Wednesday, 26 December 2012


A couple of years ago I was given this Christmas Rose as a Thank You for knitting a pair of mittens for my friend's elderly aunt. It's done really well in this patch of garden, which doesn't get any sun during the winter because it's blocked by the house next door. Gillian took a small piece for her garden. This plant has expanded as much again from the original plant.
The buds have this strong pink on the outside which turn into a white flower with a greeny-yallery boss in the centre. I don't think there will be many insects about in this sharp weather; although we haven't, thankfully, had any floods there's been so much rain I can't shut the old shed door, it's very swollen. The rain has made the wood so soft the mouse/mice are finding it easy to munch their way through it!!

I'm pleased it's flowered at the right time, too.
The badger seems to have given up coming for supper at last so I've stopped donating peanuts to the mice...

Sunday, 23 December 2012


Every night, currently about 5pm when it's dark, I throw out two handsful of peanuts plus any cut off crusts from during the day for the badger. He/she is still arriving every night except that last night it didn't appear. The food, or most of it, was still on the patio this morning. I was having breakfast and saw a quick movement...and there was another garden inhabitant stuffing its tiny face...
 By the time I'd taken the camera from its case (even though it was beside me on the coffee table) it had long gone. I waited and it returned though it's so fast it's only there for a second. Never mind about the photo being in focus!

Going, going.....


It was still peeping out from beside the old shed on the patio but decided it was wiser to be prudent.
I've already had a large-ish hole blocked up but the soft rain-soaked wood enables mice to munch through the shed wall. I have a piece of old towelling hanging on a nail on the inside of the shed door which, I noticed, had large holes in it so there's a nest in the offing somewhere.

(Just a giggle to end on, though. When I was still teaching the headmistress always booked a theatre trip for the 5 and 6 year olds in January. One year we went to Wimbledon where there was a childrens' play covering the seasons, I believe,  and all I can remember about it is that one character wore red and white striped stockings so she looked like Pippi Longstocking. There was a scene where it 'snowed'. As the 'snow' fell several hundred children stood up to see where it was..).

Thursday, 20 December 2012


I was wondering what I could blog about so near to Christmas and thought about 'Christmas Day in the Workhouse' by George R. Sims and the alternative version, 'Christmas Day in the Cookhouse' by Billy Bennett. I decided the Workhouse poem was a little bit unhappy (and very long) to post about at this time of year so looked around the bookshelves and found this book, which covers the whole year.
 It was originally published in 1955 and my copy cost 30p so long ago I can't remember where or when I bought it. I must have picked it up because Rowland Hilder was the kind of artist who painted Kentish landscapes with buildings and these appeared on Christmas and Birthday cards for many years. They're very clear and representational, just up my street, although he painted in watercolours, which I don't.
The page for December, below, shows an unnamed house with various farm buildings on either side, a car outside the front door and a cart upended on the right hand side.  His wife painted the plants and greenery. There's an explanation of these below.
The description of December includes a little snippet of historical beliefs, too. 

If I don't get back again before Christmas - Happy Holiday!!

Saturday, 15 December 2012


Glenn Miller disappeared on this day in 1944 on his way to France to meet up with the Band which had gone ahead - but he never arrived. He was in only two B & W wartime films, one of which I recorded on video (Sun Valley Serenade)  and still play from time to time. The 'hero' was John Payne, who adopted a Norwegian child during the war but when she arrived she was a young woman, Sonia Henie. You'd have to be of a certain age to remember the name. She was a World Figure Skating Champion and Olympic medal winner - and film star. Also in the film were the dancers Nicholas Brothers with Dorothy Dandridge in a solo spot. Plenty of songs you'd remember from any Glenn Miller recordings. At the end of the film Sonia Henie dances on black ice which fascinated me when I saw it for the first time - there were no scratches on the ice. How was it done? Simple really, you don't have the top layer of water frozen, there's just a layer of water which doesn't leave any trace behind. Her routine probably looks a bit old-hat now but was wonderful at the time... try YouTube if you want to see snippets.

