New managers at the Coffee Shop/Community Centre and at the Charity shop – both within a month!  Mind you, the Coffee Shop had been working with only one part-time manager for a month and the Charity shop has had an acting manager and assistant manager for about a year, so the changes were not unexpected.

The Coffee Shop lady is only part time and is young and competent – but not “our Lucy”.  She has a different style but as she has worked there longer she has become more relaxed and is starting to talk more to the customers and get better known.  She seems to get on OK with the other manager, as far as I can tell, but it is all early days yet.  She is getting married soon, so will have some time off – so we will see how things change after that!

I met the Charity shop manager one week when she was still training with a manager from another shop.  They were both working in our shop for a couple of days, having previously been doing training in the other manager’s shop.  Then, when I went in the next week, I didn’t recognise the place!  It was tidy, one could walk along the aisles without tripping over bags – and I couldn’t find anything!  Not sure I can cope with this……  The style of working has changed too, so we put less on the tags and put things that are ready in crates, for pricing (except the things that hang up).  Most of that is because some people were making too many mistakes.  As I have got to know her a bit more she also is relaxing a bit and getting more chatty, which is good.  I think she is competent in ways the previous managers haven’t been, but maybe needs more experience on what will sell and what won’t?

Another change is my hairstyle.  It is either so close to what it was before that most people haven’t noticed or they don’t think it suits me so haven’t said anything!

I have also got a new (to me) car as the other one was about 11 years old and I had had it for 10  years.

So are the changes good?  I think we will have to wait a bit longer to see.  All change is difficult, so it is a matter of getting used to it and if I decide I don’t like it or can’t cope then I am only a volunteer so I can give up and do something else and change my hair back.  New car is not so easy to change again!

This and that

So what have I been doing?  This and that!  Usual weekly activities – charity shop, choir, community café, church, gym (but not much/enough of the last).  Also “helping” with a “Community Alpha Course” (Youth Alpha adapted for adults) and now “Christianity Explored”.  Extras like coffee with friends and progress on the jumper I am knitting.

Did another on-line Course – “In the night sky – Orion” – which was fairly basic astronomy, but quite fun.  Seems to have inspired one of my friends into more star gazing after I gave her a star wheel which shows which constellations are where and when.

Star Wheel

Star Wheel

Totally failed in my attempt to take a photo of Orion – can’t work out how to leave the camera shutter open for as long as I want, so couldn’t get enough light and street lights and such don’t help.

Orion?  Well, the street lights show!

Orion? Well, the street lights show!

I am now starting a new course on “England in the time of Richard III”.

Have also been doing quite a lot of visiting a friend, first of all in hospital and then at home, where she is temporarily stuck upstairs until they get all the rails and supports needed so she can get downstairs safely.  I can’t believe how long it is taking.  Carers come in 3 times a day, but half an hour at lunchtime is not enough to make a proper meal, so I have made a decent one a couple of times.  Some of the carers are really good and have started to prepare a meal in the morning when they know they are in again at lunchtime, but others cannot even wash up properly.  One tried putting mashed potato in the microwave with the paper wrapping still round it and the without piercing the film lid.  Apparently all she can do is microwave “Wiltshire Farm Foods”, where one doesn’t pierce the film lid!   Another problem is getting my friend up (and breakfast?) at say 11.00 then the next carer coming in at 12.00 for lunch.  Good thing that she frequently doesn’t have breakfast anyway and that she can make coffee upstairs and has fruit and a few other bits if she wants them.

Not done much dog walking recently but have been given quite a lot of flowers – first for my birthday and then as thanks for the visiting etc. which has been lovely.  Still collecting leaves from the autumn, and still probably got another bin full to go……  Have even managed a bit of cleaning(!) lots of ironing and the usual domestic tasks.

So?  Life goes on ……

Family lunch

As my nephew and his family were over from Spain for a fairly short time, it was decided to have a family lunch so everyone could meet up and see them.

Well, that is 3 of the 4......where is the other one?

