Sunday, 25 June 2017

Fete Accomplit!

Yesterday was our town fete. Bob was in charge of the sound system, and I was on the Churches Stand, storytelling [just like KM all over again!] 
We hired a van on Friday night and loaded it up with gazebos and speakers and more [thankyou to Geoff who helped load, and to Jim our neighbour, who let us park my car on his drive]
Saturday morning we were up very early, and took the van off to St Mary's to collect tables and chairs, and then on to the field.
An incredible team of helpers turned up to help unload vans and cars, erect gazebos, moved loudspeakers and general prepare things.
That lovely lady in the middle is Tracey, the administrator from St M's, who was brilliant at keeping things in order, and ensuring all ran smoothly.
We worked so hard all day. I cannot begin to thank all the folk from both the churches who contributed to making our stand [3 gazebos in a row] so successful.
We told stories to children, sat and chatted to people, gave away free refreshments, engaged the children with making fruit kebabs and decorating cupcakes, we provided hairbraiding and temporary tattoos, publicised our summer Kids Club, and generally just shared our faith with people.
I was so busy with all that that I didn't really get to see the other stands. I did have to dash home briefly as Bob was "two cables short of a complete sound system."  [thanks Mike C. for giving me a lift there and back, when I discovered my car was locked in] But I did get to take a few pictures during the course of the day
Mike W, Bob and Geoff - two deacons and a pastor - three Very Sound Guys in the Sound Tent.
This amazing little traction engine with trailer was giving families rides round the site. The weather was lovely and I did manage to get a 99 Ice Cream
One other fascinating vehicle was the bicycle-with-wood-burning-pizza-oven
They told me this is one of only four such bikes in the whole of Britain. An interesting concept, but something of a gimmick, I thought. 
I was prepared to overlook the American spelling of pedaling [I prefer the British way with the double l] until I noticed the alternative spelling of streched.

We had a great day, and came home exhausted [collecting a Chinese takeaway en route - neither of us had the energy to put a meal together]
As I took off my teeshirt at the end of the evening, I realised that in a relatively short time, I really have come to love this place, and my friends and neighbours here.
It is a privilege to live and work in this town,  feel greatly blessed.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Double Deckers, Double Gussets

You wait all day for a bus and then two come along at once, or so the saying goes.
Well, I've not had much sewing lately, and then in the space of a couple of days the dining room has been taken over by fabric and projects.
A young friend needed a cool school summer dress - and the ones in the shops don't fit her proportions. What was needed was a simple sleeveless frock, which could have a white polo shirt underneath on cooler days.
Her Mum provided the gingham, and I dug out a dress pattern - this was from about 1991. Liz chose this for a party dress, in an emerald green fabric. Back then, I made the style on the right, with a longer skirt and sleeves - this week it was the shorter, sleeveless version.
It took about two hours from start to finish.
Next was altering a Disney Princess Costume. Jasmine from Aladdin. It was a little too tight for the female lead in a school play. I thought I could simply insert a gusset in each side to give a few extra centimetres of wriggle room. Only when I got the outfit on the table and prepared to cut, did I discover it is reversible. In the end, I had to put a double gusset on each side, to hide all the raw edges.
Why, oh why, when they charge so much for these outfits, do they make them out of such cheap fabric? It shreds, and frays all over the place!

My final project - and I'd been expecting this one, is to recover a set of 12 caravan cushions. They form the sofa, and dining area seating - but then can be rearranged to make mattresses for the sleeping areas.
The fabric is a lovely striped sort of deckchair ticking. I have made a good start on the simple rectangular cushions, but I am leaving the complex curved corner ones till last.
I love beavering away at the sewing machine on projects like this - but Bob did come home at one point and find me weeping, as I stood at the ironing board, pressing some seams.
Once I had recovered my composure, I explained that I had just been listening to an incredibly powerful drama on Radio 4 Extra [A Soldier's Debt] which moved me to tears. If you have 45 minutes then check it out [make your cup of tea first]  
The dining table is completely out of action - at least the weather has been fine so we can sit at the table in the garden for meals.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Small Miracles

This is Tatsuya Tanaka. He is an art director, and he collects 'diorama dolls' - These tiny little people are the ones used by architects when creating models of buildings they are planning, to give a better impression of the finished structure, they also use model trees too.
Tanaka's skill lies in the fact that he takes a regular sized object [e.g. a brush] and re-envisions it as a shower. He creates a miniature tableau with little figures in a tiny bathroom.

