Saturday, 10 December 2016

Glad Tidings We Bring...

This weekend marks the 80th anniversary of the Abdication of Edward VIII. My Dad said that at his school they modified the traditional carol to
Hark the Herald Angels sing
"Mrs Simpson's pinched our King"

Fast forward 30 years or so, and at my school we were singing
We four Beatles of Liverpool are, John in a taxi, Paul in a car
George on a Scooter, honking his hooter
Following Ringo Starr
Modifying carols has been going on for centuries - which of us can honestly say we've never sung
While shepherds washed their socks by night all seated round the tub
A bar of fairy soap fell down , and they all began to scrub

There's the ancient Basque Carol, known as Gabriel's Message which talks about that early spice girl "Most highly flavoured Lady Gloria"

And the little fat gentleman who pops up in the middle of Silent Night alongside the manger
Round John Virgin [Mother and Child]

Poor old Mary has to share the stable with loads of visitors - in God rest ye merry, Gentleman there is one rather sinister visitor
The Witch, his mother Mary

Of course, some of those at the nativity, who came upon the midnight clear, did at least help with the housework over Bethlehem
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hoovering wing
But even the modern carols have some wonderful lines in them. Who can sing 'Come on and celebrate' without remembering all the presents still to be wrapped up?
Come on and Celebrate, Celebrate and Sing
Sellotape and String for the King

And when we come and join the celebration, the magi are there, returning from their Easyjet Holiday...

Wise men journey, led to worship by a star
Kneel in homage, 
Bringing precious gifts from Lanzarotte

And those poor chaps out there on the cold hillside have clearly remembered the Keep Well, Keep Warm mantra, for the Calypso Angel challenges them " Shepherdsswiftly from your soup, arise, to see the Saviour of the World"

Oh dear, I suspect I have probably ruined many Candlelight Carol Services now, as those who have not heard these before may be overcome with giggles. Oops!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Keep Warm, Keep Well

The government is full of helpful advice for maintaining the good health of the nation. This leaflet came out recently.
It is aimed at the over 60's, those on a low income, and those with disability.
It may all seem obvious advice, but it never hurts to read through such documents. 

Apart from anything else, it lists all the useful websites and phone numbers which you [or a neighbour, friend, or family member] might find useful. I am over 60, so I read it!
Keeping warm is really important- and so hats and scarves are a good idea. We picked up new Scandinavian winter hats in the CS in Salisbury on Tuesday, as I mentioned. They are fun - and more efficient at staying on in strong winds than our other hats - and if we do go out Carol Singing, they will be better than red Santa Hats, and last past the Christmas season.
I should point out that we do not normally wear hats indoors [the Manse is beautifully warm] this was just for the purpose of the photograph. 
One other piece of advice was to eat a healthy diet, including plenty of warm drinks in cold weather.
On the left is a Waitrose Cup. Having a 'My Waitrose' card means I can get a free hot drink if I buy something in Waitrose. Last week in Ringwood I picked up a few groceries and a coffee.
I brought the cup and lid home and washed it out well.
A couple of days later, the man called to read the electricity meter. He was a jovial chap - but honestly looked well past 65 [Maybe he was 55 and his job is just very ageing] It was a Rather Cold Day and I'd just made a pot of tea for Bob and myself. I was able to offer him a cuppa 'to go' by reusing the Waitrose cup. I must say that would have done this if he had only been 25. Couriers and meter readers cannot usually stop for a drink, but this is a good way of helping them keep warm as they go from house to house.
The right hand container is full of soup. I'd made a slo-cooker casserole and there was just one portion left. I blitzed this [immediately after our meal] with some stock and it made sufficient for us to have a soup&sandwich lunch the next day. Hot food, minimal cost.
One other warming recipe - marzipan and  apple slice.
Including this because I put marzipan on the top of the Christmas cake last week and had a small amount left over.
I googled and found this recipe which I tweaked in order to use up my remaining marzipan and a tub of stewed apple which was in the freezer.

The recipe says 'serves four' - but this bowlful is one eighth of the quantity. I cut it into separate portions and have frozen some. It goes well with yogurt, creme fraiche, ice cream or custard.
Serves 4
70g cold butter, coarsely grated
150g marzipan, coarsely grated
100g wholemeal or granary flour [used plain white]
50g soft brown sugar
200g oats
35g flaked almonds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tbsp honey [I used demerara sugar, no honey in pantry]
400g frozen stewed apple [thawed slightly and mashed up so it can be spread out]

1 Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3.
2 First of all make the oat mixture. Rub the butter and grated marzipan into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
3 Add the sugar, oats, almonds and the cinnamon.
4 Sprinkle a third of this mixture on to the bottom of an ovenproof dish approximately 20cm x 20cm.
5 Cover the mixture with half the apples and half the honey, sprinkle over another third of the oat mixture, then the rest of the apples and honey, followed by the rest of the oat mixture.
6 Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Serve with Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Oh Christmas Tree...