Well, that is 3 of the 4……where is the other one?

A venue was decided on which was not too far to go for anyone – a problem when Cambridge and Bristol (with a bad traveller) were the furthest starting points.  Newbury, was the final decision – in fact it was Highclere  near  Newbury and my sister booked a table for a large number!

The weather was horrible – misty and raining – when I set off and didn’t improve on the way.  I managed to get there with only having to go all the way round one roundabout to find the right exit!  Mine was the third car to arrive, so those of us who were there went in and bought drinks and the others arrived soon after.  My brother only brought one daughter, the other being away at university and wife and son having too much work to do, but all my sister’s family were there.

We went to our table and when everyone had arrived were chatting and choosing from the menu.

Chatting and choosing.

Chatting and choosing.

Some of the younger members of the party were doing colouring as well.

Disturbing the colouring to choose what to eat.

Disturbing the colouring to choose what to eat.  (There is the 4th one – hiding behind the menu!)

Between courses there was some gap as it took a while to produce food for so many.

Talking was enough for adults.....

Talking was enough for adults…..

.....but some younger ones got bored!

…..but some younger ones got bored!

I left before the final course, so there was a different place to enjoy the colouring!

Niece and great-nieces colouring.

Niece and great-nieces colouring. (Giraffey looking on.)

I got fairly lost going home – heading back the way I had been going at one point, I think.  Andover has too many roundabouts!  Did still manage to get back before it got dark, though.

So was it worth it?  Yes – good to see the Spanish branch and catch up with others.

Too much cake!

So – it was my birthday again…..on Saturday.

The Tuesday before, in the charity shop, I was given, among other things, an individual  cake with a candle on top.

On the Thursday, I was given (along with cards, flowers, a plant) a sponge cake – with one candle on top.  I took it home as there was no-one who wanted cake in the morning.  I should have left it there, as there were more people who would have appreciated it in the afternoon!  Instead, I took 3 slices to have as dessert when I had lunch with a friend and her husband on Saturday.  She had intended to make another cake, so I managed to stop her in time,  BUT we had éclairs with our morning coffee!

Then on Saturday afternoon I had tea with a friend and she provided 4 cupcakes.  As she doesn’t eat them I had one and left her one and she told me to take the other 2 home…..

That was 3 cakes (or pieces) I ate in one day!

With over half a sponge cake and 2 cupcakes, I decided that I would never eat them all before they went off, so took a large chunk of sponge cake to the “family meet up” and gave it to my niece to share with her husband and children.  In fact I think her children didn’t get any but her brother and partner got some instead.  Still got quite a lot of cake left, though.

Cake left by Sunday afternoon.

Cake left by Sunday afternoon.

I got even more cake (as well as a card and roses) the next Thursday from someone who had not been at the café the week before.  She seemed to think that a fairy cake would be least appropriate for me so got that one!  I did give quite a lot away this time though, to friends who came in.

Cake left at the end of the day at the cafe.

Cake left at the end of the day at the café.

Can one have too much cake?  Yes!  But I did actually appreciate the thoughts behind and effort involved in producing it.

Celebrate Christmas

This started with the bhf shop Christmas meal, held on the 16th December, at the Avon Brewery pub this year.  We had a……

.......long table......

…….long table……

……set out with our place names (and on the back what we had ordered).  Some people had 3 courses, but I only had 2 – duck then a panna cotta with raspberry sauce – both good.  We had crackers…..

....with hats....

….with hats….

….and jokes and a plastic toy.  My jumping frog was made to jump too far onto the floor and got lost!  At the end the acting manager told us how the shop had done this year and gave out the “Certificates and badges of appreciation”.  Those of us who had contributed selected a “Secret Santa” present and then it was time to leave the rubbish and go.  A very special occasion though as Kirstie wore……

.....her Christmas jumper.....

…..her Christmas jumper…..

……which isn’t her normal black!  Will she ever live it down?  My “Secret Santa” present was a tin of ginger thins and we were all given some chocolate but I swapped my unwanted Ferro Roche for a chocolate Santa.

