Thursday, 29 December 2011

Apps and apple sauce

Delving into the freezer, I found something marked 'app', a pale golden substance in a bag intended for the Christmas dinner to accompany the turkey. My sister is a middle-aged Yorkshire-woman like myself, and the way she refers to '...these... (sigh, then jaw setting firmly)  "APPS" ....' shows what a tough and discerning marketplace the likes of us make for those who peddle these devices. I am not at all sure what an 'app' really is, and I will have to Google for what comes under this umbrella.

Another way into my thinking today was the idea of synchronicity, 'cos my self-help book asks me every week whether I've experienced any. Wiki says, as I have quoted before:

"Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance and that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner. The concept of synchronicity was first described in this terminology by Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychologist, in the 1920s".

Yes, definitely. I suppose the event in the song 'My Grandfather's clock' is such an occurrence. Thus when I faced a night of inner overheating due to the usual Dec 27th bout of ill-health - a classic winter cold - I had the laptop with me for comfort and entertainment, and dammit if the thing didn't overheat for one last time and go black and into literal meltdown, so I discovered afterwards. Connections invisible to the observer fell apart, and the thing ceased to function. Fortunately I am still functioning, but I had a night of soul-searching as in my fevered state I had to think hard about re-drawing the line around what I consider to be 'me', and exclude anything to do with the now useless scrap 'Hewlett Packard tx 2000 notebook'. All those un-backed up files and pictures! A big chunk of my life down the plughole and connections severed, it felt. I'm not the only one upset by this - there are thousands:

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I suddenly felt very abandoned, just when I was starting to get comfortable in this realm of apps, whatever they are; all this electronic stuff to which I'd entrusted a lot of myself had let me down, and I yearned to exist solely in the world of apple sauce and things I can see. Without thinking, after the meltdown my hand reached groggily for a book entitled 'The Mediaeval Tailor's Assistant' and I started to research ways of covering the head with pieces of cleverly cut linen. A sudden very obvious dive into a comfort zone; but its lack of providing anything more than immediate temporary assistance proved that comfort is largely to be found in being connected to one's past and present and other people by whatever means the age we live in allows. (But the later discovery that my data is recoverable strangely also made me slightly regretful, as I'd started to redraw that line I spoke of, with a lot less baggage within it.)

I'm reading 'The Book of Margery Kempe', the 14thC autobiographical-spiritual writer; I feel sure that she'd have been a classic blogger if she lived today. My reading of her is in its infancy and I apologise for again reaching for Wiki, which says of her: "Part of Margery Kempe's significance lies in the autobiographical nature of her book: it is the best insight available of a female, middle class experience in the Middle Ages." I think this backs up my suggestion. (Wow, she really was forging ahead in the apps of her particular age!) I'm not sure whether she is officially classed as a mystic or not, as in the past there was a lot of stress on her being barmy and not really in the same class as Julian of Norwich, Richard Rolle etc etc. At this stage, I'm simply taken by the way she refers to herself as 'this creature' or 'the said creature'.  I did start to read her stuff with the thought that that there might be something in it that would be transferrable from her blog to mine, and just when I need it, she reminds me of our creatureliness, and I'm thinking that a creature is really a lone thing and in essence quite low on baggage when examined on the dissecting table (though I expect to find that she had quite a bit). A bit of synchronicity there just in the timely appearance of the term itself.

This creature went over the Humber bridge today on her pushbike, into the teeth of a storm, that kind of rain that feels like a lot of needles being hurled at one's cheeks. It seemed a good way to get rid of stale air in the lungs accumulated during a cold, replacing it with fresh petro-chemical rubbish blowing across to the bike/footpath lane from the road level, and something to take me away from thinking too much about lines to be drawn. No pics today, as although I took some of bridge-towers-with-moon etc, I haven't yet sussed out how to deal with them now I don't have my usual tools. It's been a learning Christmas for us; my mother-in-law is musing that garlic is probably a kind of strong onion and really not to be feared. Where will this all lead......

