Thursday, 27 April 2017

An Apple A Day...

I buy British apples whenever I can. I am concerned that so many of our native varieties are being sidelined. I miss the lovely James Grieve which grew in our garden in Bexleyheath. Its fruit began as cookers and ripened into dessert apples. One of the Antipodean fruits overtaking our produce is the Pink Lady 
You can read all about this apple and its history here. The producers are very particular about quality, and will not allow British growers to cultivate it, because they fear our climate is not good enough to produce consistency of flavour. 
But whilst I ignore them in the supermarket, I am impressed by the annual competition which is sponsored by Pink Lady Apples, to find the Food Photographer of the Year. 
The 2017 competition has just ended. The standard has been high, the entries stunning. Full details here but I have selected just a few for the blog. 









One of the pictures above is the overall winner, the rest are some of the finalists. Which is your favourite? 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

No Thanks For The Memory


Now here is my contender for April's Pointless Gadget Of The Month - I saw one of these a couple of weeks ago in a Dorset Poundshop, and wondered about it's purpose. Now I discover that more august 'home' stores like Dunelm and M&S [and the humbler Wilko] sell them. It is the Memory Foam Bathmat
Don't get me wrong - I love a good bathmat. It is important when I step out of the bath that my feet land on a non slip surface, and I like something both warm and washable. 
But what confuses me is why use memory foam??
As I understand it, this excellent product has many uses, because it is warm, and soft, and retains the shape of that which is pressed into it.
I can see why such a thing is useful in these situations...

  • pillows, to support your head and neck and aid restful sleep
  • mattresses, for helping your spine and limbs to be comfortable
  • wheelchair and armchair cushions, for those with restricted mobility, to prevent pressure sores
  • insoles for your shoes, to help with pressure points, fallen arches etc
  • bra cups, to give comfort and uplift to small or sagging boobs
  • earplugs, which will conform well to the ear-hole and fit efficiently.
I have read the articles  about the amazing properties of this stuff [such as creep and hysteresis] I get all that - but I still don't understand why you want memory foam in a bath mat
  • I am only standing on the mat briefly to dry myself after the bath, not lying on it all night
  • I lift my feet up and down to dry them anyway, and may not replace them in exactly the same position, especially if I turn towards the towel rail, or move to pull out the bath plug
  • my feet are size 5, Bob's are size 11 - do I have to step into his footprints? [like Good King Wenceslaus' Page]
  • I step into the bath facing inwards - but climb out facing outwards - what's the point of the bathmat remembering my footprint?
M&S currently offer 77 different bathroom mats, in 24 colours - and their MF one [white or grey] is three times the cost of their basic range [7 colours] and has no matching pedestal mat for the basin or loo [if you want such things]. 
I just do not understand why you would buy one. 

Am I missing something really obvious here? 
If so, please enlighten me!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dolly Mixture

Barbie has been around nearly 60 years. This leggy, busty blonde has inhabited the bedrooms of many children in that time. I never had one, but both my two acquired them. I am not sure how, as I was never able to reconcile her with my feminist feelings! But she remains popular, and my holiday relaxation craft this week has been producing clothes for another young friend, to dress her Barbie, and indulge in make-believe.

A couple of skirts, a dress,  two tops and some briefs. They all fasten at the back with narrow strips of Velcro.  
I had to buy the doll for 99p in  CS in Wymondham - originally I printed a free pattern from the Internet, cut out the red skirt, and thought "This looks way too small" 
It seemed sense to have a doll to use for fitting. I was able to modify the red skirt, but it is a little short. 
Barbie clothes are much more fiddly than the American Girl doll ones I've been making recently, but at least they only use tiny scraps of fabric. I found a diagram comparing Barbie's shape to the average American girl. 
Yep, totally unrealistic! 
Last year Mattel revealed their top secret Project Dawn, which introduced the new shape Barbies, in the hope of boosting their flagging sales. 

I am not sure how the petite, plump, dark-skinned etc Barbies have sold in the shops. American Girl Dolls, Elsa Dolls, and Bratz and others are selling very well. However, my young friend has some of the 'regular' shaped ones, so I'm confident she will enjoy these little extras for their wardrobe.
Did you have a Barbie, a Sindy or a Tressy? 
and did you [or your Mum or Gran] sew clothes for them?