"Loot" from Christmas meal.

“Loot” from Christmas meal.


The next events were the carol service at church on the 13th December when I was on “Welcome Team” and the “sing-along” Christmas carols in SP2 Café on the morning of 18th December, the day it closed for a Christmas break.  Quite a lot of people there and joining in.

The next event was not really Christmas but always happens then!  It was my great-nephew’s birthday party on the 19th (birthday on 24th, poor lad!) so I went across for lunch and to deliver birthday and Christmas presents, but didn’t stay for the trampolineing!  The draughts/chess set was a good thing (not sure his granny thought so though!).

Presents and granny and Christopher playing draughts.

Presents and Granny and Christopher playing draughts.

Little sister had a notebook and multi-coloured pen as a consolation!

Holding pen but thumb about to go into mouth!

Holding pen and looking for plain paper – but thumb about to go into mouth!

The evening of the 20th was the second carol service at church, which I went to just to enjoy.  I thought both Carol Services were going to be the same, but there were different people doing the readings, the testimony and even the talk – which naturally made the talk different.  I think the carols were the same, but the second service was candle-lit and I am not sure the first one was.  The collection was for different things, too.  Good service, 5 “SP2 regulars” plus the community worker sat in a row and 2 more behind.  Lots of others there – very full service, even with the other one the previous week.

Then on Christmas Eve I headed for Cambridge to my brother’s house.  Trains not too busy and my sister-in-law picked me up from the station.  The next two and a half days were spent enjoying the company of my 2 younger nieces and my younger nephew, my brother and my sister-in-law.  My brother did all the cooking and produced some excellent meals – it is a pity that my carving of the turkey was not up to the same standard!  Christmas afternoon was the time for opening presents as in the morning my niece was sleeping after night duty as a nurse and my brother was cooking.  The dog…..

....opened her present.....

….opened her present…..


......was handed the interesting bit.....

……was handed the interesting bit…..

......and proceeded to squeak  and destroy it!

……and proceeded to squeak and destroy it!

After opening the presents…..

Opened presents.

Opened presents.

……there was the usual…..

....chaos of wrapping paper, presents, boxes etc.

….chaos of wrapping paper, presents, boxes etc……

…..and we admired presents, chatted and my elder niece went back to bed!

My sister and brother-in-law also came on Boxing day so there were more presents, more food and more chat.

I went home on the 27th – not such a good journey as the train to London was over-full.

So where is the real meaning of Christmas in all this?  Well, in the carols and the talks at the carol services, but also in the giving and receiving of presents which is a reminder of God giving us Jesus, I suppose.

Leaf Collecting

This is one of my least favourite jobs in the garden.  I quite enjoy weeding and cutting the lawns (when I get into it) but collecting leaves is just a chore.  And there are thousands of leaves fall onto my garden from the trees behind it.

A few of the thousands of leaves

A few of the thousands of leaves after collecting one bin load

So I fill the “green bin” with leaves and push them down and get more in, leave it a few days to settle so it is…..

......nearly full....

……nearly full….

……refill it with some more leaves and wait for the two weekly collection and repeat he process.  I mostly use a rake and my wonderful……..

......leaf collectors....

……leaf collectors….

….but a brush is needed for the paths.  I do have a leaf blower/sucker but that isn’t really needed until there are just a few left and I am nowhere near that yet.  Even then there are…..

......more leaves.....

……more leaves…..

…waiting to be collected.  I have had the bin emptied 3 times and there are still more leaves and as most of them are beech leaves which are very slow to break down I will need to remove them from the boarders as well as the lawn according to “Gardeners’ Question Time” on Radio 4 – but where is the time and energy to come from?  They are ruining my lawn and smothering my bulbs and I have already got one large garden bag full of leaves in addition to the bin.  I despair….

So what can I do?  Keep collecting, I suppose, as the trees are not even in my garden.

