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]

Monday, 20 March 2017

Steaming Mad

How do you clean your microwave oven? Mine is cleaned on a fairly regular basis, when my culinary creations become creMations. Bob says there is a particular distressed sound I make when I open the door to find the custard/beans/milk/porridge has boiled over! Mind you, he managed to explode an egg in there in January. 
After rinsing the plate and wiping off the displaced food, I usually boil a pyrex jug of water so that the steam lifts off the grime. I add a little acid in the form of a squeeze of lemon, splash of vinegar, or some citrus halves. Quick easy, and fairly inexpensive.
But here's my Pointless Gadget of the Month - an Angry Mama, aka Steaming Stella [apologies to all Mamas and Stellas out there- I did not choose the name]

You fill her with water and vinegar, and she will steam clean your microwave oven.
Prices vary from £2 to £10. You can choose other colours, but they are all female. 
This gadget is just so wrong from so many points of view!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Pause In Lent #3 - Walking By Faith

It's funny how things in life connect up sometimes. When I was away in Albania, I missed the local Churches Together Songs Of Praise Evening [held at UCF, well attended, fantastic tea, superb singing, by all accounts] So I never met Father Dylan James, the new priest at the RC Church. He'd asked for "The Footprints Hymn" to be sung. We knew the poem [which I continue to credit as 'anon' because three different women have claimed that they wrote it] but not a hymn.  Some research unearthed this piece, written by a Rob Atkins, Baptist Minister from Wales [who trained just after Bob, at Spurgeons College] Rob wrote it while sitting on a sand dune on holiday in Bordeaux. The hymn fits the tune of Londonderry Air. 

A number of people here have since said how much they liked this piece, so here it is...

Upon the shore, I walked with Him at even
And I looked back upon the path we’d trod
And in the sand I traced our way at even
And I was glad I’d walked through life with God:
For side by side we’d journeyed through together
All through the world’s wide wilderness of care
And side by side we’d journeyed through to even:
Safe at His side the Lord my God had brought me here.

But in my joy I caught a strain of sadness
To give me pause when thinking of my way
For on the shore I saw He’d left me lonely
When I had most the need of Him to stay:
When I was tired He’d left me worn and wandering,
He’d left me lone when I was fighting fears,
He’d let me tread the steepest slopes in solitude
Before He came back to my side to dry my tears.

But then the Lord drew near to me in comfort
And in His tenderness He made it plain
That in the times when dread and darkness threatened
He was my shield and shelter from the pain:
For on His shoulders He was gently bearing
And on His shoulders I from harm was free:
The single trace of footprints of the Master,
The single trace of footprints shows He carried me.

So on the shore I walk with Him at even;
I face the latter days of life secure,
For if my pilgrimage reserves me sorrow
The footprints show that He is strong and sure:
If I am near the gates of heaven weary,
No longer strong enough to stride alone
The footprints show that He is there to carry me:
The footprints show the Lord my God will bear me home.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Going Like The Clappers

The Gentle Author has just published an update about the campaign to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry [read it here]  There is an online petition organised by the East End Preservation Society [click here to sign] I hope this succeeds very quickly, as the auction of machinery is scheduled for the end of the month.
btw, nobody is quite sure if going like the clappers refers to the 'tongues' of the bells, but it seemed to me like a good title for this post.

Home In The Daytime - But No Home At Night...