Monday, 24 April 2017

We've Eaten In Eaton, And Wondered if Gormley Is Gormless

After Church yesterday, we drove in into Norwich. We had a lovely stroll through beautiful Eaton Park , getting on for a hundred years old now, but still bringing joy to Norwich families. In the centre is an amazing rotunda with a circular bandstand.
I stood in the centre and took photos in four directions [including one of Bob photographing me!]
In one of the four sections is a café. It is very hipster. Last year the Council put the running of the cafe out to tender and the Bicycle Shop in St Benedicts won the contract [nb the Bicycle Shop is also a café, doesnt sell bikes] We both opted for the Swannington Hot Dog with Mustard Mayo and Red Onion Jam.
Outside the café, there's a lilypond, and boating lake [for model boats] and further along, playing fields, a skate park, playgrounds, and other facilities. It is brilliant.  
We decided that the café staff were all students from Univeristy Of East Anglia. UEA is just around the corner and was our next destination.
I wanted to see the Anthony Gormley Statues about which there has been A Lot Of Fuss. They were officially unveiled last Friday.
UEA asked Sir A if he had any sculptures they could borrow. He happened to have 3 leftover from his piece "Another Time". You may recall he put up 100 figures on Crosby Beach, Merseyside [Another Place]
and then made 100 identical figures, most of which have been dispersed around the world, and together are entitled Another Time.
One of the UEA chaps, lifesize, is at the end of the walkway outside the library

We didn't see the third man, on the ziggurat residential block - but we did see the larger-than-life fellow on top of the Library.
This is the one people are upset about. Gormley says he is reflecting on life, staring at the distant horizon, and that's what University life is about - others have said he is deeply disturbing. He looks as if he is about to jump - clearly you don't want students stressed about exams and dissertations to be troubled by suicidal images.
I can understand their concerns - and when the Young Royals are busy working hard to raise awareness about Mental Health Issues, this does seem a little ill-advised.
UEA is a tribute to 1960s architecture, but the maturing trees have improved its appearance since the early days.
If you came round the corner and were confronted with this sight, what would you think ? "Oh, its modern art" or "Oh help, there's someone in despair" ??
The Bishop of Norwich has given a thoughtful response, but I suspect that in the end, UEA will bow to pressure and relocate the sculptures to somewhere a little less sensitive.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

It's Quasimodo Sunday!

Traditionally the Sunday after Easter is known as Low Sunday - generally assumed to be the feeling of anticlimax - coming back to the mundane, after the glorious heights of the Easter Resurrection Celebrations. For those Christians who had been dressed in white robes and baptised on Easter Sunday, it marked the end of a week of wearing white and being 'special' and becoming just 'ordinary' Christians. Here's St Augustine, all dressed up for his baptism, at the Easter Vigil AD387.
Or possibly it is a corruption of Laudes [one of the prayers begins Laudes Dominum - thank the Lord] 
But Low Sunday is the most commonly used name. It is also the feast day of St Thomas [a much maligned apostle, imho, I never did feel 'doubting Thomas' was an appropriate nickname]
It was believed to be Thomas who travelled eastwards as a missionary, to found the Christian Church in India.
But while I was researching the 'Low Sunday' origins, I discovered something else - that the other name is Quasimodo Sunday. 
How cool is that?
"Is it because preachers get the hump, because they are so tired after Easter?" muttered Bob when I bounced in and shared this discovery with him, just as he was having a snooze.
No it isn't - it is from the Latin phrase "Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite" - 1 Peter 2:2, "as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word". This is the sung introit for the day - and those first two words give the name...
And in Victor Hugo's novel, Archdeacon Frollo finds the abandoned hunchbacked baby on the Sunday after Easter, and that is why he is given the name Quasimodo. I rather like that explanation. And it is an encouragement to people not to be low as the Easter Holiday ends, but rather to seek to grow in their understanding of the Bible.

