Monday, 23 January 2017


I have mentioned this useful site before. I am seriously pruning our book collection and every month or two I go along the bookshelves to see what can go. Many of our books are precious and will be kept, and one day may be passed on to our children [and grandchildren?] should they want them.
There are altogether too many books out there. As the writer of Ecclesiastes declared Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Too right!! 
I try to re-read my 'classic literature' on a regular basis to see if it merits shelf space. This year I have set myself a new challenge; each month I plan to re-read a book from my youth which genuinely affected my thinking and actions. Anything read between about 1975 and 1995. I suspect that a high proportion of these will be books from Christian publishers on the subject of "The Life Of Faith" as it was often called back then. Maybe a few secular volumes will creep in. 
I have heard people say "This book changed my life!" For me, only one Book has ever truly done that. And that Book is one I refer to daily....but there are others which have challenged me, encouraged me, informed my thinking.
Hence ABTIK - A Book That I'm Keeping
Each month I plan to take down one of those "neglected former favourites" and see if it still speaks to me. These were books that mattered 20,30,even 40 years ago - do they still have a message, personally, or generally in today's "Post-truth Society"? 
All written in the days before iPods, iPads, iPhones etc - none of the widespread, instant sharing through Facebook, blogs, or Twitter. When most of what I read was on paper, not a screen.
I have no idea where this excursion will take me - but I hope I will relearn positive lessons I have forgotten, and reinstitute good habits long neglected, and be re-enthused with some of the better of my youthful passions  [no, that last phrase sounds far too pompous!!] Watch this space for a monthly book review. You may be reminded of a volume you once read and then forgot, or perhaps be introduced to a good one worth getting to know better. Wait and see...

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Eight Years Ago

Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church prayed this prayer back in January 2009 at Obama's Inauguration. I thought it was worth re-reading his wise and well-considered words this weekend. God bless America...

Almighty God, our Father, everything we see and everything we can't see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One." And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.
Now, today, we rejoice not only in America's peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequalled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.
Give to our new President, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.
Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.
Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of goodwill today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you. We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.
I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray:

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. 
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Good Snood

Bob's sister Denise gave me a ball of wool for Christmas.  The ball band said there was sufficient yarn in the one ball to complete a Snood.  Denise said she found that hard to believe. She thought that I would like the challenge. 
I  sat in front of the TV for a couple of hours and produced this... 
The instructions said cast on 60sts, and work in stocking stitch till almost the end of the yarn.  Cast off and sew the seam to join. Useful tip -  when working out how much yarn you need for casting off,  allow four times the width of the row.  This was 23 " so I left 8 feet of yarn. 
The project  used almost every scrap of yarn,  and I would describe it as a cowl rather than a snood [surely a Snood should be wide enough to make a hood?  This is more of a collar] I think the one on the picture on the band may have been arranged to look bigger than it is. 
But it is warm and cosy. Thank you Denise! 
Dimensions are 23 inches by 7 inches,  and it was knitted on 8mm needles [60 stitches]  in stocking stitch ,  then seamed into a loop. 

Friday, 20 January 2017


Our annual National Trust Membership will be up for renewal soon. When the girls were a lot younger, and we lived on the Kentish edge of London, we found it was a good use of resources.
There were so many beautiful places within a stone's throw of where we lived, and we could easily pop over to Chartwell for an afternoon, or wander round Knole, or Ightham Mote.

Then we moved to Leicester and there was nothing in that fine county. For 20 years we didn't go to NT properties.
But Dorset and the surrounding counties are full of them, as is Norfolk, where we spend 99% of our holidays.
So we were delighted when the lovely people at Kirby Muxloe gave us a year's membership as a leaving gift in early 2015.
We seemed to be getting good value from it - so this time last year we decided to renew membership for another year.
It costs us £105 a year - less than £2 a week - one cuppa per week in an average coffee shop. Has it been worth it? Well I did some calculations and in the past 12 months, had we been paying entry fees each time, we would have spent in excess of £150. So yes - we have saved a fair bit of money.
And I have loved the opportunity to walk often in the grounds of Kingston Lacy, less than 10 miles away or to make repeat visits to Oxburgh and marvel at the embroideries of Mary, Queen of Scots. And then there's the benefit of free parking at various spots along the North Norfolk coast.
Yes it is a luxury - but I think it is money well spent. 
It is not obligatory to have a fancy cream tea in the restaurants, or buy jars of chutney in the gift shop [delicious though these things are] Spreading out a picnic blanket and eating our own food in the sunshine is just as much fun, especially when we have other friends and family with us. If we continue as members for 5 years out of the next 10, we will then qualify for 'seniors discount' [it is not automatic for people in their 60s]