Earbuds become hotplates, and a kitchen sponge is a climbing wall.

A Starbucks mug becomes the whole shop, and some memory cards provide grand pianos for a duet

A family picnic under the broccoli, or a school sports day, hurdling over the staples

I love the idea of vacuuming up the icons for the iPhone. And the onion makes a fabulous little pizza oven

A swimming gala in a grill pan, and a child hiding under the tablecloth in the restaurant.

Finally that kitchen sponge again- this time horizontally as a desert compete with camel and palm trees...

...and to cool you down in this sweltering heat, a man waiting for his train in a snowy landscape, created with a white jacket with a metal zip.

This guy is an utter genius imho. He has been posting these miniatures daily since 2011. You can find them all here

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Toilet Humour

Way back in the last millennium when I was young, my Dad and I would sometimes go to lunch in The Lamb Inn, in Norwich. I haven't been back there for years, we really should check it out sometime. 
I remember three things about it - one was the food was excellent, the second was that the prices were good, and the third was the ladies' loo.
Or more specifically, the passage that led to the ladies' loo.
You had to go through an archway, and as it was quite low, there was a sign above it to warn you.

Dad and I were always amused by it. A choice between birds - or an instruction, depending on whether it is read as two nouns or two verbs.
We've seen this sign on other low doorways since - but it's always The Lamb which comes back to mind.
Earlier this week, Bob was assembling some sandwiches for lunch, and I said there were some jars of paté in the cupboard.
He put them down on the worktop and declared "Duck Or Grouse?"
I was greatly amused- but pointed out that the choice was "Duck or Quail" [but again, it was a  noun/verb thing so the joke still worked]

Later on in the day we went out for a quick meal at a local pub which had been recommended to us. We'd both been busy and felt we needed some space.

It was very good [here, if you're interested] and the chicken and bacon 'supersalad' was excellent [I do like edamame beans]
But the decor was the sort where there are chalkboards everywhere bearing quirky sayings and bromides[such a bizarre term -full definition here]
When I went to the ladies' loo in this pub, I just had to take out my camera for this sign...

...the staff clearly follow their own advice - look at the sign stapled below! 
In other news -
I am not coping well in this heat.

  •  I tried to make a cooling fruit smoothie using my stickblender, and splattered myself and the kitchen with blackcurrant-and-banana milk. [now struggling to get purple stains out of my best white bra]
  • I explained to someone that we knew all the volunteer staff who worked at our Church Holiday Club, and that they had all been PAT tested.[I meant to say they had DBS Certificates, but it came out wrong]
  • I unloaded all my shopping, but left a pack of butter behind in the car. Fortunately Bob spotted it while it was still soft, before it turned to liquid gold.[He is wonderful]

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Bobblehead Jig

 It sounds like it ought to be a dance, but it isn't. It's a special bit of kit Bob made for me over the weekend.

This piece of wood has a circular slot in the top, to hold an Actimel bottle, and a tiny pilot hole in the side, so you can drill a hole in the neck of the bottle.
Eight summers ago, I blogged about the little bobblehead men we made at the Kirby Holiday Club. Then they were representing the Wise Men, who nodded sagely [the original idea came from Steph, who had made King Solomon bobbleheads with a Sunday School Class]
This year, they will be models of Jonah,who shook his head and said "No!" when God said "Go to Nineveh and preach"
I could not remember how I had made the holes last time, so Bob kindly produced the jig which meant I could drill over a hundred bottles in less than an hour, using the cordless DeWalt drill.
I stuck the compressed paper balls on the springs with a dab of glue from the hot glue gun. [Bob said that the balls on springs looked suspiciously like something from a Sex Ed. Lesson. Very rude, I said] 
I made one example of Jonah - but all the others can wait to be assembled at the Kids Club in a few week's time. A bag of cloaks and robes and headdresses are all cut out, ready to be stuck on.
When I set the ends of the springs into the Plaster of Paris, I pushed each head down into the neck of the bottle to hold things steady till it set. They will be popped up later, and I shall push the pipecleaners through.
I've found a picture of the 2009 Wise Men - it will be interesting to compare them with this year's creations...