In a recent blog post I mentioned my newly re-covered ironing board. My blogfriend Frugally Challenged asked what became of the remainder of the circular tablecloth which I had used for the previous cover. 
There was a small amount left, so yesterday afternoon I made another doll's dress for 'Lucy'. I cut it very carefully to make use of the curved hem and the border print. 
I think it has worked well.
I'm making clothes for two American Girl Dolls now, so I also produced two little tops using a piece of striped shirting fabric someone gave me. They have elasticated necklines and cuffs, and fasten down the back with Velcro.
I have been incredibly busy with a rather special sewing project recently, so spending an afternoon with the Sewing machine was a pleasant diversion. 
Last night was something completely different altogether. 
Our youth group at church have been thinking about the problems of refugees and they did a [short] charity sponsored walk round the area in the early evening. When they got back to the church car park, it was quite dark. They found a refugee lying huddled in a sleeping bag, under a tarpaulin strung between two trees. They had the chance to ask questions and discuss how it must feel.
I was playing the part of the refugee, and dressed in my brother's ancient NHS donkey jacket, my SILs 1980s dungarees [normally worn for painting] and an old long blonde wig. I wasn't recognised [except by a couple of very bright teenagers who know me quite well] 
Bob's photos taken in the dark didn't come out very satisfactorily. Interestingly I walked to church through the town. I noticed people looked at me, but if I caught their eye, then they immediately looked away. I sat down at a bus stop, and the woman at the other end of the seat [who had been looking all round at things before I got there] turned away and moved up to the other end of the bench. That didn't feel pleasant.
Once at the church, I was so tired I actually fell asleep lying on the ground. So when the kids came back, and stood round shining their torches and whispering, I was genuinely startled.
If I could feel uneasy over just a short time like that, in the town where I live, and in the grounds of my own church, what must it be like for genuine refugees wandering alone in search of safety and shelter?

Friday, 17 March 2017

Check Your Tension

Last week there was a pile of knitting patterns at my craft group, and a box for charitable donations. All women's and children's clothes, except for this one. After buying it, I realised that it was for 12" dolls, not 18". And for 3ply,  not DK. 
was going to recalculate the pattern, multiplying everything by 1.5 to get the correct size. Then I had a thought. I checked the pattern for the tension  details. 
32 Stitches to 4" for 3ply. I knew that on 4mm needles with DK, 32 stitches measures 6". That's 1.5 times. So I knitted the party dress pattern using thicker wool and larger needles, adjusting length by a factor of 1.5. It worked beautifully. The leaflet suggested edging the neckline with a row of double crochet .  I did all the edges with a random yarn. The tie belt and buttons on the back look good too.    

I have never tried knitting a pattern with different sized needles and yarn before, but this has worked really well. I Perhaps I'll have a go at the little coat next! 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Super Swedish Semlor

About 18 months ago, Liz took me to the ScandiKitchen in Great Titchfield Street. We had a lovely light lunch and I enjoyed looking at the goodies on sale in the shop. I just picked up the March 2017 Edition of the Waitrose Magazine, and there was a picture of Bronte Aurell, food writer and co-founder of ScandiKitchen. In Sweden they like food in a seasonal pattern [there's a season for saffron buns, and also for fermented herring. I shall skip that one!]
She said in her article that Lent is the season for Semlor. These cardamom buns with whipped cream and marzipan are a huge tradition in Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia. Traditionally associated with Shrove Tuesday, they are now enjoyed from January until Easter. You can freeze the unfilled buns, but once filled, they should be eaten on the same day. 
Prep time: 1 hour, plus proving and cooling. Cooking time:10-15 minutes
Makes: 10 large of 15 small buns
·         75g very soft unsalted butter
·         250ml whole milk
·         2 x 7g sachets dried active yeast
·         50g caster sugar
·         1 egg, beaten
·         400g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
·         ½ tsp fine salt
·         ½ tsp baking powder
·         30 cardamom pods – shake out seeds and grind them finely [1tsp]
·         vegetable oil, for kneading and greasing
·         150g marzipan
·         150ml fresh custard
·         300ml whipping cream
·         2-3tbsp icing sugar
·         ½ tsp vanilla extract
·         icing sugar, for dusting
1. Warm the milk gently, add the yeast, 1tsp sugar,and stir. Cover with cling film and leave 15 minutes to activate [it should bubble up slightly]
2. In a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook add milk,sugar and yeast to the bowl. Mix flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and cardamom in a separate bowl. Add half the dry mix to the yeast mixture then beat in the softened butter  and half the egg [reserve the remainder of the egg]. Add remnaining flour mix and beat for 5 minutes until the dough comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl.  Cover bowl with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size – 40-100 minutes.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead again for a 2-3 minutes. Divide and shape the dough into 10 uniform balls [or 15 for small ones], then space well apart on a parchment-lined baking tray. Cover with clean dry teatowel. Leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 200˚/fan 170˚/gas 6. Gently brush each bun with reserved beaten egg and bake for 8-12 minutes, until a rich brown colour and baked through; keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. Remove from the oven and immediately cover with a clean, slightly damp tea towel to prevent the buns from forming a crust.
5. When the buns are completely cool, cut a ‘lid’ off each one (about ¼ of the way from the top). Scoop out about 1/3 of the inside of each bun and tear into a bowl. Add the custard, grate in the marzipan. The mixture should be spoonable, not too runny. 
6. Spoon the filling back into the buns. Whip the cream with 2tbsp sugar and vanilla until just firm, then use a piping bag – fitted with a star nozzle if you have one – to pipe it into all the buns. Put the lids back on and dust lightly with remaining icing sugar. 
Above is the picture from the magazine. Here on the right you see my attempt.  I was rather pleased with them. I made half the quantity and divided it into 8. However I did end up with leftover custard. Next time I think only I'd use one third of the quantity. The cardamom flavour was really different, and we both enjoyed these.
I'd definitely make them again.
If this sport of thing matters to you, then one of my small buns contains about 225 calories!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Put The Kettle On!

