Do another jigsaw

This one was a bit of a challenge – it took several weeks.



There were some days when I seemed to take out as many pieces as I put in.

So?  Keep going until it is done!

An evening considering the environment

Our church put on an evening talk and discussion – “One Small Step” – considering what we could do to protect the environment.

Flyer for the event

Flyer for the event

There was coffee and tea and biscuits on arrival, if one wanted them; chairs were set out and on each chair there was a card from Tear Fund and an envelope labelled “Feed the Birds” and two luggage labels – one large and one smaller.

The envelope and the smaller label

The envelope and the smaller label

A woman from Tear Fund – Sarah Wiggins – gave a talk, sort of setting out the Biblical reasons why we should try to protect/conserve the environment and giving some suggestions as to what we might do ourselves.  It was OK but she was not especially inspiring or passionate, nor did she make any suggestions that were different, which was a little disappointing.

Card from Tear Fund

Card from Tear Fund

The other side of the card had suggestions for ways to reduce our use of fossil fuels.  We were then asked to get into small groups and come up with some things that we might do ourselves and write our “pledges” on the large luggage label to hang on a “tree” and write them on the small label to take home as a reminder.



The card from Tear Fund also had a tear off part to send to the World Bank asking them to spend money for off grid renewable energy supplies in developing countries, which are more appropriate for small communities, not build fossil fuel power stations.  We could fill that in too.

The feed back from the discussion tended to focus on moving to a vegetarian or vegan diet as that was something that some people there were passionate about.

We then had some time to look at the displays – pictures in the Foyer (where the talk was held) and stalls in the church.  The pictures were quite interesting (to me) as many of them were of the Marsabit area of Kenya, which I have visited and where my friend Rob was Bishop.  The area is very dry normally but there was a failure of the rains for several years and this was shown as an example of climate change.  In the church there were more suggestions for caring for the environment, an RSPB stall (hence “Feed the Birds”) and a stall giving out these cards about considering changing one’s electricity supplier to one that only uses renewables.

One of the cards

One of the cards

I think there were a few others too, but I didn’t look that closely as I had spent too long looking at the pictures of Marsabit.   One might have been about the idea of reducing/eliminating our use of palm oil, as rain forests are being cut down to plant palm plantations, which have much less biodiversity.

After a while we all returned to the foyer, so that we could mark “Earth Hour” – when at 8.30 local time on the 30th March people turn off their lights as some sort of pledge to help protect the environment.  We did just that:  turned off the lights and looked out at all the other light outside.

Having done that we all went home!

So was it a good/worthwhile evening?   Probably not.  There wasn’t much to inspire or encourage or anything most people didn’t know.  To be honest, I am not sure who it was aimed at:  anyone who came probably was interested enough to know what was said and had probably done all they could/intended to.  Those who were not interested or didn’t know weren’t there.

Put together (more) IKEA furniture

Not my furniture!  As I managed to put together a cabinet for a friend last year (or was it the year before?) she bought a chest of drawers using a voucher she had been given, I think, and sort of assumed I would be able to put that together too.  It was about a month before we found a time when it was possible for both of us and also for the other friend I needed to help and hold things etc.  The trouble was, when the day arrived I was unwell.  So I said I could start the following Tuesday afternoon, which I did, and also on the Wednesday afternoon.  Having spent about 5 hours we managed to get the frame done…….

The frame

The frame

…….and one of the top drawers.  Mind you, it took half an hour to open the boxes it came in, never mind sorting out the 4 instruction books (one was a repeat) and which bits and which screws etc were for where.

One completed top drawer with instruction books and spare bits

One completed top drawer with instruction books and spare bits and parts still to use

I went in on the Saturday afternoon and got it completed – about another 3 hours, so about 8 hours total.

Completed chest of drawers

Completed chest of drawers

Having finished that, I went straight across the road and we made up the IKEA bookcase for the other friend who had been helping – it had only arrived that morning.  This was a “Billy bookcase” with only 8 parts, in one box and with one set of instructions – and it took less than 45 minutes!

Completed bookcase

Completed bookcase

So?  I am refusing to make up any more IKEA furniture!

New Recipes

At the start of this year I had got very bored with the meals that I was cooking – it is so easy to get into a rut and do the same things all the time.  I therefore set myself a challenge of cooking a new dish every month in the hope that some of them could be added to my repertoire.

In January I tried Spaghetti Carbonara.  I looked at several recipes, from a cookery book and the internet and sort of put them together.  This worked OK and I have made it quite a few times since – but it works better if I check the quantities and get them right!