Oh  Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging
Not only green when summer's here,
But also when it's cold and drear.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

Oh  Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
Such pleasure do you bring me!
For every year this Christmas tree,
Brings to us such joy and glee.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
Such pleasure do you bring me!

Oh  Christmas Tree! Oh Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
Oh Christmas Tree! Oh Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!

Oh  Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
You'll ever be unchanging!
A symbol of goodwill and love
You'll ever be unchanging
Each shining light, each silver bell
No one alive spreads cheer so well

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
You'll ever be unchanging
The brilliant trees at St Martins West Moors Tree Festival - well worth a visit! So many clever ideas and decorations made by the very young as well as the more mature members of the community. Our little doves from UCF were flying well.
I think these were just as lovely [if not more so] than the ones on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas last night.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Feeling In The Pink In Salisbury...

Tuesday began with my dental checkup. Following the physio appointment last week [purchase of new shoes and orthotics] I now discover I need treatment on a dodgy molar [paid the total now, with further work to be done after Christmas] I am definitely falling to pieces!
We then went to the Gift Shop at Kingston Lacy. I don't often buy fancy NT gifts for people, but this was on behalf of someone else. I loved the way that they have decorated the area round the shop. The white posts outside the Laundry have become candy striped barbers' poles, and there are many lovely wreaths, trees and reindeer to enjoy.
There was a paper chain where you could write your hopes and dreams for 2017 on a strip and add it to the garland. All very pretty. I was sorry we did not have time to meander round the house, as I have been told by friends it looks stunning inside right now

As we continued on our journey, I suddenly spotted something I had been looking for all through the summer.
Pink hay bales! 
A Dorset guy decided to raise awareness for breast cancer by producing pink wrap for the hay instead of traditional black or green. For each roll sold, a donation goes to the charity.This year, more than £18K has been raised.
And there we were, driving along, when we saw this! Bob stopped the car and I hopped out to take a picture. Better late than never.

Then on to Salisbury, and the Park'n'Ride. This is a very good, frequent and inexpensive service, and much better than trying to park in the city centre. But it was really crowded, and lots of us were standing down the centre aisle.
My knee was hurting, but as I was positioned on the step up to the rear section of the bus, I sat down on the step and read my book!
When we got off, I muttered to Bob that I wanted a badge. Liz had a London Transport one when she was pregnant which said "Baby on Board" I would like one which says "Grandmother in her sixties with a dodgy knee" Bob says I don't look like a GIHSWADK so I mustn't complain if people don't leap up to offer me a seat. 
It was surprisingly cold. We frivolously spent £3 on two warm hats in a CS. Photos will follow, at some point. 
Salisbury Christmas Market [official photo, not mine] was better than Winchester's we thought - although many of the stalls were the same people. We looked, and sampled - but didn't buy anything.
A lovely lunch in the absolutely ancient Cross Keys Restaurant which dates back to the 14th Century. "Ooh, that makes me go all goosey" said the lady at the next table. Not sure about that - but we certainly did enjoy our food.
I had forgotten to transfer my orthotics into my old lace-ups, so Bob suggested I invested in a second pair. We had to walk all round the block to get into Boots - a smash'n'grab raid earlier in the day meant the doors on one side were cordoned off! But putting the new Orthaheels in my footwear made an immediate difference.
With an added spring in my step, we walked back to the bus stop and went back to the car, then on to Maplin. Having recently found an long forgotten Starbucks card in the back of a bag, we were able to treat ourselves to drinks [and a shared Swedish Almond Bun]
I shall diet after Christmas, honest I will!
The rest of the week will be taken up with Christmas Related Church Activities, so Tuesday's Day Off was very necessary.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Making A List, Checking It Twice...

This week I shall get round to wrapping up the gifts. I am a bit later than usual this year - but the stuff is all sorted. Fortunately I belong to a family where we show love to one another all year round, and do not measure the relationships by the amount of money spent. We try to give things which will be useful - and don't just spend money for the sake of it. But for those who have forgotten that we are now in December, and have yet to organise their gift giving, a well known online retailer has helpfully provided a list of their top selling Christmas gifts for this year. Here it is [just in case you are short of inspiration]

  1.  Instant digital camera
  2. Electric throw
  3. Emoji plush smiley pillow
  4. Cafetiere
  5. Duck Pond Game
  6. Desk Organiser with photo frame
  7. Hatchimals
  8. Loft Minimalist Rustic Water Pipe Table Lamp
  9. Digital Photo Frame
  10. Fitbit Wristband
  11. Family Tree Decal
  12. Spontuneous Game
  13. Coffee/Wine Mug
  14. Aromatherapy set for inner peace
  15. Floating Bluetooth Speaker
  16. Zoomer Kitty
  17. Himalayan Pillar Salt Ionic Air Purifier
  18. 3D Wall Clock
  19. Ferris Wheel Bookends
  20. Ozobot
  21. Husband and Wife Pillows
  22. Runaway Wheeled Alarm Clock
  23. Cutting Board
  24. Window Bird Feeder
  25. 3d Projector
  26. Colour Changing LED Nightlight with speaker
  27. Desktop organiser lamp with built in Fishtank
  28. PieFace Game
  29. All new Kindle
  30. Removable Vinyl skin for phone charger
 I have no idea what half these things are. I am not sure my nearest and dearest need or want any of them. I had to check a number of them out - look at this lot [I saw the 'wine' mug in a CS last week for 99p]
And if anyone in my family did feel a burning desire to possess a "steam punk, vintage retro, loft minimalist, rustic water pipe table lamp" I would send Bob out into the garage and ask him to create one for me - I definitely wouldn't spend £30 on it online!!
[And I should point out that the bulb isn't even included in the price]

It  strikes me that some people have forgotten what Christmas is all about !