Cups of tea are constantly appearing here. It keeps me going - the poet William Cowper called it 'the cup that cheers but does not inebriate'. Tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis - Sinensis means 'from China', and Camellia is from Georg Kamel. He was a Moravian born Jesuit lay brother, pharmacist, and missionary to the Philippines, and Linnaeus [who classified plants] chose this name in 1753 to honour Kamel's contribution to botany. We have a Camellia Bush in our back garden- currently covered in fantastic pink blossoms
This variety here in Dorset is probably Camellia Williamsii or Camellia Japonica -not the variety which provides the tea!!
This week I listened to Dan Saladino on BBC's Food Programme, talking about tea. It was the second of his two programmes on the subject [links here and hereHe spoke about Justin Rowlatt's report on the Tea Industry which JP prepared for the BBC in the summer of 2015 - which highlighted the appalling conditions suffered by many workers in the tea industry. Read JR's follow up report here.
The good thing is that, following the BBC reports, the owners of the plantations have speeded up their plans to repair and improve the living conditions for the workers, and put more money into this work. But it is still far from encouraging. McLeod Russell India and Tata [same as the steel company] are the two main owners involved in all this. The tea they supply goes to Twining, PG, Liptons and Tetley. 
Although they have Rainforest Alliance Certification [so the frogs etc are looked after] they sadly fall short on their provisions for the human beings who maintain and pick the tea crops.
So what can be done? The answer is not to stop drinking tea ...Campaigners argue that tea is just too cheap and the big brands need to pay fairer prices to plantations so they in turn can afford decent wages and conditions for workers. Tea plantations have traditionally restricted union membership, and sometimes ban NGOs from operating on their estates. They want that to change so workers can know their rights and be able to articulate their demands clearly and effectively. Campaigners believe tea lovers can help too, by using their voice and influence to keep companies honest. They want consumers to tell tea companies that conditions of the workers matter to them, and to challenge their favourite brand about what it is doing to ensure that its employees have decent homes and enough money to buy nutritious food. 
Most of the time** at home we drink Sainsbury's Red Label - a Fairtrade blended tea. I am very happy with the efforts made by this supermarket to ensure conditions for the workers are good. 
This blend is sourced from Fairtrade smallholder farmers’ co-operatives in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and South India. 
It also came top in a taste test by Edward Bramah [of the Museum of Tea and Coffee in London] 

90% of us in the UK use teabags now - but I still prefer to make my tea in a teapot [with a teacosy]
** Bob is fond of Earl Grey, and I like Redbush [I like to use RB teabags when I brew myself some sweet spiced Chai] - but these tend to be occasional treats.
Do you drink tea? or are you committed to coffee? - would you be prepared to pay a little more for your favourite brand in order to benefit the workers on the plantation that produces it? 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