The only other film was Orchestra Wives about which I know almost nothing. I believe it was On Tour with the band, the 'hero' was George Montgomery. Can't remember the story at all!

The book above I saw at either a jumble sale or car boot and recognised the title. I took the picture from the cover, as you can see. The Glenn Miller Band played at Wycombe Abbey in High Wycombe and during the performance you can hear the sound of a doodle-bug arriving and exploding somewhere in the distance - the Band plays on.

Thursday, 13 December 2012



Here's my latest creation, made in about 5 1/2 weeks. It's not as difficult as it looks because you work on 31 stitches ar a time - one of the diamonds. I used DK wool and a No.8 circular needle, which meant that the weight of the knitting was on my lap. Not something you'd want to make in the summer months! It measures 4' x 4' and I'll use it as a throw on the back of the sofa. No sewing together but 400+ tails to sew in - sometime!!!

 I have no idea how to 'cancel' the large amount of white space below here as it won't highlight, so, sorry, another How Do You...

Saturday, 8 December 2012


When I was Secretary to the Local History Group, many moons ago, I wrote an article every month  compressing what the speaker had said and illustrating it with pictures from my books. No computer in those days, just a word processor. I always ended with a Did You Know? piece. This blog is about a nursery rhyme - as you know these are so often based on Real Life.

 Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.
The icy man in the photo above is Sir Ranulph Fiennes (you say 'Fines' for his surname) who has just announced he's taking an expedition to Antarctica to walk across the continent in the winter. And we worry about a few inches of snow...
And this is the Fine Lady of the nursery rhyme - or is she, as was suggested in a BBC programme, 'Heirs and Graces' in October 1990, really a Fiennes lady?
Celia Fiennes was born in 1662, just as Charles the Second was settling into his kingdom again after the Civil War and the beheading of his father. Celia's father had been an officer in Cromwell's army, so a Parliamentarian. She was not a sit-at-home gentry lady - she rode through all the counties of England accompanied by two servants (which must have caused a stir!). This last piece of information has come from a site - which details some of her journeys. I must read the chapter on Bucks!

The first line of the nursery rhyme has her riding a 'cock-horse', This was a horse which was used specifically for attaching to a coach or cart to provide extra power to drag the heavy transport to the top of a steep hill - there is one leading down into Banbury.
Here's Banbury Cross being used as a roundabout, naturally, since it's in the middle of the road!

Celia's home was Broughton Castle, a few miles from Banbury and, in the Civil War, was a Parliamentarian house, unlike Compton Wynyates a few miles along the road, which was a Royalist house. The photo is taken from a site advertising it as a film location - Shakespeare in Love being one such. I brought my mum here on one of our Sunday afternoon drive abouts (before 1978), long before it was used as a film location. It's still the Fiennes family home.
None of the photos are 'mine', they're all taken from Google Images.

Monday, 3 December 2012


I thought you might like to see some of the things that my descendants get up to, in age order!!
Daughter Teresa recently began making cakes for friends and her partner's colleagues at work.  The Golfer cake was made for a birthday - a two layer chocolate cake with buttercream and cherries in the middle. It was made for a lad's 17th birthday.
This cake was made for a football-mad two year old with a scarf in his team's colours laid across the pitch and the ball kicked into the long grass...

A three-layer chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream filling plus stencilled design on the top and sprinkles round the sides.

Cupcakes are always a favourite and Teresa must have made dozens in different designs. She's currently making 12 small, square Christmas Cakes - English style - to go into Christmas hampers. Never a dull moment, just a house filled with cake tins and associated accessories!