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Looking Through The Round Window...

I loved watching anything featuring the genius Brian Cant. Whether it was in Play School, and then later, PlayAway - or listening to his voice as he told all the wonderful stories of Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley...
He died yesterday, aged 83, having been suffering from Parkinson's Disease for a number of years. I always admired his skill at communicating with children - his imagination, his lovely voice, his twinkling eyes and warm smile. The children watching felt he was their trusted friend.
Brian Cant once said that the one thing he wanted children to take away from his work was "that I made them laugh, I made them feel happy".
In 2010, he was presented with a special Children's Bafta. On receiving this award, Cant said: "One of the main rules of those Play School days was that we should play to the camera as though we were talking to one child, in whatever circumstance.

"It could be somebody in a tower block, a nice semi-detached somewhere, or a Royal palace. You had to phrase everything so, whoever was watching it, they felt you were talking to them."
Brian's father-in-law was actor Tony Britton, and his sister-in-law  is presenter Fern Britton. Brian's son Richard is an actor [you might have seen him as the eccentric undertaker Dennis Rainbird in Midsomer Murders] All entertainers - but I think Brian was the best of them. RIP Brian Cant 1933-2017
In a week when we have seen the British Fire Service at its best, and I honour their bravery, sensitivity and consummate professionalism displayed in Kensington, it seems appropriate to finish this post with Brian's most famous performance. I am sure this will be his lasting legacy. It's a good reminder to teach our children, from their earliest years that these are members of our society who deserve our respect. 

Monday, 19 June 2017

Consider The Lilies...

Do you ever buy fresh flowers? for yourself, for a gift - or like me, do you take a turn on the flower rota at church? Here's something which may have passed you by - today is the start of British Flowers Week.

Just like with food, people are increasingly demanding more locally grown flowers to celebrate the seasons, and support British growers. Often scented, British flowers have a natural charm, beauty and just-picked freshness that make them the florist’s favourite.
Up until the 1970s, the only flowers you saw came from flower farmers in Britain. Today, most of the flowers in our shops will have been grown by large scale  growers, routed through the Dutch auctions. BFW is aiming to change this. 
Not only do British flowers usually have a superior scent to imported blooms, they will be fresher and last longer. Minimum distance means maximum vase life. When they are at their seasonal high, quality goes up and price comes down, making them good value for money.
British flowers and foliage show the seasons to the best.[free downloadable seasons chart here] Buy what’s looking good in peak season rather than what’s looking OK all year round. Question the provenance and seek out 'locally grown' for flowers as well as for food. Support local industry, keep farms happy, encourage wildlife and biodiversity. It’s an ethical movement we can all get behind.
BFW is the week-long celebration of British-grown cut flowers and foliage that aims to bring British flowers back into British homes. The brainchild of the team at New Covent Garden Flower Market, where British flowers have been traded for centuries, BFW runs from today until next weekend, uniting growers, florists and wholesalers across the country. Find out more here. 
Look how the flowers grow in the fields: they do not work or make clothes for themselves.  But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Father's Love

We discovered on Tuesday that Corfe Castle - built by the King as one of the Royal Palaces - had one quite unusual feature- a carving of "The Pelican In Piety" high up on one wall of the keep. This type of carving has been quite common down the centuries- but usually only on churches and cathedrals - to find it in a castle is extremely uncommon - the King must have particularly wanted to declare his Christian faith.
It is said that naturalists of old, observing that the pelican had a crimson stain on the tip of its beak, reported that it was accustomed to feed its young with the blood flowing from its breast, which it tore for the purpose. In this belief the Early Christians adopted the pelican as a symbol of Christ, who brought us redemption through His blood, which was willingly shed for His children.
In the stonemason's area, we found two carvings of the pelican - one a corner piece, similar to the original - the other a roundel, showing the pelican pecking her breast to shed blood to feed her young.
I have been thinking about the pelican imagery all week - and the idea of the self-sacrifice of a loving parent in order to give life to the children.
Today is Father's Day - and many people will be remembering their Dads, and being grateful to them for their love and care. 
Not every child has had a good experience with their earthly father, sadly. Some children have been cruelly treated, others abandoned, others bereaved - and some have grown up never even knowing who their father is.
But God, the creator, is the perfect model of Fatherhood, showing unconditional love to his children. This lovely song by Stuart Townend reminds me of that...