From Pillar To Post, And Feeling Blue

Nobody is quite sure about the origin of the phrase "from pillar to post" -there are at least three theories
  1. It was originally 'from post to pillory' - 14th century punishments being the whipping post and then the pillory. But there's no recorded evidence of the phrase that way round
  2. Real [or Royal] tennis involved a court which had posts and pillars.
  3. It is a corruption of the Spanish phrase 'from Herod to Pilate' relating to the trial of Jesus before his crucifixion.
This latest train of thought was sparked by two people discussing post boxes - aka pillarboxes. One was a local guy wondering on Facebook how an estate built in the 1960s had a George V post box [answer - Royal Mail reuses old boxes, so this one was relocated there after the estate was built]
The second pillarbox conversation was with Steph, on the subject of blue pillarboxes
It seems that when Air Mail first became popular, there were actually blue pillarboxes in selected locations throughout the UK so that people could separate surface mail from the flimsy blue missives.
By 1936, there were 139 such boxes in London, and 174 in the provinces. But they only lasted nine years on the streets. Now, I understand, there are only two blue boxes left in mainland Britain*. One is very near Steph's office in Manchester- and bizarrely the second is near her company's other office in Windsor.
The one on the left is outside Manchester's Museum of Industry and Science. It is still in use as a regular box - the right hand one is outside Windsor Castle, but the aperture is blocked and it is just a display piece! The right hand one is the more accurate 1930s colour. [The Manchester one isn't a genuine Air Mail box, just a repainted 1930s red one, sadly!]

When I visit Steph, I hope to get to visit the M of I & S, and learn more about the history of her new city.
Steph is greatly enjoying her job, working in brand and strategy development [more about that another time] 
Did you know that of the world's top 100 brands, 33% have logos which are blue?
I discovered that fact in a tweet from her new company [which has an orange logo]
There are a number of gold pillarboxes now, where towns have celebrated local Olympians. Some of the early boxes were green [*I believe there maybe blue boxes still in use in the Channel Islands and there's one on the Isle of Wight]

Do you have any interesting postboxes/pillarboxes near you?

Monday, 13 March 2017

Ding Dong!

I am beginning to feel that I am turning into a grumpy old woman, muttering and complaining about the way things are. But I am attempting to be more of a positive activist than a negative moaner-on-the-sidelines. 
I first posted about bell foundries closing in 2009 when news came through that the Loughborough Foundry had been saved from closure.

Then just before Christmas, I mentioned the proposed closure of the Whitechapel Foundry.
I am so happy to report that things are moving in a positive direction here - over the weekend, the Gentle Author posted about a consortium of heritage groups which have come together with the Spitalfields Trust, in an application to Tower Hamlets Council, to have the foundry designated as an Asset Of Community Value. They had a letter in The Times on Saturday and want people to write in support [details here] The talented artist Rob Ryan who lives and works in the East End, has produced a fantastic image for this campaign. I have sent my letter of support.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Pause In Lent #2 - The Guy With The Leaflets

I'm sitting typing this on Saturday afternoon - Sunday we are both preaching morning and evening [Bob at UCF, me at 2 different chapels a few miles away] and the day will be busy. Outside my window I can see the lovely pink blossoms on the cherry tree. The bulbs in the garden are blooming - hyacinths, snowdrops, narcissus, daffodils - and the amazing camellia bush has glorious pink blooms [I take no credit for any of these] Spring is definitely here.
And I can see a young guy with a bag on his back walking up the little close opposite - he is going from house to house putting leaflets through the doors. He did our side of the road first, so we have information about a local company who will sort out patios, tarmac and driveways. In fact I have two leaflets, stuck together. Straight into the recycling with them!
I hope he is getting reasonable pay for doing it [maybe it's the family business and he is doing it, unpaid, to help his Dad] At least it is a lovely afternoon - no wind or rain. But generally, shoving things through letterboxes is a pretty thankless task. Depending on the area, you have to contend with stiff front gates, dogs snapping at your fingers, very stiff letterbox flaps requiring two hands, and inconvenient ones at ankle level, and much more besides. And when it is really cold, you can't wear gloves because they prevent you separating the leaflets properly. And doing it when you have a baby in a buggy is even more complicated.
I worked on the Christmas Post once, when a student - and I hated it. I got told off because I did all the odd side of the busy main road, crossed over and did the evens. "You should do half a dozen one side, and then half a dozen the other" said the man at the Sorting Office. People have rung in and complained that their post came later than usual" I explained that for my own safety, I preferred to cross the road just once at the end, rather than back and forth a dozen times, and that furthermore, I'd planned to do the evens then the odds tomorrow, and that  my method was both safer and faster [that was my mistake - he was afraid a more efficient method might result in redundancies for the regular postmen] But I did at least get paid for it. The family got good Christmas gifts that year!
I have delivered leaflets for church events countless times. To be honest, I haven't really enjoyed that either[see letterbox/dog/glove issues above!] But I was doing it not for financial reward, but for love. We had publicity about Christmas or Easter, and I wanted to invite members of my community along, to hear about God's love. 
Churches generally don't do 'leaflet drops' quite as much as they used to. People are reluctant to volunteer [too busy with other things], and there is the cost of the printing, and 95% of the stuff on the mat goes into the recycling bin unread [and many front doors have signs requesting No Leaflets, or Tradesmen] and statistics apparently show that the number of people who came to church because they had a card through the door is a tiny proportion of the recipients of said it doesn't seem a good use of church resources. 
Despite the chart above, even the DMA says the average positive response rate for leaflet drops is just 1%.

