Prepare things for “Samara’s Appeal”

Samara’s appeal has been running for several years now and some people from our church are registered collectors and have been taking clothing, blankets etc to Brighton to send to Iraq and Syria.  Last year or the year before, I spent a long time sewing up squares that (mostly) other people had knitted, to make blankets.  There were so many I had to give some to others to do and said I would never do it again!  I have also previously used Nectar points and Boots points to get some of the things on the list.

This time I started knitting after Christmas with some wool a friend had given me and made squares (in autumn colours) and then bought a couple of extra and used some half balls of wool to make a blanket.

Blanket - mostly autumn colours

Blanket – mostly autumn colours

By the time that was finished and sewn up I was bored with squares and knitted a jumper from a pattern I have had for years.  The neck was a pain, so I bought a pattern with an easier neckband and managed to complete another jumper before the deadline for collection.

Blanket and jumpers

Blanket and jumpers

Meanwhile, I was also collecting things to complete a “Dignity bag* which was described on the website.  I ordered the bags and the shampoo bars from the sites suggested and printed off the sheet which explained in English and (I assume) Arabic what the shampoo bar was and how to use it.

Contents of the dignity bag with shampoo bar at front right

Contents of the dignity bag with shampoo bar on the right

The other items were obtained locally and mostly with Boots and Nectar points again.

Contents of Dignity bag

Contents of Dignity bag

I also printed and completed a “tick list” of the contents – again in both English and Arabic – to include for checking and to explain what was there.  Everything was put in the bag.

Complete bag

Complete bag

Then it was just a matter of handing the knitting and the bag in at the right times and right places.  Since the knitting went to a friend, I also got a cup of tea and a view of her garden when I took it!

Is this something worthwhile to do?  I hope so and the knitting keeps me busy – providing something to do when listening to the radio.


Visit the Hawk Conservancy

A friend, T, had a birthday in January, but I didn’t know what to give her.  From some discussion we had I thought she would like a day’s experience as a falconer, at the Hawk Conservancy but that was too expensive, so instead I gave her a voucher – looking something like this:

This voucher entitles


to a day out at

The Hawk Conservancy

with entrance fee payed

Her name was filled in at the top.  I then had to redeem it!  We decided we had to have a decent day and when they were running the summer programme but before there were hoards of children there, so we decided on the day after the May day bank holiday.

We took another friend, D, who needed a day out but she was a little slow getting ready to go (fell asleep again!) so with that and having to go back for the forgotten cigarettes (!) we arrived a bit later than we hoped.  After getting our tickets the first priority was coffee so by the time that was finished we had missed the beginning of the Wings of Africa flying display, so had to wait at a distance until the fish eagle had finished collecting his fish.  We were then let into the seats.

The highlights of the display included:

Tolkien, an eagle owl

Tolkien, an eagle owl

Dr Know, a secretary bird

Dr Know, a secretary bird………

……..who demonstrated “killing” a (rubber) snake by stamping on it and again when it was a “cobra” and rearing up.

"Killing" a snake

“Killing” a snake

There were then vultures (now much endangered) showing their flight.

A hooded vulture (I think)

A hooded vulture (I think)

And for the finale they had yellow billed kites (or were they vultures?) flying over smoke where they usually catch insects (too fast to photograph) and then water and then sacred ibis and storks and (right at the back, on the rocks) were meerkats.

Stork, sacred ibis (and meerkat?)

Stork, sacred ibis (and meerkat?)

After the end of the display it was time to go and “Meet an owl”.  This was Troy, a tawny owl, who had been picked up and looked after before being passed on to the conservancy, so had been “imprinted” and thinks he is a human (or that humans are his parents?).  He can’t be released as can’t fend for himself and is forever like a teenager.  We were later told he had no head for heights and had to be trained to go into trees by one of the keepers climbing trees to encourage him!  My friend, T, decided he was her favourite of the day!

T with Troy

T with Troy

As most people then went to the restaurant we waited a bit and looked at some of the birds and then went for lunch when the queue had gone.  I had a very nice sausage baguette!

T and D while looking at birds.

T and D while looking at birds.

It was then time to go and see the “Valley of the Eagles flying display”, which started with a merlin, the smallest British bird of prey, I believe, flying to the lure.  He had to swoop down lots of times before he was allowed to catch and eat it.