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss -
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life -
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart -
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Busy Bee

Rosie is fond of sorting things out, or more specifically, emptying things out but not putting them back again. This is, I suspect, genetic. On Monday, I emptied out the bookcases on the landing, moved them checked for carpet beetles [none!] and then replaced the bookcases against the wall - but have yet to replace all the books on the shelves. 
Meanwhile Bob put all the DVDs and CDs into plastic boxes on the coffee table in the lounge, so we could check underneath their storage units - and the boxes are still there.
Liz is relatively laid back about Rosie's emptying activities- clearing the laundry basket, pulling LPs and books off the shelf etc. But Rosie's latest project is not so good - she has become inordinately fond of finding Jon's wallet and emptying the contents of that onto the floor. But Bank Cards, driving licence, Work ID Card etc are too important for her to play with. Please could Grandma supply a spare wallet?
Of course I could - and I loaded it with a few expired gift cards and business cards, plus a picture of the family. No, I didn't put any money in it! I hope Rosie likes having her own wallet and leaves her Dad's alone now!
Isn't the little bee backpack cute?

Friday, 16 June 2017

Weep With Me

In the week after the Manchester bomb, the Irish Band, Rend Collective, sought to write something to express their feelings. Since they wrote this song, we have seen still more violence on London Bridge, and the horrifying tragedy at the Grenfell Tower.
They said "Can worship and suffering co-exist? Can pain and praise inhabit the same space? Can we sing that God is good when life is not? When there are more questions than answers? The Bible says a resounding Yes! : these songs are called laments and they make up a massive portion of the Psalms." Here is "Weep With Me" - a lament from Rend...

Weep with me,
Lord, will you weep with me?
I don’t need answers
All I need is to know you care for me
Hear my plea – are you even listening?
Lord, I will wrestle with your heart  
...but I won’t let you go
You know I believe, help my unbelief
Yet I will praise you, yet I will sing of your name
Here in the shadows, I’ll light up an offering of praise
What was true in the light is still true in the dark
You’re good and you’re kind and you care for this heart
Lord, I believe that you weep with me
Part the seas Lord, make a way for me
Here in the midst of my lament, I have faith
Yes, I still believe that you love me
Your plans are to prosper me
You’re working everything for good
…even when I can’t see
You know I believe, my unbelief
Yet I will praise you, yet I will sing of your name
Here in the shadows, I’ll light up an offering of praise
What was true in the light still true in the dark
You’re good and you’re kind and you care for this heart
Lord, I believe that you weep with me
I believe that you care, I love you Lord
You hear the cries of the oppressed and the heart-broken
Turn my lament into a love song, transform me
Turn my lament into an anthem, I need you now
Turn my lament into a love song, raise it up
Turn my lament into an anthem, yet I will praise you

Yet I will sing of your name
Lord, I believe that you weep with me

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Objets Trouvés

There have been a number of 'found objects' round here in the past week. Looking for something else entirely, whilst in the loft, I unearthed three items connected with Liz.
From 1986,the little smocked dress I made her. It has a Peter Pan Collar, and sash ties at the back - and rows of smocking in pastel colours.
I am sure Princess Charlotte has got one like this. But I can't quite see Rosie wearing her Mum's old frock when she is 4.
Underneath is the rather large navy blue PE Bag which Liz had to have for grammar school in 1993. The size was specified, and the girl's name had to be embroidered in large letters along the front, together with a regular nametape [top left]
Look at these two examples of my remarkably neat stitching!
If blogs had been around back then, I am sure these would have featured. Look at the little circles over the i's! Liz opted out of being called 'Lizzie' soon after that - and we moved to Leicester where the bag was no longer needed for the comprehensive school she went to.
The final item is a little scrapbook from 2005, when Liz was 23. I had been co-ordinating a huge World Conference for Baptist Women In Leadership in Birmingham, and it had been a gruelling summer. Liz wisely said I needed to get away and generously took me to Budapest for a 4 day Citybreak. It was utterly fabulous, and I shall never forget all that we saw and did. Finding this little book brought back all those happy memories.