This blog piece is maybe rubbish, but the ride and the cold and running the Christmas house-for-ten makes me pleasantly sleepy, so the tired creature needs to go to bed....... awful without pictures though - this will have to be remedied. Being a creature of habit, a Yorkshirewoman who likes the tried-and-tested, I won't be properly happy until t'owd man has installed 'Lotus Word Pro' on whatever machine I am to use in the near future.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas questions

Christmas brings out my questioning nature. (I hope the title didn't make you think you were in for some list of quiz questions, even if my other reader did win on 'The Weakest Link'). Such as how many calories are there in a mince pie, and how far do I have to cycle across the Humber bridge to combat the effects of eating one? It's complicated, as it depends on how much you weigh. For myself, it seems that one mince pie will fuel me to the other side of the bridge and back. The human being is a fiersomely efficient engine.

Another question arose when it was found that the ice cubes had been next to some kippers in the freezer. So is it more environmentally efficient to throw the ice cubes out of the door, or will opening the door let in more cold air than the ice cubes themselves represent in terms of air-cooling effect? I worked out that it was perhaps better to jump up and down on the ice cubes then flush them down the loo when one was going to go anyway.

Other questions arise, such as what can one do with a quantity of left-over sprouts? I wondered about putting some in an omlette, and so Googled and found this:

which shows that I was not the first to think of this idea. But why is it in 'retro' recipes? Was it the kind of thing that had to be made when times were harder? Perhaps now it is ideal recession-food; and now I really am dreaming of a sprout omlette, just like the.... And look, I'm getting sprout-happy now and have Googled and found a recipe for sprout soup!

There'll be no stopping me.

Like this:

but be warned: the receipe says "This is a basic and easy recipe, but avoid overcooking the brussels sprouts. When the veggie is overcooked it emits sulphur-like fumes and mushiness". Mmm, that one's out then with the bowlful I've got here.

I'm going to go and get into the bath with my book on Margery Kempe, who I'm looking into for ideas. The book includes a kind of blog that she wrote, so it might help liven things up a bit. Also, I'm curious to know why the map in the front cover has just a few place-names marked, London, Winchester, but then an odd one: Barton-on-Humber! There's no index, so I'm going to have to read it from cover to cover to find out what Barton has to do with Margery. Had she been here? Did she call in on the way to Santiago de Compostela?

No pics as yet today here..... so I found this one of a piece of work-in-progress, something I did ages ago. It looks very calm, which is what's needed on boxing day, lots and lots of calm. Maybe even just re-heat the sprouts  in the microwave so as not to make them too exciting.

Oh look, I've got started now, and a bird has walked across the garden and is heading for one of the pear trees. But it's a pheasant, and anyway it is the second day of Christmas; oh well, these birds are so daft, they probably don't even know what they are called, nor which day it is or which of them is supposed to get into a tree. Full marks for effort though. And I've started to look at some of the ones from Christmas day, and so to end, here is a pic of the view out of the window looking west as we ate our Christmas din...

Friday, 23 December 2011

[ ]

Eric in Horkstow gazing at nativity scene.
A better day today than yesterday. No encircling dogs. (I didn't mention that here, did I? A woman and her little spaniel were attacked by escaped bull mastiffs yesterday outside my house, and I had to go out and jab my brolly at them and bring her in, badly shaken. A local man acted quite heroically in trying to grab all three of them). A lift home in a car from a local very small trader along with the sack of potatoes I'd bought from him. Found a new Betty Jackson jacket for £15 (mmm - we have some great shops in Barton, at the end of the line). . Carol singing in Horkstow churchyard. The first 'mince pies by the fire'. But there was going to be a pic of Child Gazing at a nativity scene, though this might have seemed a bit of a hackneyed subject, and so it would have needed some original angle on it to give it some extra bite. But then the child just did something himself that I could never have planned in any way, and which in retrospect a couple of hours later blew me away.