The merlin after it had finished.

The merlin after it had finished.

We had vultures flying above our heads – except Butch Cassidy who was around our feet looking for food!  Butch had discovered that visitors had sandwiches etc. and being a scavenger, like all vultures, would go looking.  We were warned about him before they came.  Sundance Kid and their two friends were much better behaved.

Two of the vultures - not Butch

Two of the vultures – not Butch

Another larger bird of prey (not British) was then flown to the lure…….

......after being displayed for us to see.....

……after being displayed for us to see while still wearing his hood…..

……but didn’t have to fly so many times before…..

.....being allowed his reward.

…..being allowed his reward.

A very large eagle was then flown from some distance.  They told us where it was, but I have to say I didn’t see it until it arrived.

Arrival - apparently from the tree in the far distance.

Arrival – apparently from the tree in the far distance.

The black kites flew for us for a finale – but they were much too fast to photograph.  Even better, two of the local, wild red kites came to join them and one was really joining in and catching some of the meat thrown up for the kites to catch.  I assume they have learned where and at what time to get an easier meal.  It was a brilliant display – lovely to watch.

We then had a chance to “fly” a Harris Hawk – well, let it land on our gloved arm.  There were not many adults wanting to do this so T had two goes.

T with Harris hawk

T with Harris hawk

D was too shaky and unsteady (unwell at the moment) to try but I had a go.  I gave T the camera to hold……

.....but she was not supposed to use it!

…..but she was not supposed to use it!

After this it was time to go to see the Woodland Owls Flying Display.  We met Troy, again and another eagle owl called Cinnamon.

Was this Troy or Cinnamon who came and sat just in front of us?

Was this Troy or Cinnamon who came and sat just in front of us?

One of the larger owls displayed flying between two people, with a gap between them less than its wing span and they demonstrated how they enabled Troy to overcome his fear of heights!

I think this was a long-eared owl

I think this was a long-eared owl

My favourites were the barn owls, who were released from the tower of a pretend chapel.  The male was very well behaved and did what was hoped, but the female was around for a short time and then went off hunting for herself!

Male barn owl

Male barn owl

I just love the way they float silently across the woodland.  It is no wonder they were considered ghosts.

Barn owl taking off

Barn owl taking off

After the owls we had another look at some of the birds and then went for a cup of tea before going home.

So was it a good day?  Yes, definitely and the good weather (just look at the photos) really helped.  And we will probably go again as T wants a “Day with Birds of Prey” experience for her birthday next year.  We might go again anyway as she so loved the owls!  Taking photos of birds is hard though – they don’t stay still.

Make Lime Marmalade

I really like Roses Lime Marmalade, so I have been thinking of trying to make some, but there hasn’t been much time (the Future Learn course “Gravity” was quite challenging and took a while to work through) and limes are quite expensive.  Then I saw some limes going quite cheap on one of the market stalls so I thought I would give it a go.  I bought two bowls of limes (£1 each) and another bag of sugar and was pleased to find that the limes were just over the weight needed for the recipe.

I initially found it hard to remove the pith from the skins, but got a sort of knack of doing it after a few tries.  The trouble with limes is that they are so small that there are a lot to remove the pith from and cut up.  I did that on the Saturday and then made the marmalade on the Sunday afternoon.  I left it to boil for a little too long so a bit too much water had boiled away, so I adjusted that and added the sugar and boiled some more.  It seemed to reach setting point so it was skimmed and left for a while so the peel wouldn’t rise in the jars.  I got involved with something else so left it longer than usual, but it didn’t seem to matter.  It was potted up and labelled and left to cool and the washing up was done…..

Finished and washing up done.

Finished and washing up done.

It made just over 5 lbs, I think – I had hoped it would be a bit more.  I am not sure that it has set too well – seems to move a bit too much in the jar.  The jars are full of peel, though, unlike with Roses, which doesn’t have that much.  I was a bit concerned about that to start with – until I considered and realised that the peel takes up a lot more of the volume in limes (because they are smaller) than it does in oranges.  Also the Roses is more of a greeny yellow and mine is just normal marmalade orange colour.  I wonder what they do to theirs?

My marmalde

My marmalde

Mine seems to taste OK though – I think!