February was Coronation Chicken, which I made to share with others on jacket potatoes.  I think I chose one of a number of recipes on the internet – probably the one that looked easiest.  It worked well and others thought it was good.  I did make a single portion for myself on another day but that didn’t come out as well.  It is not something I have taken to making regularly as I often have Coronation Chicken at the cafe where I work.

Chilli con carne was my choice for March.  I looked at a number of recipes and sort of put them together, choosing ingredients that were readily to hand.  I made a batch and froze a number of portions and as it was something  I enjoyed, either with rice or a jacket potato, it has been added to the things I make regularly.

In April I had run out of ideas for a main meal, so I made some small chocolatey biscuits, probably from my Mary Berry book.  They were OK, but not very special and I haven’t bothered with them again although I might if I have to knock up some biscuits in a hurry.

May had the same problem – no ideas of what to make.  Again I used the Mary Berry book and made a chocolatey tray bake.  This was again not something I am likely to do often; it mas acceptable but nothing special.

In June/July I did 2 recipes on consecutive days, using similar ingredients.  The first was a corned beef cottage pie, using sweet potato and it really wasn’t very nice!  I had used a mixture of cookery books and the internet and got the general idea and quantities, but I haven’t done it again.  On the following day I made a corned beef hash again with sweet potato.  The recipe was a mixture of what I had found on the internet and was really nice!  Odd how the same things combined in a different way can taste so different.  The hash has been added to my “regulars” list.

I was doing an on-line course in August – “Strategies for Successful Ageing” – and someone doing that course had suggested banana pancakes, which are only made from banana and eggs (and possibly baking powder).  I looked up the recipe and tried them and they were quite nice, tasting rather like banana bread.  They are the small scotch type pancakes and because I found them quite filling I have not made them again.  I quite enjoyed trying them, though.

September was Moroccan Lamb, with a recipe taken straight from the internet.  I invited a friend to try the experiment with me and served it with couscous and, I think, a green vegetable.  This was again a success and I will make a batch of it again and freeze portions.

I was given a butternut squash in October, by my neighbour who has an allotment – and a glut, I think!  I used the internet to put together a successful recipe for butternut squash soup.  That is something I can try again – if I am given another butternut squash.

November might be considered cheating (but I make the rules and say it isn’t) as I adapted recipes and used them in a different way.  As I did two, it makes up for not being totally new.  The first was chicken in white sauce with rice and peas.  My brother says that is “chicken a la king”, but that should have peppers and possibly mushrooms and I didn’t have either.  Maybe I will add those next time.  The other dish was “Moroccan lentils” which was Moroccan lamb but made with green lentils instead of lamb.  It tasted OK but I had rather overcooked the lentils, so will take more care next time.

In December I searched through my “More-with-less cookbook” and went for a lentil curry – again made with green lentils.  This was fine, but I need to adjust the quantities if I am cooking it for one as it came out with a bit too much stock cube so was rather salty – even though I use the “reduced salt” cubes.

I have therefore managed to make something new each month and have added:  spaghetti carbonara, chilli con carne, corned beef hash, Moroccan lamb, chicken a la king, Moroccan lentils and lentil curry to my repertoire.

So will I continue and was this a success?  I won’t continue every month, but I will try to make sure I do some new recipes – if I can think of easy things that sound interesting.  Yes, it was a success in that I have 6 new meals to make regularly and have tried others too – “Strategies for Successful Ageing” suggested that trying new things was a good idea!

Try some forensics!

One of my recent courses (Future Learn) was “An introduction to forensic science”.  This was quite interesting and there were some things that were totally new to me about DNA and what is stored on the police databases.  Not sure I totally understood it and fairly sure that I won’t remember it in detail, but interesting, never-the-less.

One of the weeks was about fingerprints and they told us a way to take your own.  You rub the side of a pencil on paper, roll your finger across the pencil mark, roll your finger across sellotape and stick the sellotape to paper to examine the marks.  I did try, but all I got was a smudge!  Mind you, looking at my fingers the ridges are not very pronounced. Someone commented that ones prints do get less clear with age – so now is the time to do the crime!  (So long as you don’t leave any DNA around.)

The other thing to try was foot-marks or shoe marks – not footprints which come from bare feet.  To do this you take your shoes (old ones for preference) and paint olive oil on the bottom with a paint brush and then press the shoe onto paper.  I used vegetable oil (cheaper) and the first attempt was not too successful.

First attempt at shoe marks

First attempt at shoe marks

As you can see this was very smudgy and didn’t show much!  I wiped the oil off and tried again but put much less oil on the shoes.