Put up the Christmas Tree

So on Wednesday 2nd December a friend and I go out and buy our Christmas trees – hers is a big one with no pot and mine is a small one in a pot that I hope will last at least 2 years and possibly 3 or 4.  Together we put hers up and then I take mine home, get a plant saucer to put the pot on, put it in the right place and look at it.

On Friday I get the decorations down from the loft, clean the outside of the pot and put the coloured paper round it.



Then I test the…..



…….to check they are working.

The following afternoon I put the “star” on the top of the tree…….

Probably a poinsettia not a star!

Probably a poinsettia not a star!

……..then the lights……

......go on the tree....

……go on the tree….

…..and the decorations are removed from the boxes and spread out…..

Decorations moved from boxes

Decorations moved from boxes

……so I can choose them one at a time to……..

.....put on the tree.

…..attach to the tree.

Then I finished off with the tinsel – there seemed to be a lot – did I buy more last year?

(Nearly) finished.

(Nearly) finished.

Minor adjustments over the next few days for the bits I didn’t like, and there we are!

AND I beat my friend to finishing by 4 days – but hers is much bigger!  Hers is the tasteful type with 2 colours (gold and black this year)…….

Big Tree

Big Tree

…..but mine is the sort where I use all the different decorations given to me or acquired over the years.  I quite like the tasteful types, but then I like tradition, too.

So how did we get a big and a small tree in my car?  With the back seats down and the big tree sticking in my friend’s ear!

Go to a funeral and a Christening in one week

Funerals and Christenings are not regular activities so to have both in one week was “different”.

Lesley was a “gym changing room buddy” from about 12 years ago, but I lost track of her when I moved away and failed to meet up with her again when I moved back.  It was a shock to hear that she had died at the age of only 41.  I also know her mother (in a different context) so I wanted to go and pay my respects at the funeral.  The crematorium was full to bursting, which was good, and the service was a “celebration of her life” – as much as these things can ever be.  There were some good memories and recollections of her.  I still have problems coming to terms with the idea that she has died as she was one of these people who was so alive.

Funeral programme

Funeral programme

I had the invitation to the Christening weeks before and had replied.

Invitation to Christening

Invitation to Christening

I spent a lot of the rest of the week making 2 batches of cheese straws (which I had never tried before) and 2 batches of flapjacks to contribute to the “light refreshments”.  To get there on time meant leaving about 7.45 in the morning so getting up considerably earlier.  This was not quite such a shock to the system as it might have been as it was the day the clocks changed, so I was leaving at 8.45 by the time of the previous day.  Even though there was a 50 mph speed limit most of the way up the M3 I did arrive with plenty of time to spare.  The Christening went as these things do and Caleb didn’t cry, which was probably because his father held him all the time.  He is quite old as he is nearly 2 and so quite active!

Christening programme

Christening programme

As the Church hall is in the process of being rebuilt/extended/refurbished, the after Church coffee and the “light refreshments” were held in the City Freemans School which adjoins the churchyard.  I spent some time catching up with people I had known when I lived in the area and went to the church, which was nice.  Didn’t really know that many of the people from the Christening, so I didn’t stay too long – especially with the thought of the M3 to tackle again.  I had taken my camera, but the battery was almost totally flat, so I didn’t manage to take any pictures!

So how were these events?  Much as one would expect, I think.  It was lovely to see Caleb’s parents and sister and some of the people from that church, though.

Look at the blood super-moon!

I think that was how I heard it described.  Basically it was an eclipse of the moon, when the Earth comes between the Moon and the Sun.  Light is refracted round the Earth and the Moon appears red.  The “super” bit is because it occurred at a time when the Moon was closest to the Earth in its orbit, so appeared at its biggest.

This happened on the early morning, between 3 and 4 a.m., on Monday 28th September, 2015.  I had heard about it on Radio 4 (where else!) and thought “That is interesting”, but had no intention of setting an alarm to see it.  However, I found I was awake at around 3.30 on the morning in question and noting the time thought “Let’s see if it is there”.  So I put on my glasses (always helps) and went to look out of my bedroom window – and there it was!

