled/repurposed articles - such as pallets, ping-pong-balls, packaging and plumbing supplies. Others are items which you can make yourself, and clear diagrams and instructions are given. It begins with some useful history- covering the resourcefulness of the pioneers on the wagon trains across the prairie, the furoshiki cloths of Japan, the British WW2 Make Do And Mend ...right up to today's "IKEA hackers"...and all points in between. It is a fun read, even if you never create any of the projects, and there are some clever little jokes and puns sprinkled among the pages.

 Use an old broom head as a storage rack for odd bits in the garage

Make bowls out of old coathangers, or melted plastic figurines
Here's how to make a plaited rag rug from old fabrics
Much of the book is about re-using and repurposing and avoiding waste. There are some multi-functional items too. I liked the Japanese umbrella stand with build in plant pot. As your brolly drains, it waters the plant.
I am not too sure about Tom Ballhatchet's gizmo though [what a name!] It is a paper shredder attached to the top of the hamster cage. As Hammy runs roundin his wheel, he makes his own bedding
The book cheered me up - I was feeling a bit glum, as I'd just had an email from Norwich. Due to an admin error made by one of the volunteers at the Exhibition, my teacosies did not get paid for, or collected, last week. I shall have to retrieve them from the organiser, next time I am at Cornerstones. Not that the sale would have netted a great fortune, but it had felt so good to know some people actually wanted to buy them!
I have discovered there's a companion volume - Remake It, Clothes, by the same author. I shall keep a look out for that one.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Time Capsule

Years ago, I read this book by Susie Faux. She was the first person to use the term "Capsule Wardrobe" She wanted to help women dress more easily, spending their clothes budget more efficiently. 
She said that many women have a wardrobe containing a lots clothes that they never wear, in various sizes to accommodate weight fluctuations. 

Her theory was that fewer clothes, well chosen, designed to work together, would make a better way of dressing. She coined the term Capsule Wardrobe to describe this principle. I really enjoyed her book, and thought she made a lot of sense. I have often said that I ought to try it. "But you never do!" said Steph, and [as she often is] Steph was right. So this year, when I did my summer to winter clothes swap, I thought I'd have a try. 
Since Susie's original [pre Internet] plans, the advent of minimalism, and decluttering etc, have developed her ideas further. Project 333 is one such plan where you select 33 garments and wear them for 3 months. Unlike a lot of the online schemes [pinterest is full of them]  I have not gone out and purchased anything.  I decided to work with what was already there. Susie says empty your entire wardrobe and sort stuff into three piles.   

  1. Stuff you wear often, 
  2. Clothes you haven't worn for a year or two
  3. Clothes you haven't worn for years but hang on to anyway [because they cost a lot, because you might be a size 10 again one day,  because they remind you of a special event...] 
  4. NOW - put pile 3 into a bag  and take it to a CS now. Try on the clothes in pile 2. If they still feel good,  keep them, if not, into a CS bag.Build  your new Capsule from pile 1. 

So I did it! I have been pretty ruthless.  Two huge bags have gone to benefit others.  From my remaining heap the summer clothing is packed away.  I have  selected a couple of dozen garments as my Capsule, and seeing how that works. Currently on  Day 6. I  will report back later. I did get one comments on how smart I looked on Saturday,  and two on Saturday  -  so maybe it will prove a good  arrangement  [nb the remainder of Pile 1 clothes are packed, in case the capsule needs revising!]  

So they now hang in the wardrobe, taking up a fraction of the space. Laid out on the bed you get a better idea of what's there [oops - just spotted that my lovely Mondrian jumper never made it onto the bed photograph!] There are 26 items - 

  • 5 outer tops [2 jackets, 2 cardis, I heavy sweater]
  • 12 other tops [1 jumper, 6 long sleeve Ts, 3 s/s Ts, 2 regular shirts
  • 5 bottoms [2 trousers, 1 jeans, 2 skirts]
  • 2 dresses [one is a pinafore I can also wear over other tops]
  • 2 scarves.