So would I make some again?  I might do if there were more cheap limes, but I would need to concentrate more when cooking it, I think.  It is not cheap, but quite satisfying to make ones own.


New glasses and tiny piece jigsaw

Having had my eyes tested I ordered and then collected my new glasses.  The close sight in my left eye has got so bad that the NHS contributed to the cost of them – all of £37-40!  When I got them they didn’t seem quite right, but the girl persuaded me that it was because of the change and it would just need getting used to.

After a weekend when I could only read by letting them fall down my nose, I took them back on Monday and got them adjusted so they were higher.  I could then read but they hurt my nose!  Having taken them back twice more they don’t hurt my nose but maybe are not quite level.  I can keep taking them back until they are right…….

Only two people noticed the change, but they aren’t very different.  I suspect those two were just looking out as I had said I was getting new ones.

Not very different!  Old on the left, new on the right.

Not very different! Old on the left, new on the right.

Meanwhile I had decided to start one of the jigsaws that I got for my birthday.  It has 1000 pieces, but is only just over a foot in length each way  – 42 by 29 cm actually.  This obviously makes the pieces very small, so apart from the problem of dropping them, as they are very fiddly and the fear of losing them, as they are so small and will fall down the sides of the sofa, I was also having problems actually seeing them clearly!  I did manage to make a start though.

Jigsaw started with ruler to show size.

Jigsaw started with ruler to show size.

The one advantage of the small pieces is that one can put out a lot so picking out the right ones is easier – maybe.

Lots of pieces to look at

Lots of pieces to look at

But I suspect it is going to take a long time – especially if the weather continues nice so I am wanting to go out to work in the garden.

So?  I expect the glasses and jigsaw will settle down and get sorted – I hope!  It is bound to start raining and get cooler again.

Keep up with Sudoku!

I was given a Sudoku book for my birthday with one to do each day – so I have to keep up!

Birthday present

Birthday present

There was about a month to catch up with first, so I did the right day and then managed to do extra, so within a week or two I was up to date.

They come in various levels of difficulty – Easy, Moderate, Nasty, Cruel, Deadly and X-Deadly.  I seem to be able to do all the levels – except the X-Deadly, which usually leaves me stumped at some stage…….

Pencil and rubber ready, but up to date

Pencil and rubber ready, but up to date

So – is this a good thing?   I don’t know, but it keeps me fairly amused.  I guess I might have a problem if I go away or get extra busy…….

A quick family visit

My oldest nephew, being in England from Spain for 2 weeks and on the way from Bristol to Chichester, asked if he and his family could come to lunch as I am sort of on the way and a good stopping point.  I naturally said yes, as I haven’t seen them for a year and then it was with a lot of others.

I spent the morning cooking, doing a bit of cleaning and a lot of tidying up so I was moderately childproof, so long as there was someone around!  They were due to arrive between 12 and 1 and they did!  My great-niece (who is 5) came in and said hello and things, although she admitted that she didn’t remember me – but daddy was around so it was not too scary!  She now has glasses and a patch on one eye (camouflage on the day they came to me) to correct long-sight, a slight squint and a lazy eye.  She is quite tall for her age.

Glasses and eyepatch

Glasses and eye-patch

Great-nephew, however , was initially not happy – strange house, strange person, mummy went out and back to the car to get warm socks and daddy took his shoes off.  This was on top of having a slight cold.  Once we got food on the table he was better, but it took a while for the vegetables to cook as I hadn’t wanted to put them on until I saw them.

Bit better when had some food

Bit better when had some food

The children played between courses – great-niece makes a very good and patient horse!

Horse and rider!

Horse and rider!

When we found second course was fruit we weren’t hungry – until we found there was cake as well!  The fruit has to be eaten first before we have the cake though and we did quite enjoy that too, really.  (Kiwis and mandarins.)

Cake is good......

Cake is good……

Cake makes us happier, too.

Cake makes us happier, too.

After lunch we did some drawing and colouring and my great-nephew found that he could play with me after all.  He understands Spanish and that is what he speaks, but he understands what he wants to of English!  My great-niece is fluent in both languages with only occasionally having to ask for a word when she only knows it in one language.  Very impressive!