This is roughly what I saw

This is roughly what I saw

I didn’t spend ages waiting to see if it would all go red, just had a good look and then back to bed and to sleep.

So was it worth looking at?  Well yes; it was interesting and I haven’t seen a “blood moon” before and the sky was clear so it was a good night for it.  Not sure it would have been worth setting an alarm for, but as I had woken up anyway…..

Go on (part of) another university reunion.

This year the reunion was at a hotel in Birdlip – the highest point of the Cotswolds, I believe.  I only went for part of it as it was quite close – only about 1½ to 2 hours drive away – depending on how many tractors and horse boxes one gets behind.

Most people went on the Friday (except the couple with a ticket for World Cup Rugby on the Friday evening) and went out for the day on Saturday.  I left mid-morning on the Saturday and went to have lunch and a catch-up and play, with my niece and family.  I am not very good at football!

I then went on to get to……

....The Royal George Hotel.....

….The Royal George Hotel…..

… about 4.00 – tea time!  I was just booking in when the 2 men who hadn’t brought their wives turned up, so the message I had been left, about where people were, became irrelevant.  I gathered that most people had been to Sudeley Castle – and learned more than they ever needed to know about Katherine Parr.  The couple who had been on an alternative trip on the steam railway then arrived.  They went because there was a special Thomas the Tank Engine day, which they (or Ken anyway) couldn’t resist.  Did sound more interesting than the Castle!

Having booked in, I went and found my room and unpacked some things that needed hanging up and then went down in search of a cup of tea – and guess what? – lots of the others were just doing the same.  Thanks to Sue’s competence, we managed to get pots of tea instead of just a cup and took them out into the garden as the weather was warm and sunny.

Tea in the garden.

Tea in the garden.

Some of the others came to join us……

More people!

More people!

……and we grabbed more chairs.  There was, naturally, lots of chat.

Plenty to talk about.

Plenty to hear about.

We stayed out until it began to get a bit chilly – it was September after all.  Time to go to our rooms and get ready for dinner, after arranging a time to meet for drinks.

When we got down Japan were beating South Africa in the rugby, so we had a change from talking about soccer!  After drinks we went to the table that had been set for us for dinner.  I wonder why they always put us at the end of a room?

Table at the end of the room for dinner.

Table at the end of the room for dinner.

Chat continued throughout, of course……

Conversation and eating

Conversation and eating

…..but there was some complaint at the start that we didn’t manage to go alternately male /female.

Failure in the seating

Failure in the seating

Can’t see that it mattered so long as we had a seat, food and our usual good company.

The gap was my place!

The gap was my place!

We had coffee and tea at the table and that was when Hugh was “practising his Czech” (was that the right language?) – or was he chatting up the waitress?  When they were very obviously trying to clear us away, we went.

The next day most of us got up for breakfast and guess what – there was more conversation.  So what did we talk about?  Well lots of stuff but the things that seemed to get repeated over the weekend were:  Radio 4 – especially the Archers; road kill; garden pests – seems badgers might be the most destructive; politics – good range of opinions there!

Then time to finish packing and check out and as most people were going to Gloucester for a guided tour, they met in the entrance hall.

Waiting to go to Gloucester.

Waiting to go to Gloucester.

But there is always one…..

.....who won't join the others for a photo!

…..who won’t join the others for a photo!

Having waved them off, I went for a walk…… the woods......

… the woods……

….attached to the hotel grounds.  It was very pleasant and there were quite a few dogs to say hello to.  Reaching the end of the wood there was a good……



…..across the valley.  It was a bit misty, though.  Returning….

.....through the woods....

…..through the woods….

… was time to get in the car and go home.

So was it a good weekend?  Yes.   It was great to see everyone, but not really enough time to catch up with how and where everyone was.  But then it is always better to be left wanting more rather than have too much!  Thanks to Heather and Brian for the organisation.