There we were, singing Christmas carols to the sound and smell of sausages cooking in the churchyard, amid the gravestones, and me with many of my descendants there, and them being charming...  and I worried because I know how some people can be 'funny' about children clambering onto gravestones, but my little grandson Eric aged 5 just stood on the steps of a stone cross gravestone - he got there somehow but did not 'clamber' -  and stretched out his arms wide against the cross, for some long moments. I smiled at him and nodded, whispering 'Yes, just like Jesus', and wondered quite what the right thing to do was, as it was always possible that others might think him somehow disrespectful, but this grave little chap was not in any way being that. Mainly I didn't want to offend him. So after a moment or two we started to notice that there were big crowds of ladybirds on the stone, and we went off with a torch to look for more. (But we found only very few; curiously, they seemed to have congregated on that stone cross in greater numbers than anywhere else on this strangely warm midwinter night. What an image for mediaeval painters of the crucifixion that would have been! Blood-red black-spotted ladybirds!)

But I knew that Eric had been very visible, as we were on a bit of an isolated but central mound in relation to the group, and with a lamp shining down on us. There were around 120 people in a country churchyard, all singing carols, and then Jingle Bells etc, with sausages sizzling for us nearby. A very jolly do. But a little boy did a one-man passion play in the middle of it. [And later that same night, his great-grandad died peacefully just after I started to write this.]

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

What tree?

Heh heh!
Blithely unaware
It's quite hard to believe that t'owd man came into the room where the tree (see left) was glowing in a corner, and yet still carried on blithely as though it wasn't there, and here you see him lighting the fire, oblivious. These pics were taken about 5 seconds apart in the same room. Perhaps he was blinded by the spotlight I'd trained on him to try to capture the expression when it dawned on him that he had been disobeyed, and a tree had ensprungen without his consent. In the end it was a friend arriving and asking 'and what do you think to the tree then?' that did it, and he said 'What tree?'

There was one entry for the 'No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree' song competition, which was:  "No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree, there'll be no green flag flying here". He wins a week in turkey.


The deed is done. The Christmas tree is skulking in a dark alleyway... Oooh, t'wd man went out, having declared there would be no Christmas tree in this house, and the plotters
swung into action. Texts were discovered from 2009 in which the Rowett brothers similarly plotted, and marvelled at the man with his Christmas-cancelling tendencies. But they won out in the end, the brothers I mean.

A prize for anyone who can complete the song 'No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree....'

The next gripping installment will be brought to you as it unfolds....

The ultimate goal of all this is to get t'owd man into his chair with a glass of beer and a book, and a smile on his face as he says 'How fascinating!' Then we will know that Christmas has come.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

How does it know it's Christmas?

Christmas is a mystery, otherwise my vacuum cleaner would not know exactly when I'm going to have to get it out to make some attempt at getting rid of a few dustmites for the arriving family, who are allergic. Up till then, the thing had led a life of leisure; the minute it looked like being crucial to the success of Christmas, it threw a wobbly. Being of bohemian tendencies, I have to have a see-through vacuum cleaner (ie a Dyson), or I would never have the incentive to use it; I love to empty it and see just how much I can get it to fill up in one go in of my 6-monthly bursts of activity.

Being easily pleased, last night I stared open-mouthed at the windows, as I'd washed all of them on one evening, in fact, in about half an hour. We haven't had much about household hints lately, so I will say that Hagesan Fenster-putzer really is the best stuff, which I got from Biggers of Bailgate in Lincoln, an Aladdin's cave of cleaning stuff. This window stuff seems to leave an uncanny shine on windows and tiles, so it has definite element of magic about it, and the blurb is quite right when it says 'super konzentiert; absolut streifenlos'.
Rosy dawn at St Peter's
My book of household hints from 1954 recommends spraying windows with 'a little liquid bluing' after washing. I looked up 'bluing' for further guidance in the book, and next to the entry was a thing on 'bobsleds', with the suggestion that these 'can be useful after children have outgrown them': 'pad and cover with gay fabric' to use as a low seat in front of a fireplace. Mmmm. I'm not convinced. Can a sledge ever be outgrown?