I am inclined to agree with the decision to cut back on this sort of publicity. But I find myself challenged by this thought - what am I going to do this Easter with respect to inviting other people to Church? Pushing 20 cards through the doors of neighbours, and scuttling anonymously back down the path, can't really be called 'evangelism' can it? If I believe Easter is not about hot cross buns and chocolate, but about the Son of God conquering death, how do I plan to communicate that to the people around me?

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Ozymandias, And The Gigantic Leg

In the writings of the Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus, [born in Sicily, Ist Century BC] is a description of a massive Egyptian statue and its inscription: "King of Kings, Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work." 
Ozymandias was another name given to Pharaoh Rameses II. The pharaoh, also known as Ramses the Great, was the third of the 19th dynasty of Egypt and ruled for 66 years, from 1279BC to 1213BC. He led several military expeditions and expanded the Egyptian empire to stretch from Syria in the east to Nubia (northern Sudan) in the south. His successors called him the Great Ancestor.
Two hundred years ago, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his friend Horace Smith had a competition to see who could write the best sonnet about this ancient ruler. Well, they were at a Christmas 1817 Houseparty, and maybe they were fed up with playing Charades, or listening to Percy's Missus telling ghost stories [that's Mary, who wrote Frankenstein] ...Poetry competitions were what they did to pass the time ... 
This was just after the announcement of the acquisition of a large fragment of a statue of Rameses II from the thirteenth century BC, by the British Museum. 
Percy and Horace wrote sonnets about the fact that all empires and emperors will eventually die and decay, and pass into oblivion.
Fast forward 150 years - and those of us in Grammar Schools in the 60s had to read [and maybe memorise] Shelley's poem.

I met a traveller from an antique land, 
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
And on the pedestal, these words appear: 
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare 
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
And this weekend, two hundred years later, archaeologists from Egypt and Germany have found another ruined statue in the mud of a Cairo slum - and believe this too is a representation of Ozymandias!

“I announce the big discovery of a colossus of a king, most probably Ramses II, made out of quartzite,” the antiquities minister, Khaled al-Anani, said at the site of the discovery. 
Not many people nowadays have heard of either the ruler Ozymandias, or Shelley's sonnet of that name. Even fewer are aware of poor old Horace Smith and his sonnet [with its 'gigantic leg']
In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand."— The City's gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place

...all human pride and power eventually crumbles into dust. As a Christian, I am glad my trust is in the true King of Kings - our WWDP service last Friday ended with this hymn
So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth's proud empires, pass away:
But stand, and rule, and grow for ever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.
A reminder to ensure we find our real treasure in eternal things.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Burning Issues

For the first time in my life, I am living in a home which has a heated towel rail in the bathroom. It's so lovely to step out of the shower and swathe myself in yards of warm fluffy bathsheet. Ours is quite a simple one, just two uprights and two cross pieces. Others are much more elaborate.
My friend, in her nineties, has one like this. In her little ensuite, it is positioned between the loo and the door [the only available section of wall space]
She usually sits on the loo seat to dry herself off after her shower. 
Her daughter was concerned- the towel rail can get surprisingly hot sometimes, and she was worried her Mum might burn herself - or maybe grab it for support, then jump back in surprise at the heat, and fall.