Second attempt

Second attempt

These were much more of a success.  The “class marks” – those that are standard for all shoes of the same type – were fairly clear.  The outer ones are one pair and the inner one was one of a different pair.  The individual marks just come out as a smudge, even the cut was not obvious, but it is clear that there are wear marks, which might or might not be fairly individual.  NB  Wear new shoes when committing your crime!

It was interesting to learn about some of the techniques used in forensic science, including those I have mentioned and tool marks and ballistics, including “threading” to see where blood splash marks came from so learning where the person was when the bullet (or knife?) hit the person.  The initial scene of crime officer would need to be really good at observation and remembering what was there.  Anything not noticed initially is lost.

So?  Quite amusing to try the techniques, but I am not sure I had better commit that crime or expect to solve one either!

Lichfield Reunion

This year our reunion was held in Lichfield and we stayed at The George Hotel – an old coaching inn.

The George, Lichfield

The George, Lichfield

After we arrived we mostly converged on the bar area for pots of tea or drinks.  Dinner was then a walk away at the 1709 the Brasserie, where we had 3 tables to ourselves in an upstairs seating area.

After breakfast on the Saturday we had a guided tour of Lichfield, starting by admiring the outside of the 2 other coaching inns on the same street as The George –

The Kings Head

The Kings Head


The Swan

The Swan

The two most famous people associated with the city are Samuel Johnson of dictionary fame, who was born there and Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, who lived there.

Our guide, standing in front of a statue of Erasmus Darwin

Our guide, standing in front of a statue of Erasmus Darwin

We were led on to…..

.....Lichfield Cathedral...

…..Lichfield Cathedral…

……famous because Roy was confirmed there!!   There was a folk festival in the city that weekend and a procession from the cathedral associated with that.

One of the groups of clog dancers

One of the groups of clog dancers

One troupe of Morris men

One troupe of Morris men

We watched the first part of the procession…….

Watching the procession

Watching the procession

…..before moving on to look at other places of note in the Close including….

.....going through the passage....

…..going through the passage…. look at The Vicars Close.

… look at The Vicars Close.

Listening to the guide

Listening to the guide

We met the Town Crier on the way back and he gave us a special “cry” as he knew our guide!

Town Crier

Town Crier

After the tour we split up into smaller groups as 18 is too many to go into any cafe.  We did keep meeting though, mostly round or inside the cathedral.  We all found our way back to the hotel and met up before dinner in the bar.

Meeting before dinner

Meeting before dinner

Pre-dinner drinks

Pre-dinner drinks

We had our own separate room for dinner.

At the dinner table

At the dinner table

Dinner table

Dinner table

At dinner

At dinner

They cleared around us and left us chatting after the meal.

After breakfast the next morning we went on our way.

Many thanks to Janet for making all the arrangements.

Go to a concert

Having seen him before, when he performed with his sons, I was keen to see Jonathan Veira again.  He used to be an opera singer but does various things now.  When I heard he was coming again I bought a ticket.



I guess it isn’t the traditional “concert” but lots of songs and stories – including why his arm was in a sling!  He sang some of my favourites – “What a wonderful world”, “Amazing Grace” – which was a bonus – but it is really the stories and laughter that I go for.  Also things like starting the old adverts – “A million housewives every day…..” or “The hands that do dishes…..” and seeing us finish them!  Amazing what one can remember.

So was it a good evening?  Yes – great fun and a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Go to a “felting” workshop

The church community worker had arranged a “felting workshop” on two consecutive Thursday afternoons during the summer when most church activities seem to stop.  I decided to go, because there were spaces and because the most recent on-line course I had done – “Strategies for successful ageing” – seemed to think that it was good to do something creative!  I took my camera to take photos of each stage as I did them – and the forgot to do so and had to take photos of other people on the workshop instead.

The first day we had an introduction and were shown what to do.  We were making angels and we were also shown one that the community worker “had made earlier”.  This took quite a long time.

Angels from week 1

Angels from week 1

We then chose our pre-felted piece of material and cut out the angel shape using a pattern provided.  We set out our places by putting down a towel and on top of that a bamboo type mat and on top of that a piece of  cotton material and on top of that our cut out angel shape.  It was then our job to decorate our angel using wool and scraps of pre-felted material of different colours.  This was the “creative ” bit, so I did it fairly randomly and with a limited range of colours and worked on the idea that it is better to do less than more!

Creating an angel

Creating  angels

Partly created....

Partly created….

When the creative bit was done we covered the angel with a net…..

Putting on the gauze covering

The net covering

……..and then made it very wet with quite hot water containing a little washing up liquid and rubbed it all over with soap and then rubbed the soap hard so the felt pieces would stick together.