Her daughter, Diana (my eldest granddaughter) is making jams, marmalades and chutneys for family Christmas presents this year and although I repeatedly asked for photos, this one-and-only came from Teresa.
I blogged this before - it's the pattern on the 'Quilt' birthday cake which Diana made for my birthday in  September, so she's into cakes, too.
My youngest granddaughter, Sarah, graduated from Southampton University this summer. She studied costume design and fashion photography. The dress below was one she made for her end-of-college ball in 2007.
 Here's the back of it.
 She made this wedding dress after being asked by a friend - who complicated matters by losing weight all the time it was being made!
 She'd really like to do Action photography, like this surfboarding which she took at Newlyn in Cornwall, I'd guess. Not a lot of surfboarding in Britain though...
 One of Diana's daughters, Clarissa, (eldest but one gt.granddaughter) is at (I think) Wolverhampton Uni taking Forensic Science and decorating nails as a means of raising a few pennies along the way.
 I have others but these are the clearest photos to indicate what she does.

As Teresa said - interesting that it's all the women in the family...but so often women are the Makers!

James (grandson) starts at his dream job in January - working for F1 team, Force India. He's got a degree in Sports Car Engineering which has stood him in good stead in his present job but this move will be a step up the F1 ladder.

Stuart (son) has recently moved to a firm restoring Bugatti cars from the 1920s and 30s.

I just carry on knitting in the winter and patchwork and quilting in the summer!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


Do you have things which were used by older members of your family in days gone by which you still use on a regular basis? I got to thinking about this and found more than I thought.
The photo below, from about 1931, shows my Dad (twice!) using a bookrest which appears to have a paperback book on it. It would have been taken on the Kodak Box Brownie by my mum and somehow appears twice. I don't have the knowledge to be able to disappear the 'ghost' image, even if it can be done.
 I still use this bookrest quite frequently, especially if I'm knitting, though I have to place it at the correct distance or I can't read the print. The thick base is because there are two 'arms' folded underneath which, when extended can be put across your chair arms and there's even a circular hole cut for somewhere to put your glass of lemonade. Unfortunately modern chairs don't have the depth of seat to enable me to use this. I know I did during the war when I knitted as much as I could, with wool rationed as it was.
 My Mum bought herself all kinds of what she'd regarded as nice things to own before she got married. This long mirror hanging in my lounge is one of them.
And here's the original bill for £1.4s.0d... dated 1928.
 I can't remember my Granny ever wearing glasses - perhaps older people in the 1940s didn't; after all, she was in her 70s! She always used a magnifying glass which had a wooden handle, then for some reason it was decided by - my Mum? - that she could do with a new one. That's the one in this photo. Unfortunately she found it rather heavy so I don't know how much use she got out of it. However, it's been used by me for decades, not because my eyesight's always been grotty, but because I used to paint from photos which I'd taken and needed it to see details of eg reveals of windows or chimney pot details. It still has little splashes of oil paint on the glass. These days I use it for reading labels on cough mixture bottles and the like!
 My daughter has her eyes on this glass but she'll have to wait until I'm not around to use it! It's quite thick glass and the bottom part is decorated with vine leaves and grapes. It's quite odd as it's clearly not a glass for wine so why does it have this kind of decoration? I've always regarded it as an ?Edwardian pub glass, for no logical reason. But it's used all the time. I wonder if it was bought in a second-hand market somewhere?
 My Dad was in hospital in the 1960s (when no one spoke about cancer) and I think he had this key fob with him. I've used it off and on since the 1960s and it's in use at the present. It seems to be made from blobs of coloured acrylic and is quite pretty.
The poor old monocular below has been around as long as I can remember. The original leather covering has been worn away where fingers have rested until it's like a soft suede covering. There's no name so I can't find any information about it.  It lives on a chest of drawers in my bedroom where I can snatch it up if I want to check on what birds have just arrived in the garden before I go downstairs and transfer to the binoculars which live on the coffee table. When I was at Grammar School we were taken to whichever theatre in London was showing an Opera at the time, probably just postwar. The only thing I remember was ?Dance of the Tumblers' and this monocular was passed from hand to hand around the group...
I have all kinds of small bits and pieces still tucked away but not in regular use as these items are.
What do you have???

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


I was in Thame this afternoon and, because I can now park 'anywhere' with my Blue Badge, I stopped in front of this shop.
I had to go and look at this display in the window to see if his tum was gently moving and it was - so a real, alive and very happy moggy taking advantage of the sunshine.
I asked the young man in the cycle-type shop what the cat's name was - it's Frank.