They left sometime between 2.30 and 3 and I then washed up and put the house back to normal i.e. got all my junk out again!

So did I enjoy seeing them?  Yes, it was lovely – and to catch up with the children and with some of the adults news, too.

A different Christmas

As I still have shingles and my 17 year old nephew has not had chicken-pox, it was thought better not to spend Christmas with my brother’s family.  Chicken-pox when you are older and working hard for A-levels is no fun!  So I stayed at home.  This has several advantages, notably that I get to go to my own church at Christmas.  They also seem to be having fun with the trains – doing “improvements” to the lines – including in London, which I would have to pass through, so I avoid what is usually a bit of a problem journey at Christmas anyway.

Setting the scene for Christmas

Setting the scene for Christmas

I started by bringing in the Christmas tree – probably a bit early, at the beginning of December.  It is last year’s tree which was in a pot and has grown on, as it was kept in the garden (and watered in dry weather).  It is perhaps a little too large for the number of decorations that I have, so might not do another year.  I decorated it over newspaper, which I then removed – but put back a couple of days later when I discovered the tree was drooping sticky stuff onto the carpet!

The Christmas tree

The Christmas tree

For food, I thought about what I liked about Christmas meals and decided that one thing I enjoyed was “pigs-in-blankets”, so I bought a pack of 12!  On the 23rd I just had some of them with potatoes and vegetables.  Then on Christmas Eve I cooked a chicken and had that with roast potatoes (another favourite) and veg, so that on Christmas day I had cold chicken, pigs-in-blankets, roast potatoes and parsnips and baby corn and mangetout.  I followed that with raspberries (frozen from the summer – and I remembered to defrost them!) with ice cream.  All very enjoyable.

Christmas Eve was the Nativity service at our church – definitely one of the highlights of the year, with a real donkey and a real baby!

The donkey - Jasmine

The donkey – Jasmine

It was, of course, noisy and chaotic – but that adds to the fun.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus!

Joseph, Mary and Jesus!

The main characters are played by adults (except Jesus, who was female and just over 2 weeks old!) and the children are encouraged to come dressed as a character and come and join in at the appropriate times.  The worship leader had acquired a beard and was dressed as a shepherd and the keyboard player was an angel in white jeans and t-shirt with wings and a halo.

The nativity scene with all the characters

The nativity scene with all the characters

Even the rector had a robe (angel?) and a halo.  The birth of Jesus was explained, with breaks for carols.  Jasmine the donkey behaved very well and was led down the aisle, joining Mary and Joseph and stopping to be petted!  (One could have a photo taken with her at the end of the service.)  The big sister of Jesus was an angel – and sat with Mary and Joseph – pulling off Joseph’s headdress near the end as she got a bit bored.

The holy family - with 2 Mary's!  One was the pregnant one (just a cushion) and one was "Jesus" mother.

The holy family – with 2 Mary’s! One was the pregnant one (just a cushion) and one was “Jesus” mother.


The Christmas day service was equally noisy and chaotic and very full – extra chairs had to be added.  There were the usual carols and a reading and short talks and a video.  We also had party poppers which we pulled at the end after singing “Happy birthday” to Jesus.  It was then home for lunch and to open presents.

On Boxing day, I had booked a table at the local Harvester – The Old Castle, opposite Old Sarum.  I picked up a friend and made her go for a walk in Victoria Park first before we went on for our meal.  We had a very pleasant lunch – steak for her and gammon for me followed by ice cream  sundaes – before returning home.

The following day, 27th, the same friend and I were invited to another friend’s for a meal.  We exchanged presents and then had an excellent meal with pork and dauphinoise potatoes and beans and carrots followed by chocolate log.



On the 29th another friend invited me for what I thought was a cup of tea, but turned out to be afternoon tea, with egg sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches (both with the crusts removed!) and a cream filled Victoria sponge!  I had spent the morning finishing the cardigan I was knitting for her as a late Christmas present.  She had bought the wool and pattern but got stuck, so I did it for her.  She seemed to be pleased with it!

On the 30th, I took down the Christmas tree.  I know it was not twelfth night but there seemed to be insects and things coming from it and I was tired of chasing the wildlife.  I will leave the cards up until January 6th (or is it the 5th?) though.

Most of the cards

Most of the cards

So was it a good Christmas?  Yes, but now I need a rest and probably to go on a diet!