Being easily pleased, I was overjoyed this morning to run down the hill (not quite as far as church) in mi dressing gown and rubber gloves dragging the dustbin at speed in order to catch the dustmen on their last round before Christmas. They were swarming about the area, and I have a joke on the subject available on application, which was the only thing I could think about until I turned for home triumphantly with empty bin, and then I saw the rosy dawn light reflected in the windows of St Peter's church thus. To think that such a sight is within a dressing-gown's reach of my front door. This is the church we don't use, and it is nearer my house that the one we do use. Weird. Wonderful Barton-on-Humber.

Happy Christmas, dear little mop
Being easily pleased, today I was just about to throw out a small unused mop which is intended for use on bathroom tiles, and in a moment of brilliance thought that it might make a great floor mop for a medium-sized kitchen. I'm so pleased, I had to do a celebratory photograph of it. The kitchen floor is the one thing I do reasonably in housework, mainly because of my belief that it saves time elsewhere. It seems to me that the sqare yard around the cooker is absolutely crucial; keep this clean, and you will not have chip fat + muck travelling through the rest of the house. The mop head is only about 6" x 4", and it can snake its way through chair legs like no other mop can. Welcome back, dear little mop. Perhaps I should write this up as a delightful tale for children? There's a great big burly mop outside destined for the dustbin; awwwwww.

T'owd man is easily displeased, and today he decreed: 'We will not be having a Christmas tree ever again'. Arriving Son no. 1 has other ideas, and there is a plot afoot to wait till t'owd man goes out (see pew sheet for times of services), and then swing into action. Another gripping installment will have to follow to keep the public informed (but not him for the moment).

T'owd man is not popular with the arriving grandchildren; well one of them anyway bursts into tears at his approach. She does have a very strong attachment to any kind of owl, so I thought perhaps I would make him an owl-suit to wear about the house in an attempt to ingratiate him into Cecily's affections. Cec takes after him though in liking to lay laws down, and she has decreed that she must be able to see the moon at all times when she is out in her pushchair after dark. If she can't, she makes her displeasure felt. But a man who decrees no Christmas tree ever?? P G Wodehouse eat your heart out for this character.

Ready for take-off
And finally, I tried to sneak past t'owd man carrying table legs the other day, as I decided to swap some furniture about the place. I was spotted of course, but allowed to carry on, and here you see my desk in situ in the lair. The design was inspired by studying apocalyptic literature at the time it came to be painted. It took some adjusting to, and maybe I ought to have painted it during study of Deuteronomy. (Perhaps the three wise men might have had desks like this.)

Where IS this going? You tell me - in fact: between Christmas day and new year, I invite my readers to send in a blog post of their own making, with a small prize for the best.

But I end with another pic of the Humber taken at the weekend, one of a kind that is all too frequent: there's a little patch of colour down on the bank; bunches of flowers in memory of someone who found that even the approach of Christmas could not make life seem worth living. I went out to photograph the sunset, but sadly the west path was closed and so I had to take the east. I saw something I hadn't noticed before, which was that one of the towers contained a mention of a poem written for the opening of the bridge by Philip Larkin. You can listen to it here: and read it here: Called 'Bridge for the living' it ends 'Always it is by bridges that we live'. I wonder - did he ever write a poem about the bridge after a few years' 'use' by the despairing? We could do with some more of his words now.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Jam-jar declaration

Tonight's the night! Sorry for the absences! Blog posts don't just happen; conditions have to be right. I find lists of embryonic posts in my various notebooks, and sometimes they can be reconstituted into what they were meant to be; others just die a death, and there was one list which included these memory-jogging phrases: 'Garlic in my handbag; walk to St Aldhelm's/Finisterre (just like the camino; clothes off! S'land!); knickerlady my erudite inspiration.' What the ???