It just tickled me that he's underneath an item for sale with THE BOSS on it and the orange sunburst notice says 'Limited Stock £29.99'.
He's not for Sale, I was told!!!

Sunday, 11 November 2012


How do you write a piece about Remembrance Day?
I have no connections with any of the Armed Forces yet I feel we should continue to remember those who went to war on our account, and died, whether it's WW1 or WW2 or any of the 'conflicts' which have appeared since 1945 - Suez, Aden, Palestine, Bosnia, Kosovo, Korea and latterly Iraq and Afghanistan, a senseless conflict which can't be 'won' by the West. There are many more places where British troops, and others, have died.

WW1 produced many poets and these poems are generally better known than WW2 poetry.  I think most people will know at least the opening lines of the first verse of In Flanders Fields by John McCrae.

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below.
WW2 also has some good poetry - John Gillespie Magee's poem High Flight which begins, 
 'Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;'
 has been quoted on different occasions. He trained in Canada and was posted to a fighter squadron in England; he died in a mid-air collision aged 19 in 1941.
Leo Marks wrote a code poem for Violette Szabo, an SOE agent who was dropped in France. She was captured and died in Ravensbruck but her poem is still remembered.
The life that I have is all that I have,
And the life that I have is yours.
The love that I have of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have,
Yet death will be but a pause,
For the peace of my years
in the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.
Leo Marks has written a book - Between Silk and Cyanide - about the SOE's Code War, a different war from that at Bletchley Park, which was military traffic. I found it quite by accident, probably at a car boot, just because I knew his name as the author of the code-poem.

In 1946 a British film, The Way to the Stars, was in cinemas. It starred Michael Redgrave and a young-ish John Mills  in the RAF, with Douglass Montgomery and Bonar Colleano as the US airmen who arrive at Halfpenny Field when America enters the war. Two poems by John Pudney are used in the film, supposedly written by Michael Redgrave's character. One, written in 1941, is For Johnny which is probably the better known of the two.
Do not despair
For Johnny-head-in-air;
He sleeps as sound

As Johnny underground.

Fetch out no shroud
For Johnny-in-the-cloud;
And keep your tears
For him in after years.
Better by far
For Johnny-the-bright-star.
To keep your head,
and see his children fed.
 The second poem,(1942) which I prefer, is simply called 'Missing'.
Less said the better.
The bill unpaid, the dead letter,
No roses at the end
Of Smith, my friend.
Last words don't matter
And there are none to flatter.
Words will not fill the post
Of Smith, the ghost.
For Smith, our brother,
Only son of loving mother,
The ocean lifted, stirred,
Leaving no word.
There was a fierce battle at Kohima and Imphal  (on the India/Burma border) against the Japanese in 1944 which turned the Burma Campaign in the favour of the Allies; on the war memorial there is a thought-provoking inscription:
When you go home,
Remember us and say,
For your tomorrow,
We gave our today.





Monday, 5 November 2012


It's been a bit of a pickly week, what with one thing or another.
On Monday I had to go to the dentist (about 48 mile round trip) to have a crown repacked round the base as I'd had a problem. Eating my first slice of the homemade blackberry jam I'd been given I heard a loud Crack! The dentist was away the next day (Friday) so I had to hang on until Monday, hoping I wouldn't swallow the crown if it fell off. He took an Xray and couldn't see any damage so repacked it on gum level and that was that. 
On Tuesday, about midday, I felt a bit lightheaded so, not wanting to fall over, that evening I called NHS Direct for some advice and they sent - an ambulance... Two paramedics brought in their bag if gubbins, stuck little sticky patches all over me (well, nearly) took details, did lots of BP readings and decided I needed a Responsible Adult to stay with me until I went to bed. They eventually managed to get hold of Stuart who turned up to watch TV until I went upstairs. Duty done all round.Then to the doctor in the morning. It's an ideal way to get an immediate appointment - 'The ambulance came to me last evening...' and I had a time for 20 mins ahead. Mad scamble to get dressed and out!
Friday was a doctor's appointment - yet another doctor I didn't recognise - but that went OK. I asked for the results of the chloresterol blood test I'd had some weeks previously and it's gone up slightly so I've reverted to statins after giving a four month trial to Plant Sterols instead.