Another University Get-together

This year we stayed at the Greetham Valley Golf Club which, as well as 2 and a half golf courses, is a hotel and conference centre in Rutland.  I decided it was too far for me to drive, so went by train and was very kindly picked up at Peterborough by a couple who were going.

When we arrived we went to our rooms to unpack etc.  The rooms were quite large and had a view over the lake and golf courses.

View from my window.    We later spent time watching golfers hitting the ball over this lake to the greens beyond.

View from my window. We later spent time watching golfers hitting the ball over this lake to the greens beyond.

View in the other direction.  I never did work out what the white things on the water were.

View in the other direction. I never did work out what the white things on the water were.

After a rest, I went down to the bar to join those who were there and have a pot of tea and catch up on the news.  Others gradually joined us as they arrived, although some people didn’t arrive until quite late in the evening.

I got quite tired, so eventually went to order a meal from the bar as I needed to go and rest.  The others then ordered from one of the staff who came to where we were sitting.  They also set out a long table where we could eat and the others came to join me as their meals arrived.

Dinner on Friday evening

Dinner on Friday evening

I stayed for a while and then retired to rest and sleep.

After breakfast on Saturday morning most of us gathered near reception and organised ourselves to take cars to Stamford for a “Blue badge” guided walk.  There were some problems with parking tickets at the car park – first in finding appropriate change between us and then because the ticket machines were playing up.  We found our way to the Arts centre to meet up with our guide.

Introduction - the guide is the lady with the red folder.

Introduction – the guide is the lady with the red folder.

Listening to the introduction

Listening to the introduction

Apparently quite a lot of the town was built in Georgian times.

I think we were told this was the first Georgian house in the town

I think we were told this was the first Georgian house in the town

Not all of the buildings are from that era, of course.

One of the older buildings - a coaching inn and the gate into the courtyard can be seen on the left.

One of the older buildings – an inn with the gate into the courtyard seen on the left.

The “great north road” runs through the town – what was the major route from London to the north (where does “the north” start?).

The great north road.  The arch in the distance marks "The George" a major coaching inn on the route, I think.

The great north road.  The bar above the road in the distance marks “The George” a major coaching inn on the route, I think.

We then went down and walked a short way along the River Welland and the flooding was discussed.

The River Welland

The River Welland

We went passed what was one of the earliest public bath houses – apparently the water was changed once a week!  I don’t think people really believed in baths in those days.

The public bath house

The public bath house

Near the bath house were three arches – all that is left of the original castle/fort in the town.

Arches from one side.....

Arches from one side…..

.......and from the other.

…….and from the other.

The most prominent church in the town - I can't even remember its name now, let alone the details of the spire added on to the tower - an early example of this?

The most prominent church in the town – I can’t even remember its name now, let alone the details of the spire added on to the tower – an early example of this?

As Stamford was a wool town, there were lots of rich wool merchants at one time, so they built lots of alms houses, many of which remain.  We were shown one quite attractive one where there was room for about 12 men (I think) and 2 women – to look after the men!  As part of living there they had to go to the chapel to pray for the soul of the benefactor 5 (I think) times a day.

These alms houses today.

These alms houses today – attractive but too many steps!

The guide was good and had quite a lot of interesting information, but she was rather quiet so I didn’t catch all she said, especially when there were other people or traffic around.  I thought Stamford was a very pleasant town with character and I can see why one of our group is buying a house there.  Wouldn’t much like to drive through some of the streets though.

After the tour, most (but not all) people went on to Burghley House where we started by having some lunch in the Orangery.  I think we took up 3 tables with extra chairs on some.  Some people then did a tour of the house, others went back to Stamford and I had a bit of a rest!  Three of the others then joined me for a pot of tea back in the Orangery, before we went back to the hotel where there was time to rest before getting ready for the evening meal.

We met in the bar ready for the 7.30 meal and were shown to our own room.  Instead of the usual long table we had 3 smaller ones, which for some reason meant that we had less interaction with everyone (and were perhaps quieter?).  Maybe we should have swapped tables after each course?

Table at dinner.....

Table at dinner…..

......on Saturday evening.....

……on Saturday evening…..

....starting at 7.30

….starting at 7.30….