Rubbing in the soap using bubble wrap

Rubbing in the soap using bubble wrap

When it was estimated that this had been done for long enough, the net was carefully removed.  If felt came away, it was back to rubbing with soap and water!  When the net came off, it was replaced with a piece of cotton and the materials were wrapped up loosely in the bamboo mat.

Wrapped up loosely

Wrapped up loosely

This was then rolled backwards and forwards for about a minute.  It was unrolled and the material was turned through 90° and the rolling repeated.  This was done again until the material had been turned through 360°.

Rolling the mat

Rolling the mat

After the rolling, the angel was removed and rinsed in water (containing something else?  a bit of vinegar, maybe?)…..

Rinsing the angel

Rinsing the angel

……and then they were dried by patting the with another towel…..

On the towel ready to dry

On the towel ready to dry

……and left to dry on racks.

Week 2 angels drying on racks

Week 2 angels drying on racks

On the second week there was time to embellish the angels we had made in week one, so I sewed on some feathers I had brought from home and a bead.

My embellished angel from week 1

My embellished angel from week 1

My week 2 angel looked as if it had a black face and yellow hair, so I collected it a few days later and sewed on black hair and adjusted the yellow to make it obvious that it was a halo!

Week 2 angel before embellishment

Week 2 angel before embellishment

Naturally I forgot to take a photo of it with the new hair and halo!

So did I enjoy the workshops?  They were quite fun and something different, but I can’t say that my efforts were very good or creative.  They are apparently going to be displayed at an “angel festival” at the United Reformed Church later this year and then displayed on the Christmas tree Safe Haven are going to prepare for the Christmas Tree Festival at St Thomas Church in December.

Help start a book group

A friend decided she wanted to start a book group so that she would read a greater variety of books.  As she is dyslexic and sometimes has problems concentrating on reading, I was not sure how this would work out, but said I would support her and come along.  The other friends who said yes are one who reads a lot and one who is dyslexic and has hardly read at all (except for books needed on courses).  Fortunately, another friend has joined and she is also a great reader.

We started with the BBC’s Big Read list of the 100 most popular books (from 2003!).  We went through and marked those we thought possible and eventually decided to start with Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca”.  Amazingly, everyone managed to finish it in the month we had decided on.  I borrowed a copy from the library, having read it before but not remembering much about it.

When we came to discuss it, most people thought it was OK – but I didn’t like it much.  We considered why the “me/I” was so wet and pathetic (!) and the fact that it was well written so we could (mostly) believe in the characters.

The second book chosen was “Catcher in the Rye” – again I have read it, but years ago when doing teacher training as it was supposed to give us an insight into the mind of teenage boys, I think.  It was still on my bookshelf.  It was interesting to see the different copies that we brought along.

Old copy of "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger.  Bought about 1973!

Old copy of “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. Bought about 1973!

We all hated it!  One person said she only managed to finish it by pretending it was a “case study” from psychology.  The person who instigated the group didn’t finish it – but she had read it before.  We decided it was well written because we all found Holden Caulfield a realistically irritating and depressing teenager and we considered why he was so irritating, whether he had any reason to be so (apart from being a teenager) and how he was like and how different from teenagers today.  It was written in 1951…..

Having all been depressed by it, we decided we needed something rather lighter for next time, and opted for “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.  Again, I had read it before and it was on my bookshelf.

My copy of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy",  bought in about 1980.

My copy of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, bought in about 1980.

Again the variety of different copies was interesting to see.  Most of us enjoyed it and were in the range of thinking it from laugh-out-loud funny to mildly amusing.  One person thought it made no sense and gave up after about chapter 6!  We exchanged thoughts on what we found amusing – but all liked Marvin, the paranoid android.

For next time we are going to read “H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald and it has been agreed that we read as much as we can in the time, as it is quite long for the slower readers.

So, is a book group a good idea?  I am not sure yet!  It does slightly restrict what I read and can therefore be a little frustrating but on the whole I read enough and fast enough to be able to read other things as well.

“Walking and Sightseeing” on the Isle of Wight – Part 2

Day 4, Wednesday, was a day off so I had a slow start and then followed a walk I had picked up at the “Discovery Point” in the hotel.  It was an easy one and about three and a half miles.  From the hotel it went along the road for a short way and then took a path that went along the side of Tennyson Down and round to the back and the……

......mock beacon.

……mock beacon.

This is a scaled down version of the signal/warning beacon that used to stand where the Tennyson Monument now stands.  From the beacon I walked up towards…….

......Tennyson Monument......

……Tennyson Monument……

getting views……..

......across the Solent to the mainland.

……across the Solent to the mainland.

There were quite a few wildflowers on the downs including……

.....Early Gentian.

…..Early Gentian.