One final note - it does seem that there really was a Hunchback of Notre Dame who may have inspired Hugo's story. Check it out here.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Slopping About

The word slop has a number of meanings, and can be a noun or a verb. This holiday week has seen a lots of slop and slopping here in Norfolk
 1 - It can mean mud or slush, liquid splashed about
Here we see Bob and Jon slopping mortar on the wall, to repair and replace the flints which have come loose
2- It can mean thin drink or liquid food [often used in the plural, slops] again with the sense of spilling and splashing.
Here we see that Rosie understands this concept very well.
3 - Slopping about is almost synonymous with splashing around
Rosie went with Grandma and Grandad to the Toddler Splash Session at Dereham Leisure Centre. That was enormous fun. She wore her new swimming cozzie too.
But the final definition of slop is peculiar to Norfolk
4 - here they use the term slop to mean a fisherman's smock.
I have always wanted to possess a 'proper' smock**. In my teens [pre-Internet] I even got a book from the library and drew up a pattern to make myself one of these. But I never found the time or money to complete the project. The Norfolk slop has a round neck and two patch pockets and is made of heavy cotton drill [to withstand the wind and weather]
On Tuesday, my sharp eyed husband spotted one in a CS in Dereham. It is clearly old [the label in the neck has faded, and the company that made it is long out of business ] but I am not sure it has ever been worn.
Nowadays the Norfolk slops retail at £50-70. This cost me £4.
And it is so comfortable, and the correct size [i.e. generous enough to fit over another garment] The patch pockets hold a key, a hankie and a mobile phone...
I am extremely happy slopping about in it!
[** I also fancied making and owning an agricultural worker's smock too, but that's another story]


Friday, 21 April 2017

Grand Designs

There was an article in the Guardian a couple of weekends ago, which really caught my eye. "This listed water tower in Norfolk needs a brave buyer...."
Not the mushroom shaped tower, still in use, which is around 50 year sold - but the Grade 2 listed Victorian tower in front of it.
This building is in Dereham, where I grew up - and about 10 minutes from my childhood home.
It is amazing inside - look at these pictures.
Huge spaces and oak beams
Massive beams to support the water tanks on the top floor 
And ladders going up and up...
This is one of only two towers of this type remaining in Norfolk. There is planning permission to convert it into a four bedroom, four story dwelling [with a lift]

The asking price is just 190,000 quid. That doesn't seem a lot to me, for this amazing edifice. 
Talking to a friend in Dereham this week, she thought it had been in the market a little while, and the price had been reduced.

Bob said if he had time and money, this is the sort of renovation project he would like to undertake. But he doesn't!
Personally, I think that the locals are missing a real opportunity here. Currently the Town Museum is housed in Bishop Bonner's Cottages down by the Parish Church. It is tiny. There is not enough room to display everything properly, access is seriously limited - and it is a good job they are not overwhelmed with visitors, because the ancient cottages could not cope with footfall.
BUT I think that somebody ought to buy up the Water Tower, and renovate it and equip it to be the new Town Museum. So much fabulous industrial architecture which would make a brilliant backdrop to displays about the people and events which have made Dereham what it is now. There is all the ironwork inside, and fantastic ornate brickwork outside. 
Room for displays, special exhibitions, coffee shop, gift shop - and facilities for school parties.
And Dereham has loads of history which deserves to be properly commemorated-
 people
St Withburga - King's daughter and all round good girl, for the poor, against the selfish. 654AD
William Cowper - poet and hymnwriter [died in the town, 1800]
George Borrow - traveller and writer [born in the town 1803]
James Woodforde - wrote Diary of a Country Parson whilst living nearby [died 1803]
Samuel Rash - wealthy businessman and brewer, obsessed with General Woolf, built nearby Quebec Hall in 1759 in honour of his hero.
William Hyde Wollaston - scientist, discovered palladium and rhodium, extracted platinum and did loads more [1766-1828] born in Dereham Rectory. Gives his name to a medal in geology and a crater on the moon.
Bishop Bonner - Tudor Bishop, not a nice guy, but his name is now the nickname for ladybirds locally [BishyBarnabees] and his cottages are the current minuscule museum
buildings
The Parish Church - with separate tower where French Soldiers were imprisoned during the Napoleonic Wars
The iconic 1960s Water Tower [see above]
The Railway Station - closed by Dr Beeching, but currently being restored by volunteer enthusiasts. 
industry
Hobbies Of Dereham - So many boys grew up reading Hobbies Magazine - and bought fretsaws and kits from the wonderful craft firm which was founded in 1895
Jentique Furniture, Metamec Clocks, Fruehauf Trailers...and other firms which provided local employment. 
wartime
In WW1 - The Zeppelin Raid of 1915. And the Vicarage became a Red Cross Hospital