And so tonight I have a bit of a list building up, and before 'Jam jar declaration' becomes stale, I thought I'd get it down, or up, as we say in blog-speak.

Up or down? You choose!

And so there's this title 'Fun on the underground'. I recently introduced my grandson Eric to one of my little pleasures/challenges, which makes journeys a bit more fun. That is to stand in a hopefully not-too-full carriage, not holding on to any straps or bars or leaning on anything, and try to stay upright for the whole journey, wobbles and acceleration/deceleration included. It's great practice for windsurfing too; lucky Londoners! The other thing I do is when I'm on the escalators. It works best if it is a really long one. You look up the up escalator or down the down one, and try to imagine that the up-one is a down-one and vice versa. Not difficult. The fun is in that the altered perspective makes gravity feel as though it has all gone wonky, and the real success is when you feel you are going to fall over. So it is almost the opposite of the first game.

I had some other fun on the trains too when at Hull station. I saw this door open on the platform, and noticed an A4 paper sign on a metal cupboard door, which said '1ST CLASS FOOD' and for some reason this seemed really funny to me. So out came the camera with the thought of sharing the joke with my public. The idea of another cupboard '2ND CLASS FOOD' was what went through my mind. But no sooner had I taken it and this BLOKE appeared at my side. He seemed sort of smooth, younger than me, close cut hair, smart fitted overcoat, a bit like a TV detective, unsmiling, and he said, 'You shouldn't be doing that, taking pictures here' and I said 'Oh sorry! But there's something really funny in there - look - it says '1st class food' !' but somehow I seemed to be getting nowhere; faltering slightly, I said 'I think it's really REALLY funny!' and he just looked even more stony and said that that was his office, and that this was a security issue. So I said, 'Oooh dear, look, I'll delete it, will that make you feel better?' But he just disappeared behind some of those plastic strips designed to keep cold things cold. (There are some people who are simply untouched by Joie de Viv. Strange.) But when I told t'owd man what had happened, he looked very stern and I was worried to start with; but then he said I ought to write and complain because 'You are only a little lady in her late 50s taking an innocent picture of something on public view.' I suppose it is always possible that I might have the appearance of someone part of a plan to poison the entire stock of snacks that would be consumed by the richer folk of Hull on their way to London, fired by recent anti-capitalist activity. I'm right behind you and your clamp-down, sir.

So now I am turning my hand to more usual pursuits, and have been busy embroidering by hand, which is most unusual for me, but I discovered I liked it, and that in this respect I am ambidextrous too. Here is my new embroidery frame stand, which enables one to embroider with both hands (you sit on the bottom bit), passing the needle to and fro speedily between them. It can be ordered from Barnyarns at:

I'll have to end, though, with the story of North London, where apparently some people open conversations by asking 'Where do you ski?' Second class food would probably kill them.

Oh! Just as well I looked at my list again. It says 'Jam jar declaration'. Yes, this is me thinking about what I would do if I ruled the world. One of the things I would insist on is that all jam should be sold in jars with labels that come off easily so that you can refill the jar with one's own produce and re-label it 'Mrs Pankhurst's Preserves' or whatever. The marmalade jars from Lidl are excellent, as these just peel off. There are some terrible jars where even a long soak in sludgy washing up water won't get them to float off, and these would be outlawed. Think I'll do my first public rally on Hull railway station, platform 2.

Friday, 2 December 2011


The compost heap today
My mobile is thinking that "/ "is the sign I need now. Our invalid spent some time with his chances described in % terms, and my mobile picked up on this and kept this symbol on the top row whenever I wrote a message. Now the mobile is foregrounding /. This is because nothing seems to be known, and I'm writing 'I hope he has some enjoyable few more hours/days/weeks/months/years', and perhaps that is also true of all of us. We live with this sign hovering around us all and what we might do/what might happen to us.