It was then a gentle walk down towards…….

.......Freshwater Bay .......

…….Freshwater Bay…….

……and the hotel.   I made a slight detour to the back of the hotel to look at……

......the fortifications which had been built.

……the fortifications which had been built.

Part of them have been turned into……

.....a private dwelling.

…..a private dwelling.

From there, I went to have my lunch on the sea front.  It was bit windy so after that I went back to the hotel and wrote postcards in a sheltered corner by the swimming pool and then wandered into the village to post them and have a look round.  It was then back to the hotel for a cup of tea and then get ready for dinner.

Day 5, Thursday, was Godshill, Appuldurcombe House and Ventnor Botanic Gardens.  The coach left us at……



……which was a pretty village, now spoilt with far too many tourist shops.  We had a look at the church and then started our walk to Appuldurcombe House which we approached by…….

......the main gate.....

……the main gate…..

……and had lunch outside…..

.....the house.....

…..the house…..

……looking over the park and the fountain.  The house was apparently one of the largest and grandest on the island and was supposed to have 365 windows, 52 rooms and 7 staircases – not sure I believe that – the windows anyway.  From the picture above it looks very good but it is in fact….

.....a ruin....

…..a ruin….

…..with a restored roof and glass in the widows only of the rooms overlooking the fountain.  These are not decorated or furnished but do have interpretation boards – including describing the scandal associated with the owners of the house at one stage!

After lunch we continued our walk, including up a long and fairly steep hill.  We then made our way to Ventnor and the…….

.....Botanic Gardens.

…..Botanic Gardens.

I liked the tropical house best, all hot and steamy with…..

......banana trees....

……banana trees….

......and bird-of-paradise flowers.

……and bird-of-paradise flowers.

All the walks finished at the Botanic Gardens that day so the coach picked us all up from there.

Day 6, Friday, was supposed to be Alum Bay and The Needles, but I have been there before and was not impressed so I went to Amazon World instead.  This involved getting the bus from Freshwater Bay to Newport and then another bus from Newport to Amazon World.  When I went in I was in a tropical area so hot and humid.  There was bird song and when I stopped I could see small birds flying around.  This was one of……

......the larger birds.

……the larger birds.

There was a pond with fish in and a plank over it with what looked like a line of model turtles – and then….. of then moved!

… of then moved!

In an enclosed cage there were caiman – I think – crocodile like animals.  Glad they were well enclosed!  After enjoying the birds I moved on to the following rooms which I think had much larger birds, possibly monkeys and in one room, in tanks, snakes and other reptiles.  Some of them were very well camouflaged and hard to see.  Then it was outside, where there were various enclosures.  One had rhea and…..

.....a capybara......

…..a capybara……

……another had wallabies, including an…..

......albino one......

……albino one……

…….and one could buy food to feed to them.  Some people had done so but the wallabies weren’t interested so I didn’t bother.  There were also…….



…….which sme people had paid extra to go into the enclosure and feed.   Round the corner were….

......lemurs all in a family bundle.......

……lemurs all in a family bundle…….

……and a notice on their enclosure said if we wanted to go into the enclosure and there was no-one there to find a keeper – so I did.  I had to wait, but was talking to another young man there who said he was a keeper at London Zoo and in charge of lemurs, spider monkeys and something else I can’t remember.  The keeper arrived and let us in – we had to leave bags in the outer enclosure as they had food in and the lemurs would have found it.  When we got in some of…….

.....the lemurs immediately went to the keeper.....

…..the lemurs immediately went to the keeper…..

……and soon after one went to the London keeper (he says his don’t do that!) and then one…….

......came to see me!

……came to see me!

It is looking out of the bars because……

......the parrots.....

……the parrots…..

…… door started making a lot of noise – they were jealous of the fuss the lemurs were getting, maybe?

We were told there were a male, a female and 5 daughter lemurs.  The sons have been sent to other places.  One of the daughters was born in May last year and the keeper thinks…..

......mum might be pregnant again and produce another baby this May.

……mum might be pregnant again……

……and produce another baby this May.   After leaving the lemurs, it was time to go and get the bus back to ensure that I got the connection to Freshwater Bay – which I did.

That was the final day, so on the Saturday it was minibus, then ferry, then 3 trains to get home.

So was it a good holiday?   YES!  One of the best I can remember.  The good weather helped (notice the blue skies in the photos), but also the walks were fairly short, so I didn’t get too tired and were combined with some sightseeing.  The group of people on the holiday were also (mostly) very pleasant and were not too noisy so we had some quite walks and could hear the birds and sometimes just the silence, which was wonderful.  The trouble is that one can’t go again as it couldn’t be as good!