Solution, make 'sleeves' for the rails, using towelling and velcro. My friend gave me a suitable towel, and after some careful measuring and geometrical calculations, I cut out the pieces [the remnant left was barely big enough to make a facecloth! I was careful to use the existing hems where I could, and finished other raw edges with zigzag stitch. 
 And now it is in place, I hope it will make the bathroom a safer place for this bright and sprightly old lady, who is always such a bright and cheerful member of our congregation at church.
It was suggested I should patent this idea! Not doing that - but I am sharing this idea, in case it is of use to anyone else!
The side sleeves each have 3 strips of velcro - 5cm at top and bottom, and a 20cm strip between the two panels of rails. That's proved sufficient to keep things in place. There is still room to hang towels on the rails.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Ooh, Err Missus

It's 25 years since this comedian died - and last Monday was the centenary of his birth. But I put this picture here because of his little catchphrase.
Liz posted me a picture of the yogurt she saw in Waitrose yesterday

It is one of their new 'savoury' vegetable yogurts.

And my first question [believe me, I have many more about this yogurt!] is how is one expected to pronounce turmeric these days?
Nowadays, Jamie and co seem to be united in saying
In my youth, when it was just occasionally mentioned by Delia and TV cooks of an earlier generation, it was always
I looked it up in my Oxford English Dictionary and carefully deciphered the pronunciation guide. 
That uses the symbol З: which is err [as in 'her'] my case rests!
But it doesn't answer my next question - who on earth decided that veg yogurts would be the next foodie trend? Here is the new range just introduced into Waitrose recently. 
According to their website; The versatility of vegetables is continuing to be a hot topic as products including juices and even desserts have undergone a veggie makeover. And following this, Waitrose has introduced four new innovative yogurt flavours which include butternut squash, avocado, carrot and beetroot...
The yogurts themselves are nothing short of delicious and the addition of vegetables enhances the flavour as well as texture. The Kiwi, Avocado and Matcha Tea Yogurt boasts a creaminess from the avocado and the Apple, Carrot, Beetroot and Ginger Yogurt has a zing from the ginger. The Pineapple, Butternut Squash and Turmeric has warmth from the turmeric and finally the Carrot, Mango and Guarana has additional sweetness from the carrot, making them a great introduction to vegetable blends. 
Clearly, if you wanty 'creaminess, warmth, zing and sweetness,' this is the way forward! Last week, Thrifty Lesley posted her recipe for savoury yogurts made with sundried tomatoes, and she gave them a definite thumbs up. I usually like TL's recipes, but when I mentioned the idea to Bob at the time, he said "They sound like some of Jamie's salad dressings". I do see what he means.
Third question - carrot, mango and guarana ...guarana is that Brazilian bean with more than twice the amount of a caffeine as a coffee bean. Steph explained that to me after her trip to São Paolo in 2005. [Initially I was confusing it with guano - that's not something you want in your yogurt] Do you really want that much stimulus [or is it a neglible amount, just a gimmick?]
Finally - I have read a fair bit recently that turmeric [however you choose to pronounce it] is said to be helpful for people suffering with arthritis pain. My physiotherapist mentioned it when I saw her about my knee just before Christmas. I have been slinging the odd spoonful into my cooking - mainly to make my rice golden and my curries more interesting, and to give added flavour to steamed 'cauliflower rice' [which I really enjoy but Bob regards as pointless] So I'm just asking - do any of you use turmeric to help with arthritis pain? In what form do you take it? and does it appear to be helping?
Back to the Waitrose Website - There is currently a need for more Vitamin D in our diets to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy and these yogurts are a great way to start bridging the gap as one serving contains almost a fifth of your daily recommended allowance.
Clearly these veg yogurts are deemed to have health benefits all round. But at 69p for 125g, I shan't be rushing out to buy them. Perhaps I'll take a leaf out of TL's book and try creating my own. If they taste awful on their own, I can always serve them as a salad dressing - or as a dip with crudités!!