My capsule includes a grey suit which is jacket/skirt/trousers - and all the items will go with most of the other garments. Technically I should have more than 400 basic different outfits. FAQ

  • no, I do not count underwear, nightwear or my coat and waterproofs in the capsule
  • I am just wearing my red and black shoes and boots
  • I have yet to organise my jewellery and declutter the earrings
I am taking a photo each day to see how it works out. I plan to review this seriously just before Christmas - after all, I will need to add my favourite Christmas jumper then!
Have you tried doing Capsule Wardrobes? Has it worked for you?

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Pinner - Part Two

The post about Heath Robinson and the new museum opening in Pinner was cause of discussion here over the weekend.

Firstly at church on Sunday
My good friend Rick told me that he had spent some time living in Pinner. He said that he was unaware of all the famous people in the neighbourhood, and that he didn't consider himself to be famous either.
Personally I feel Rick ought to be famous, he is such a great bloke. Furthermore, when I was in Sussex the day before at a WWDP event, a lady came up at the end and spoke to me "If you live in Ferndown, do you know Rick?" she said. I was pleased to say that I did. [so he is clearly well-known, even if not 'world famous']
Then I discovered that in the churchyard at Pinner, there is a very weird monument - a 'floating coffin' [read the full story here
I love it when these 'ordinary' suburbs contain strange things like this. The guy who put this up in memory of his parents, John Claudius Loudon was a garden designer. His designs inspired Kew Gardens, and he also produced plans for cemeteries [like the one at Abney Park]
I do feel this coffin is 'over the top' in more ways than one.
Then later on in the afternoon, Bob decided that "There once was a man lived in Pinner..." should be the first line of a limerick. We spent a while trying to finish the verse - with limited success.
So I throw this challenge out to you - only respectable rhymes please! Nothing rude - but otherwise, feel free to be as way out about Pinner as you like.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Love-Hate Relationship

The recent dispute between Tesco and Unilever has brought Marmite back into the headlines again. I will state my position straightaway. I love it! Although I didn't actually like this fancy Champagne flavour which came out a few years back.
Marmite's been around since a German chemist named Liebig developed in back in the late 1800s. The Marmite Food Company was founded in Burton on Trent in 1802.
Down the years it has been a staple of the British pantry - sent out to the troops in their ration packs in WW1 and WW2, and secreted into suitcases by those holidaying abroad, and ordered online by Ex-Pats who can't buy it in their far-flung corners of the globe.
Nigella Lawson claimed to have invented 'Marmite Butter' for making her children's sandwiches - but as this early advert shows, it was around before she was born.

The company has worked hard to retain public demand for their product, with some bizarre campaigns. The 'love it or hate it' was perhaps the most successful, with the term "Marmite" entering the language for something about which one cannot be ambivalent.

A few years ago, in 2008, a copy of Rodin's sculpture "The Kiss" was made from Marmite, and displayed in Greenwich Park.Jenny Fattorini, the artist, took 2½weeks to sculpt the 7 -foot statue from 420 jars of the dark brown sticky stuff!

Royal events have been commemorated too with limited edition jars
And the people of Burton On Trent have a "Monumite". A statue carved, in best Portland stone from down here in Dorset, of a Marmite Jar. It is in the park opposite the B-on-T Town Hall.
On a slightly more macabre note, at the funeral of Big-Brother contestant, Jade Goody, one of the floral tributes was a representation of a large jar of Marmite. I consider that rather a little strange.  I did have a student boyfriend in my youth, who always carried a jar of Marmite in his briefcase, on the off chance of someone offering him a slice of toast!

A while back, the Daily Mail were ranting about Marmite being banned in Denmark. This was because you are not allowed to market foodstuffs with added vitamins there without prior permission [and M has lots of good B vits] In fact Unilever had never asked to market the stuff, so 'banned' was an inappropriate response, as the Danish authorities were quick to point out.
Vegemite, and other alternatives just do not taste the same. A firm in NZ produces Marmite, but I am told it contains added sugar and caramel. That sounds quite wrong to me. [Kiwi friend Carole, can you enlighten us about this one, please?] 
My favourite use for Marmite is on thick slices of buttered toast accompanied by a mug of good strong tea. I also stir it into casseroles sometimes - and 1 tsp gives a subtle added flavour to a saucepan of home made carrot soup. Marmite and cucumber sandwiches are a teatime treat. I'm not a great fan of the peanutbutter'n'marmite combo. In the depths of winter, it makes a heartwarming drink if you stir some into a mug of boiling water. 
Do you love it, or hate it?
And if you love it, how do you eat it?