On Friday my granddaughter, Diana, and her daughter, Danielle, who is 22 in March, came to choose a blanket as Dan is now living in a cold, heatless house while it's being remade.It belongs to her partner and the tenant who moved out left a mess to be cleared up.  This is the blanket she chose.
The house has a neglected garden covered in blackberry bushes and will probably need a goat to clear a way through them. Well, that's what various websites say.
In the evenings I had been knitting a What Can I Do Now blanket for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home which I finished and posted together with a mouse toy - patterns provided.

Such a boring pattern - 8" squares of the same colour...which made a blanket supposedly about 39" square. Must be a bloomin' great cat! The mouse was a bit fiddly but it's a bit like putting in a bar of chocolate with a Christmas present for a child, just an extra. I doubt I'll do another. I made this because I've given up stitching for the winter as I find the light isn't good enough, even with a standard lamp and a Proper 150 watt bulb on one side and a craft lamp on the other.. No daft Euro- demanded bulbs for me until I'm forced to use them. I have a stash of the good old ones upstairs...
Then, while I was having a quick look at US blog sites to find knitted blanket ideas I found this.
I think it's more an ongoing project rather than 'sit and knit until it's finished'. But it is possible to knit-and-read at the same time once you get into the swing of it.
It's made in one piece so heaven knows how heavy it will be on my lap later on. Or how hard on arthritic hands, either!This piece is 4' wide. Takes about 20-30 mins to knit each 'square'.

You can see in this closeup that there's no sewing together involved as each 'next square' is from picked up stitches. I like the way the double-decreasing centre row makes this tidy line up the centre of the knitting.

Here's the reverse...

and here's a photo showing that there will be 'hundreds' of tails to sew in at the end - if I ever get there!! I don't think I'll be able to take this to appointments at the surgery or hospital to pass the time!
Kath found another pattern which I sent for but it's done on three needles and makes a 'puff' which you fill with your chosen stuffing as you go along. I took one look and decided to put it on one side. The photos seem to show double-ended needles arranged as they are when you graft two sets of stitches together. Perhaps some other time.
Both of these patterns are made with Sock Wool, which I'd never heard of until a while ago when I decided I'd make some knitted socks to pamper my cold old feet. I looked in a local wool shop and found the price for a 150 gm ball of sock wool is anything from £10-£13 so forgot that idea. Until eBay... I now have a ball of lovely multi-coloured wool sitting on the table and a downloaded US pattern of socks made on TWO needles, not the usual set of four which Americans seem to favour. Shades of my Mum knitting during the war - not for me!
The garden's a mess with the empty pond filling up again. Gillian's on holiday and the heavy-work gardener has taken himself off to what sounds like a commune in Spain for a month or two, so it'll just have to look after itself. The wildlife will be able to enjoy it.
My boiler has been playing up for months and I finally decided to get something done about it. The plumber (registered) lives across the road so has been coming and going when he hasn't been working in the evenings and I hope has finally cracked it, being a persevering sort of bod. It seems that wireless timers/room thermostats (or whatever) are influenced by eg baby alarms if they're on the same frequency so by taking out the same pin on the room stat and the thingy in the airing cupboard it has (cross fingers) cured it!!! Now I have heat all the time and not hit-and-miss as it has been for months...! That's tempting fate!
At least the sun is shining, must put out some washing before it disappears...

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Today is the 217th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar where Admiral Lord Nelson was killed. Wouldn't it be nice if, after all this time, we could have a National Trafalgar Day? Highly unlikely in the present climate, we might upset the French!! We already have a Waterloo Station, after all... Photo from Wikipedia site.