The remaining Objets Trouvés this week have not been as interesting. Sunday evening, just before church, I moved a basket and discovered these. No they are not grains of rice, they are carpet moths. And they are HORRID. They eat holes in woollen carpets. Monday was spent in clearing all the furniture from the lounge into the garden, and checking every corner and bit of skirting board and applying the eradicator. And the carpet in the hall [and pantry cupboard and understairs cupboard] and clearing and moving all the bookshelves on the landing.
It is not as bad as it might have been, but still nasty. 
Batch One of treatment came from Robert Dyas, where the assistant said they kept selling out, these moths are very prevalent right now. Batch Two was all of Wilko's stock - and the lady in there said they keep selling out too. I understand that The Stately Homes Of England generally are suffering, as these grubs munch away on antique woollen carpets.

But carpet moths are just little annoyances, and will soon get sorted. So many people in London lost everything yesterday.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Saving Mrs Bankes

No, nothing to do with Mary Poppins, and the Emma Thompson/Tom Hanks film. I suppose it ought to be Lady, not Mrs - for today's post is about a very brave woman who lived 350 years ago. 
Lady Mary Bankes was married to Sir John Bankes- he was Lord Chief Justice at the time of King Charles I. They had 10 children, and Sir John decided to buy a castle in Dorset for them to live in. 
Corfe Castle had been around for nearly 1000 years- the property of the Kings. William the Conqueror started the building. 

Henry I kept his brother Robert as a prisoner in the keep. 800 years ago, King John incarcerated his french niece Princess Eleanor of Brittany - but Henry III and Edward I made lots of home improvements. The Castle was in constant use, and needed a lot of staff - so at the foot of the hill, a little village grew up, providing workers- and the village had a church, and important residents such as a coroner.
But in 1572, Queen Elizabeth sold the Castle to one of her favourites - Sir Christopher Hatton, her Lord Chancellor. And then The Bankes Family took over in 1635. Lord John was loyal to the King, and whilst he was fighting in Oxford, in 1643 during the Civil War, Parliamentary troops besieged the castle. Lady Mary managed to hold out for 6 weeks - but then her husband died, and yet again, Cromwell's men attacked. 
Then again the troops attacked. This time there were treacherous men already inside the Castle, who enabled the Roundheads to capture the stronghold. Lady Mary was allowed to leave - but Cromwell subsequently ordered the demolition of the building. Which proved rather hard- it had been built for Kings, and built strong, to withstand attack. Much of the building remains to this day. Now owned by the National Trust, it was our destination yesterday. 
Parking in the NT carpark at the foot of the hill, a gentle 7 minute walk through dappled woodlands brings you up to the entrance. It was so beautiful, the light through the leaves, sparkling on the stream...

And once at the top, you go through the lower gatehouse and walk up to the castle itself.
This is the official photo from the NT website
There's an area showing stonemason's and blacksmith tools, and a model trebuchet. As usual, plenty for all the tourists and school parties to read and to learn.

We climbed up to the ruined keep - still so very impressive - and tried to imagine what it was like when it was an intact, working building. 
In earlier years, kings and queens dining, and dancing, and duelling - princes and princesses imprisoned, and ordinary men and women serving, and cooking, and gardening, and keeping things going.
And then Lady Mary, listening to the cannon outside, feeling the solid walls starting to shake, wondering if their food supplies would last out. Praying for deliverance.
You can see for miles from the castle walls, or through the arrow slits. The huge pieces of masonry left on the side of the hill where they fell during the onslaught are called 'tumbles' - there are 74 massive pieces [and the sheep and cattle graze peacefully around them now!]
Nowadays, you can look down and hear the toot-toot! as the steam loco pulls into Corfe Castle Station
Hard to imagine on a lovely summer's day that 375 years ago men and women were fighting for their lives, defending their beliefs, and protecting their families here.
After the Civil War, the Bankes family built a new home at Kingston Lacey, a beautiful mansion which is even closer to our home, which we love to visit.
In 1982, the Bankes Family passed the ownership of the castle to the National Trust.
Bob and I enjoyed our day - but I would warn you that there is a fair bit of walking and climbing. And do beware of enthusiastic school parties, and Saga Groups brandishing their Nordic Walking Poles. I was nearly impaled by a NWP as I came out of the loo!

Bob has taken even more pictures- perhaps I'll get the opportunity to post them here later. It was a much needed day off for us, after a busy, and rather fraught few days.