Sunday, 16 October 2016

To Bind Up Their Wounds..

I noticed in Sicily that most streets seemed to be named after famous Italians - politicians, soldiers, saints, musicians,artists, kings... Including Victor Emmanuel II. I know nothing about VE2 except that he led his troops to victory, alongside Napoleon III, at the bloody battle of Solferino in 1859. 
After the fighting had finished, a Swiss businessman,
Henri Dunant, toured the battlefield and was appalled at the sight of wounded soldiers left to die were they lay in the mud. This led him to set up both the International Red Cross[1863] and persuade many countries to adopt the Geneva Convention[1864]

Queen Victoria became a patron in 1860 - and then in 1908, Edward VIII granted the charter to the British Red Cross, and Queen Alexandra became President. During WW1 and WW2, medical help was provided, and food parcels were sent to troops and POWs - many owe their very lives to Red Cross workers.
The amazing work of the British Red Cross continues to this day - in this country providing first aid training, first aiders in hand at events, help for the elderly and disabled with independent living and mobility issues - and around the world providing on the spot relief in times of crisis and disaster. Right now there are B.R.C. staff helping with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, supporting Syrian refugees, and taking medications, food and water to those suffering in the Yemen. This very week, the International Red Cross has been involved in the release of 21 of the Chibok girls.
Our Queen has been a patron for over 60 years, and this weekend, a special portrait to mark this was unveiled. It is full of symbolism - there is a bust of Henri in the background, and she is wearing Queen Alexandra's jewels.
I have the deepest respect for those who give their time and energy to work for this organisation - whether out in Haiti with blankets and food, teaching teenagers how to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and how to put sick people into the recovery position, or at a public event where on-the-spot medical help is needed, or in the community lending wheelchairs or fixing safety handles to baths...
The Junior Red Cross has a song with these lyrics
It's all about giving, it's all about trust
It's all about people, it's all about us
It's all about being human and having the heart
It's all about being human and playing a part
It's all about giving, it's all about life
It's all about helping, the weak survive
It's all about being human and be able to care
It's all about being human and ready to share
I hope the Royal Patronage continues - and that the great work of all the Red Cross Workers- paid or volunteers - is acknowledged, and goes on for years to come. We all have much to be grateful to them for.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Pinner Pin-up

Today there is a new museum opening in November London.  In the wealthy area of Pinner,  in the Borough of Harrow,  they are celebrating  one of their famous residents.  Actually,  I am not sure you are allowed to live in Pinner if you are not famous. This leafy suburb has been home to Mrs Beeton,  Elton John, David Suchet,  Olivia Newton John,  Antony  Newley, Lord  Nelson's daughter, Michael Rosen,  Ronnie Barker... The list goes on and on. 
But  this weekend's hero is William Heath Robinson, illustrator and artist.  He lived here for the second half of his life, 1903 till 1944. Here's the new museum which has a gallery of his works. 

His imaginative and detailed drawings, particularly of complicated contraptions,  mean that his name has become a byword for far-fetched gadgets  

He also produced advertising material for a number of British Companies

...and he illustrated a number of books, particularly for children - I love this take on Noah's Ark!

Described as a gentle, genial man, he was loved by all who knew him. His words were ever kind, no bitterness, no racist jokes, and he avoided politics - his work therefore appealed to a wide range of people.
Always encouraging others, with a cheerful outlook on life. With his brother Tom, he founded a walking group called the "Frothfinders Federation" - a group of like-minded friends, who spent their leisure time walking in the surrounding countryside, eating and drinking at local hostelries en route.

It's good that future generations will be able to enjoy his work. 

These days, when everything is electronic and worked by tiny chips, it is good to remember the days when things were mechanical - when you needed cogs and gears and pulleys and levers, hooks and bits of string to make things go.
Nick Park says H-R was one of his inspirations when he came to design all the Wallace and Gromit stuff. You can certainly see the H-R influence in the W&G films.
I hope they are queuing up to go and look at the gallery.