And on Tuesday, 23rd October, it's the anniversary of the beginning of the Second Battle of El Alamein when the British and her Allies finally gained a victory in North Africa, beating Rommel's Afrika Corps.
In less than two years Rommel would be dead, forced to commit suicide after being implicated in the July 1944 plot against Hitler. Montgomery's plan in September 1944 was to drive forward and take Arnhem, reinforcing the Airborne troops dropped near the town. Unfortunately things went wrong and it was a disaster...Photo from site Watch Documentary.


Sunday, 14 October 2012


There are all kinds of things I need to catch up - but will I?
Yesterday I went with a friend, Brenda, to a Homemade in Haddenham craft fair where we had two stalls; I had my blankets, quilts and Tiny Teds for sale and Brenda was selling for Art Group Members and for Age Concern, too. You can just see the legs of her table on the right hand side.
The hall has horrid bright yellow walls, ugh! But Brenda had asked for us to be against a wall so that we could use the little tacks in the rail running across this end of the hall to hang pictures from - or from which to hang pictures...I hadn't remembered that the sheet to cover the plastic table didn't reach the floor - just look at all the tat! And my coat hanging on the back of the chair. Dear me! However, I wore my coat all day after this first rush to get everything ready because the Exit door was open and it was quite chilly despite the numbers of people who came through during the day. Brenda sold very well - her items are always competitively priced - and

I sold all my knitted 6" Tiny Teds, a couple of Mug Mats and the Long-Hexie quilt hanging on a dowel against the wall. These Teds are some I made in 2010 so not ones which I took for sale yesterday.  It's very tiring! Still, we both had a successful day.
Here's one satisfied customer- his Dad gave permission for me to take this photo.

My angiogram went OK, though I do need another stent at some time but at present I'm on yet more medication. I'll be rattling soon with all the bits and pieces I take! Parking isn't so bad now I have my Blue Badge except that non blue Badge people do park in the spaces, too, I've discovered.

An early morning visitor on a misty, moisty morning last week. A couple of jays have been coming to take nuts from the peanut feeder about breakfast time. The bird will swallow 8 or more nuts then fly away. I don't know if it's regurgitating them somewhere. I wonder of anyone knows? It always flies in the same direction, for what that's worth.
I met this young man at an Exhibition which the Local History Group put on in the Village Hall last Saturday. I first met Eddie some months ago after he'd put a letter in the local paper grumbling about various aspects of Stone's Past Life which he felt were lacking mention so I got in touch with him through the Editor. Since then we've been swapping photos and memories though mine don't go as far back as Eddie's since he's Stone born and bred. His Dad looked after the sandpits which were once at the bottom of the gardens in my lane, now filled in, naturally. The frst time I met him he said he hadn't got anything to talk about regarding his childhood during the war then a few weeks later emailed 14 pages of just that. I think he's begun Part 2 after coming for a cuppa last week. He's not able to drive at the moment so his 'chauffeur' - his son - brought him along.

I've begun to get rid of the pond. Stuart came last week after work when the light was beginning to go to catch the goldfish, decant them into fish removal bags and take them to his pond at the stables where I HOPE they'll be safe, though once things are out of your control - that's it! After a couple of tries there's one left... I can't catch it, it's too canny to be caught by me.
The pond has about 1 1/2" of water in it and goodness knows how many inches of silt...the plants have all gone so I hope the heron doesn't get him as all the fencing has gone as well.
This is all that remains of the pond. It has about 1' or more less water in it,(below) the 'shallow end' where the blackbirds used to bathe is empty except for a puddle of water and an upturned water plant basket.

The tangle of roots belongs to a lump of yellow pond irises pulled out in one go - now to shift them off the grass. Gillian won't be coming for many more weeks now the weather is changing... I'll probably have to use my little axe to chop it into pieces. Just waiting for Harry, my 'heavy-duty gardener' to pop in so that I can ask his advice on what to do about the pond - as in where do I get soil to fill it in with, what to do about a piece of garden where plants aren't too happy (grass it? If so, when, seed or turves and what about the badger scratching it to pieces and making a piece of path wider for safety when I'm walking down it...not a lot then!