In WW2 - Dereham declared a Nodal Point, with special fortifications to slow down any possible German invasion. There's still a pillbox in the Station Yard!
The War Memorial is based on Lutyens Cenotaph in Whitehall and is Grade 2 listed.
...
I have compiled this list in less than an hour, just from my own knowledge of local history. I know there are loads of things I have forgotten. I am convinced my home town needs a better museum. And I think this Water Tower would be a superb location. If I were already retired and living in Cornerstones, I would get a campaign under way. Sadly I am too far away, lacking in funds, and rather busy
Surely somebody out there could develop my crazy Grand Design??

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Happy Families And Hanky Panky

After a brilliant Easter Sunday morning at church [breakfast, then service including dancing, choir, dot-to-dot and so much more] we drove up to Norfolk. Liz, Jon and Steph had prepared a glorious feast, Rosie enjoyed it too. Lamb, hummus, couscous, chermoula... Then back to Cornerstones. 
I was up early Monday morning, as Steph had a sewing project to complete. 
We had TWO machines on the go. [I cannot post pictures, as it is a gift] We finished at midday and went off to Norwich. 

After a brief visit to the Showground to look at the Antiques Fair [all the stalls were packing up early - Saturday was the best day it seems] we had lunch in Giraffe, then took Steph to the station. 
Then back by ourselves to get a few 'house' tasks done. Bob cut the grass in the morning, whilst we were sewing, but he 'd other jobs to accomplish. 
I wanted to use the sewing machine whilst it was still out. I have decided I should use fewer tissues, and more "proper" hankies. 
In my childhood, Mums would spit on their hankies, then wipe non existent spots from their children's faces. 
Nowadays you cannot do that so well with a paper tissue [altho I note that wise mothers like Liz always have packs of baby wipes in their pockets] 
In my Stash I have some vintage traycloths. Two of these were made of fine cotton lawn. So I have cut and hemmed them to make 5 hankies. 
Maybe some would consider this sacrilege. But I decided it's better to use the fabric than keep it folded in the loft. 


The embroidery is exquisite. I have 1 plain hankie , 3 with little flowers, and one with Chinese lanterns. My machine produced some lovely edge stitching.
Then I sewed up some linen from the Great Stash to make two roller towels. 
Bob is going to make me a holder for the back of the door in the Futility Room. I left a roller towel [with spare towel] on the door back in Kirby - and I miss it. I love the red stripes down the side of this fabric.
I'm really pleased with the appearance, I did a proper run and fell seam with some cream linen thread. Fell seams are ancient - used by Vikings, Saxons and Native Americans for their tents and tepees. Once it's in place, I may invite Country Living magazine to take a photo. Or maybe Marie Claire Idées**. It is definitely very stylish

** One of my birthday gifts was a year's subscription to MCI. Merci beaucoup!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Rats!

Do you know Beatrix Potter's story, The Tale of Samuel Whiskers? [originally published as The Roly Poly Pudding] It's all about a pair of rats who try and put poor Tom Kitten into a pud. 
I remembered the story when I found some rat-tail serving spoons in a Charity Shop 
The rat-tail cutlery pattern has been around since 1700. It is an elegant, classic shape, and I liked the shape of the bowl. I needed a couple of new serving spoons, but these were in a bundle of 5 for a quid. They were filthy. 
But Brasso  and elbow grease revealed their true beauty. 
Cleaning the spoons revealed that each was hall-marked. They are silver!  Furthermore , on the back of the handle, each spoon was engraved with a monogram - SA. 
I do hope these haven't been nicked from the Salvation Army! 

But I only wanted two spoons. So I thought I should give the other three to Steph, for her new home. Her initials are SA after all. Don't they look lovely? 
 Steph loves them. She suggested that the two I have kept do not say SA, but rather AS, standing for Angela's Spoon!