Some days are like collections of fragments, with all kinds of information coming in; and today I read that the town of Todmorden in W Yorks has set up a scheme to promote locally grown veg, with 70 veg plots scattered around the town, and plans for 1000 fruit trees to be planted. I keep going on about the need for community orchards, and it's good to see that I'm not alone in these obsessions.  
His first/last frost
Another fragment was that a quarter of all women in the UK are obese, thus the fattest in Europe. There's something wrong with this place! Could the lack of decent cycle provision have anything to do with it? Then the day seemed all bitty, ending with me wondering if I had done anything at all. But I started by springing about the place marvelling at this thing called Frost, which we haven't had for a while, and such a novelty it was that I thought I had to photograph it (yesterday's pics of Humber mud paled into insignificance at the side of it). Looking more closely, I saw a frozen centipede, and wondered whether this little creature would come back to full wiggly life after he has thawed out? he might/might not. There could be a prize if you can spot this little creature also in the pic at the top of the page.

Noticing birds descending on the good crop of holly berries this year, I went out to bag a few sprigs for decking the halls, and this gave me a good-grandma kind of a glow; that, and having made the Christmas puddings. I'm sure we need this 'all is safely gathered in' feeling especially now that chill winds of all kinds are blowing across the western world. Am I just in a mood, or does the world seem a chillier place than in 1976 when general happiness was said to be at its height? So I quite like this pic for its suggestion of melancholy/hope, and its monochrome/splash of colour quality.

But then, going back inside I was doubly warmed by the kitchen, and the fact that I've spent a couple of days dyeing fabrics and threads for my project. I could spend my time just doing this; the ultimate experience for those who have always liked colouring-in. 

But the memory of yesterday's mud is elbowing its way in, and I'm going to  have to celebrate it here. I could have watched the 'Humber mud south' all day; there were ripples going in one direction, the tide flowing out in another; mesmerising.Makes you forget everything else. Don't knock it till you've tried it. And if even Humber mud doesn't pep you up, see this link to our new bish's enthronement sermon
and do click on the you-tube therein!

Humber mud, north

Humber mud, south

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


If this blog is about anything real, then it ought not to duck out just because difficult things are happening. If (sounding hypothetical, but not being) an elderly relative is very ill, and they give you information at the hospital about their chances of survival, it may be expressed as, 'He has a 30% chance'. And this was said, and I duly sent this information off to various relatives, to put them in the picture. My mobile is a simple one, with a standard list of symbols on a top row display of the ones you need most - &, (, ), @, things like that. But then all of a sudden, I needed a different one so had to go to the 'show more symbols' display, and up came the bigger list and I pressed '%' to add to '30'. And now my mobile thinks that I really want to be using this % quite a lot, and so it has it at the ready for me on the top row all the time. Technology that thinks with me; it almost feels as though it is being sympathetic. It's probably not a bad thing to have some odd little personal reminder of mortality.

The path of a text message
But going off at a tangent because of thinking about text messages, a few days ago I was thinking how I'm one of the people in the world who doesn't really understand how many things work. Only today, I almost texted t'owd man to ask how to open the washing machine door. I was thinking about how text messages travel, and do they go flying through everyone's living rooms, all of them, each and every text (and all of a sudden I could see a lot of wavy lines)? I imagined that they must be like in that William Blake picture, sort of going up one prong of the dividers when you click 'send', and then back down the other prong to whoever clicks 'read'. So clever. Years ago, this new kind of washing powder came out, it was that bio-stuff, biological that's the word, and the advert for it - it would be totally unacceptable now, of course - had this bloke demonstrating its superior powers, and his wife standing by with dropped jaw asking, 'Is it a kind of bleach, Bob?' I think I am that woman, and now I'm not too bothered by it. In fact, it's a kind of liberation.

Oooh, it's late; time for me to go to bed with a picture book.