Monday, 5 December 2016

Send Not To Ask For Whom The Bell Tolls... tolls, very sadly, for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Another bleak moment in this annus horribilis.
I love the sound of church bells - Saturday afternoons, hearing them pealing for the new brides leaving the church door, Sunday morning, bidding the faithful to worship ...even Friday evenings, when the Kirby Muxloe ringers practised for what seemed like hours on end, perfecting their English change-ringing, based on mathematics as much as musicality.
...and I love all the other bells too, the clanging bell in the school playground, marking the end of the lunch hour and the return to lessons, the ting! of the bell on the shop counter, calling assistance from someone in the back office, the tinkling of the handbell summoning the lady's maid to attend to her mistress in Downton, and pretty jingle bells everywhere in the Christmas Season.
But this week, news of the closure of England's Oldest Bell Foundry, which has been operating from this site since 1670 - the manufacturing company officially being established in 1570, but work dates back to 1420, - nigh on SIX  HUNDRED YEARS.
You can read the full story here to by Gentle Author, the lovely writer of the Spitalfields Life Blog.
This is such a sad state of affairs - here on this site have been cast some of the iconic bells of our nation - nay, of the world
Big Ben [as any fule kno, Big Ben is the bell, not the tower in which is is housed] 
The sound of these chimes booming out over Westminster is synonymous with the Mother of Parliaments. Somehow hearing them on the BBC at midnight always conveys a sense of security for me!
Similarly, the Liberty Bell, in Philadelphia - an equally important symbol for our friends across the Pond.

The Queen recognises the work of this ancient company, and has visited on more than one occasion.

In 2012, a set of Royal Jubilee Bells were made here, and were carried down the Thames on a barge at the start of the river pageant. Now they are in St James Garlickhythe [now that's a fun name for a church!!]

The 9-11 bell, a gift from the City of London, to the people of New York, following the Twin Towers destruction in 2001 now hangs in St Paul's New York, very close to the site of the atrocity. The Bishop Of London at the time described it as 'The Bell of Hope'

Here were cast , after WW2, the replacement bells for St Mary Le Bow and St Clement Danes [known everywhere from the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons] They have sent bells all over the USA and Canada, and to Russia...

The WBF designed the bell rung at the start of the 2012 London Olympics. Here is a portion of the programme from the opening ceremony
"Bells ring out the changes of our days. They call us to wake, to pray, to work, to arms, to feast and, in times of crisis, to come together. Almost everyone in Britain lives within a sonic parish.. Anyone born within hearing of the Bells of St Mary Le Bow in Cheapside, London, has the right to call themselves ‘cockney’... Above all, bells are the sound of freedom and peace. Throughout World War II all of Britain's bell towers were stilled, to be rung only in case of emergency. They hung in dusty silence until the day came when they could ring in the peace."

I appreciate that the site is so close to the City, 'prime real estate' as they say. But it seems a dreadful shame that this listed building, where so many wonderful bells have been created should have to give way to commercial pressures.

I think I shall console myself by re-reading one of my favourite detective stories, which involves change-ringing - Dorothy L Sayers 'Nine Tailors'. 
 "Nine tellers mark a man." In olden times at funerals the church bell was tolled three times for a child, six times for a woman and nine times for a man. The tolls were called tellers. Hence, "Nine tellers mark a man"; that is, nine tolls of the bell denoted that a man and not a woman or child was being buried. Through facetiousness or error this may have been corrupted into "Nine tailors make a man."

A final quote from Lord Peter Wimsey
They have neither speech nor mouth, but their voice goes out to all nations

The bells of Whitechapel will be sorely missed [the BBC have recently asked for ideas about news stories in 2016 which have not been well covered. I have emailed them and suggested the WBF]

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Pause In Advent #2 [W] W [JD]

WWJD - #1 was W for Word. #2 is W for Waiting.
I am not sure which of my friends posted this clip on Facebook this past week, but it is only 2 minutes long so do have a look. Everything has to be instant these days - order before 8pm and we will deliver it tomorrow. Don't worry if the bank account is low, tap the credit card on the machine and you can have it now
It does us good sometimes to wait for things, to save up for things, to prepare for things. Watch the clip and ponder on the benefits of this waiting time. 
Btw, in case you are wondering, the purple and pink candles are the traditional Catholic Colours, although even Pope Benedict [the one before Pope Francis] apparently opted for red and white candles. I quite like the idea of the pink-Gaudete-joy for week 3.