.....with lots more chat.

…..with lots more chat.

I left a bit early (again!) so as to have a rest and sleep – not very successful.

On Sunday morning we saw most people at breakfast and some went off to do various things, whereas I got a lift to Peterborough station and the trains home.  Many thanks, as always, to this year’s organisers, who did an excellent job.

Question of the year:  what was the most fun thing have you done this year?  I think that everyone I asked (and I am afraid I didn’t manage to get round to asking everyone) was able to tell me about something they had enjoyed doing during the year.  Many of the things I was told led to some interesting stories – which was at least part of the purpose of asking the question.

I wasn’t sure that all of them were “fun” though.  Doesn’t fun include laughter, at the least, and possibly a bit of risk or silliness or exhilaration or excitement as well?  I was starting to think that we have forgotten how to have fun and can only watch it in children or grandchildren, but then I changed my mind and was sure that some of us do still know how to have fun (as well as enjoyment).

So which of these were really “fun” and which just enjoyable?  Some of the suggestions were:   watching tennis – in Birmingham;  the French open;  going to Greenwich for the day;  taking the grandchildren crabbing for the first time and seeing even the 19 year old get excited;  going to the Boomtown festival;   walking behind a waterfall in the Brecon Beacons and getting soaked (with a daughter);  going on a wine tasting trip to France and bringing back the results (fun for months to come?);   going to Royal Ascot;  white water rafting;    a walking holiday – not especially for the walks but for the (fun) company.

Thanks for the other suggestions, too and I hope we all have a fun year.  Different question next year – but who is organising the event?

Try to make the most of the last warm days

As I can’t do much while I have still got shingles (I get too tired) and I have a friend who also is not too well and can’t do much, we have been having a few pleasant hours together trying to enjoy the (last of?) the warm weather.  We get in my car and I drive to one of the local(ish) pubs and have a drink sitting out in their gardens.  We have mostly been to the Victoria and Albert in Netherhampton, but have also been to the Fox and Goose at Coombe Bissett.

One pub

One pub

Mostly my friend has iced water and a lager or two and I have coffee (if we go soon after lunch) or a lime and lemonade.  I have even been known to have something to eat if we go in the early part of lunch time and I haven’t yet eaten.

The other pub

The other pub

The whole idea is to sit in the garden so we can enjoy a peaceful time and make the most of any fine weather while it is still warm enough to do so.  We have a pleasant, gentle chat – not saying anything of great note but just enjoying each other’s company.  Well, I enjoy hers and hope she enjoys mine!

So is this a good thing to do?  At the moment it feels like it, as it is about all I can manage.  I can enjoy it without ending up exhausted.

Get Shingles

This started with a pain on my right side on a Monday afternoon/evening which I assumed would go away overnight – as many things do.  It didn’t.  So I gave it another night then phoned the doctors on the Wednesday and they phoned back.  After discussing it they said come in at about 3.30, which I did.  A good examination later, there was no firm conclusion, but a possibility of gall stones, so I was to be sent for a scan.

On Thursday a rash/spots appeared, so I phoned the doctor again and after they phoned back I was again called in and shingles were confirmed (and the scan cancelled).  I was prescribed some anti-viral tables to take for a week and told to continue with the paracetamol for the pain.  Everyone I mentioned it to said I should also take things easy as that should speed up recovery – I hope.

Initially there were shooting pains along the nerves, but that subsided into stabbing pain where the spots were – waist at the front and where the bra strap goes at the back, but only on my right side.  This changed into more like a soreness of the skin, most of the time.  The skin is also very sensitive and clothing rubs, which is a bit of a pain!

After nearly 4 weeks, it still hurts – but most of the time it is just sore with a few stabbing pains.  I also feel really washed out and get tired very quickly.  How can I sleep for over an hour in the afternoon and still sleep at night?  I am also getting bored, fairly fed up and just want to get better!  I have been doing as I was told and taking things easy, too.  And I was just starting to get up my fitness at the gym and that has all gone – it will be like starting again.  I keep thinking that the spots are fading, but I fear that is wishful thinking……  It is now 4 weeks and I am fed up……

So?  Definitely not recommended.  I would avoid it at all costs!  Not that you can catch it – it just can appear if one has had chickenpox in the past.