NT places are beautifully maintained, competently staffed - by paid employees and enthusiastic volunteers [thank you Peter and Jenny and all your colleagues]  I hope my subs help to preserve these parts of our heritage for future generations. Watch out Rosie, Gran is going to be taking you to all sorts of places!
And of course, it is transferable - next time I get to Belfast, I can use my card for Mount Steward Gardens, the Giant's Causeway...I may even risk the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge again. Watch out Mags!
Do you belong to the NT? 
What's your favourite place to visit? What's the thing you study most? 

  • The big old houses
  • The architecture? 
  • The artworks? 
  • The gardens?
  • The second hand bookshop?
  • The tea rooms and giftshops?
  • The outdoor locations - beaches, nature reserves, seal colonies...

In 2017 I'd like to see the primroses and bluebells at Kingston Lacy, and visit Brownsea Island
Thank you Octavia Hill - did you ever imagine your vision would grow into a movement like this?

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Folding Ballerinas

Eleanor tells me that Albanians are very particular about not wearing outdoor shoes inside the house.  Steph kindly got me a pair of lightweight slippers in her lunch hour,  to tuck into my suitcase next week.  Being the child of a thrifty mother,  she even managed to get them for £2 in the sales. 
I  don't know why,  but I was really really amused by the label.  It describes them as "folding ballerinas."  
I somehow imagine Darcey Bussell,  or the late Margot Fontaine neatly placed on a shelf, 

occupying the smallest possible space. 

I  have been skipping round the house in my new shoes,  but I am not very balletic. 

 More Bustling Daftly than Darcey Bussell!! 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Faleminderit, Andrew

These are Albanian men in their national costume. The picture below is Andrew, an English Baptist Minister in Beckenham, Kent. Our families have been friends for over 30 years. 
Our families have much in common [ministry, teaching, maths, bicycles...] About 20 years ago they generously let us have a week's holiday in their house whilst they were away. 
There are quite a few Albanian people living in Beckenham.  So about 10 years ago,  Andrew decided to spend a sabbatical in Albania,  learning their language.  He has grown to love this nation and goes back every year to visit the 10 Baptist churches there. He is fluent in Albanian. 
His wife Eleanor reads the blog,  and emailed to suggest I rang them last weekend. 
So now I can say "faleminderit" "ju lutem" "si jeni" "shume mire" and "Zoti ju bekofte"
That is thank you,  please,  how are you? Very good,  and God bless you. 
Also" nuk mund  te ha djathe ose gjize" which is I cannot eat cheese. 
That last phrase is quite important for me. 
Thank you Andrew and Eleanor,  for all the information you shared with me.  I  wish you could both come on the trip.  Zoti ju bekofte! 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Bowled Over

I think I may start a Pointless Gadget of the Month post. Bob and I both admit to a fondness for useful gadgets. But they must be useful and earn their keep. I was interested to read about the Full Stop Bowl which is supposed to help dieters. The idea is that it represents a normal human stomach.  So you fill it with food and that regulates the size of your meal.  You just eat enough to fill your stomach, and aim to take around 20 minutes over this. You are allowed 3 meals a day. No more. 

There is an explanatory website here.  I looked at the empty bowl 
The website says it is 24cm in diameter. I've estimated the volume to be around 950ml. A normal stomach-full is reckoned to be about 1litre. The review in the Guardian was not very complimentary  -  read it here
Personally, I don't see the point of spending the best part of twenty quid on a plastic dish with its own sphincter.
Our day-to-day crockery is IKEA Dinera. The cereal bowl holds 450ml, and the shallow large bowl holds twice that. 

We frequently have our meals in these bowls,  and I am happy with them and their capacity is usually appropriate for our needs.  I do not need to be reminded of my innards quite so graphically. Furthermore,  that large flat rim of the Full Stop Bowl is just crying out for a triangle or two of bread and butter,  or fingers of toast, or a small banana,  or pot of fromage frais...  Which rather defeats the object of the exercise. 
The bizarre shape would not accommodate certain foods very easily. A Cornish pasty, large pork chop, slice of pizza... 
I  am choosing the Full Stop Bowl as my January Pointless Gadget of the Month
What would you choose?