Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas is just around the corner!

Happy Christmas to you all!  We have dressed the tree and done some of the shopping. Over here in England, the shops are extremely busy right now. Christmas Day falling on a Sunday means that the Saturday and Sunday shoppers, which includes me, have to go a different day and there has been much conjecture in our house as to which is the better day to go. Will it be Wednesday this week, or Thursday? I can't go Friday because I will be preparing for Saturday when we have visitors. Decisions, decisions!

We have a five foot tree and a four foot tree.  This is the five foot one. It's in a corner where it can't be knocked over easily. Panda is still an adventurous teenager. So far he has ignored the tree, but there is still time for him to go into attack mode!

I used to wonder why he kept on climbing onto the back of Larry's chair and looking upwards at the old barometer, which used to belong to my dad. Then, one day, I realised he was trying to get at the ornate wooden bird, which sits on the top of it. I removed the bird, temporarily I hope, to give Larry a bit of peace and quiet from our adventurous cat.  Millie, who is now twelve and a stately old lady, is not interested in things like this anymore, preferring to sleep most of the time with the odd moment of madness, which usually manifests itself in her running up and down the stairs for exercise.

Here is our adorable Ruby, six months old now and all dressed up in her father Christmas outfit.

Dylan has been an exemplary older brother to Ruby and it is plain to see that he loves her to bits.

In a child's eyes at Christmas.  Here is Dylan looking at Father Christmas, last week...

Ruby loves Dylan reading her stories.  Dylan is six years old and has a very good reading age. He is enjoying reading a bedtime story for his little sister.  She is copying him already.

Panda enjoying a quiet moment on his favourite chair.

I hope all your arrangements are going well this week?

Monday, 14 November 2016

Donald Trump is president!

I've been reading your blogs over the past week and doing my own thinking too and I still can't get my head around Donald Trump being elected the next President of the U.S.

How did that happen?  Who are these people who voted for Trump?  Are they all mad as hatters?

Well, just like Brexit, it has happened and now we have to accept it and run with it!  I've written quite a bit about Brexit lately. You can read my posts here if you want to see what I've put. When I write blogs I don't usually expect that anyone will be particularly interested in what I put so most of what I write is for myself, like a diary, something I can look back on it  in years to come and enjoy or remember or whatever.  Some of it is for other people.

When I was in America I discovered that life over there is very different to what I am used to so I started writing about the differences, both for my England friends and for the American ones.So when all this election business was going on, I found it most interesting. My husband, who is American, assured me that Donald Trump would never win the election. He is a businessman after all. What does he know about running a country the size of America? He's never been elected to public office (but never mind, he can't be any worse than the others! or can he??) He's rich and America apparently worships RICH!? If someone is rich, they must be doing it right? Right? No, wrong. What could he possibly know about how the poor live? How the African Americans suffer, even today? How people struggle to afford health insurance? or choose between having the insurance or sending their son or daughters to college? But never mind, he's rich, he's a good example of how it's supposed to be.  Everyone can be like him, can't they? If not, why not? NO NO NO

He's got a very big learning curve to follow. Perhaps he'll have some good advisers.

The result of the election in America has been compared with Brexit over here, but in my opinion it is not the same thing at all. Yes, the world order is changing and we haven't seen all of it yet, but Brexit was about leaving the European Union, not electing a new President. Different all together.

So last Tuesday I woke early and put my I-pod buds in my ears. I didn't put on the radio because I didn't want to wake the rest of my expanding family. There are four of us in the house these days. I listened to Radio 4 from the BBC, which is a reliable source of news over here.  I could not believe my ears when I heard the news and had to go and tell Larry straight away. He hardly believed me. 'No', he said, 'All the results aren't in yet,' but the ones that remained to come in would not make any difference as it turned out.

My first thought was did Trump pay people to vote for him? That wouldn't surprise me. Second thought was more about acceptance. Then I got annoyed because I thought people were not voting for a woman. Poor Hillary - stuck under that glass ceiling again.

Now, a week on and Donald Trump is back-tracking on almost everything he said during the campaign.  Did that surprise me? No, of course not. After all he lied before, he's lying now and he will continue to lie and say whatever pops into his head in the future. We can all like it or lump it.

Just like during Brexit, the opinions have split the country.  Interestingly, mostly older people over here voted for Brexit whilst the younger ones wanted to stay in the E.U. but over there it was mostly the rural communities who voted for Trump and many younger people too.

So what if Donald Trump was saying all those outrageous things just to get votes? Is that fair? Is that the way to go about things these days? Does it matter? It matters to me, does it matter to you?

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Ancient Britains

I have been doing a lot of family history recently.  I also had my d.n.a. analysed through, which gave me some fascinating results.

One of the things I discovered was my maternal haplogroup, which is X2b4. This follows down the female line so I got it from my mother who got it from her mother who got it from her mother etc. My three sons will all have X2b4, but their children will not.  They will have the haplogroup of their own mother.

You can read about haplogroups here.

I discovered that the haplogroup X2b4 is very rare yet widespread and where it is found in abundance is in the Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland. It seems that ancient people of that haplogroup travelled to far flung places like the Orkneys, Nova Scotia (the Miq Maq's), but they originate from the Levant, Syria and particularly amongst the Druze community in Israel.

If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to get your d.n.a. tested.  You never know what you will find.

Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere.

I have always been fascinated by the idea of growing enormous pumpkins. On Saturday Larry and I went to the annual Pirton Village Pumpkin show to see this year's exhibits. We weren't disappointed. The giant pumpkins were every bit as big as last year's and the one that one it, not shown here, was the biggest ever.  More about that later.

There were also other giant vegetables. See below a huge beetroot, a wonderful display of colourful gourds and an enormous marrow.

The show is held every year in the Village Hall, which is an ideal place. Tables for the exhibits are set out around the hall and although the huge pumpkins are there, it is the children's entries that draw the largest crowds.

See some of the children's exhibits below:

 I love the pink elephant below:

It was hard to get close enough to the exhibits to take photographs properly because of the crush of people.  Everybody wanted to take time and look at each one individually, because so much work has gone into each one.

We bought three pots of preserves, which we will no doubt enjoy in the next few weeks and went home well satisfied with the smell of the barbecue in our noses as we left!

Friday, 16 September 2016

A trip to the seaside

Larry and I have been to the seaside, dipping our toes in the briny water and breathing in that lovely salty air. It did us good! I don't know about you, but a few days away is so invigorating, I don't know why we don't do it more often!

What you see above is the North Sea on a misty morning in Kessingland on the east coast of England. It could well be the most easterly point of Britain now because the sea has been depositing more and more sand on this shore and could well be usurping Lowestoft as our most eastery point. There are many places on the east coast which have suffered from erosion recently, but not this one. It took us a good ten minutes to walk down to this point from the promenade.  Maran grass has been planted to hold and fix the sandy shores and it has become a very popular place for dog walkers.

I have been coming to this beach for many years, since the early 80's in fact and in those days the sea came right up to the promenade at night when the tide was in. Now you can't even hear the sea from the promenade.

This is the view looking back to the houses and pubs, which used to be right near the sea-line.

It began to drizzle with rain after a while so we headed back to The Sailors' Home pub, but when we got there, it was still closed for cleaning purposes, so we headed further into the village to find a coffee shop.

This is an old picture of Beach Road, in past times, but it has still retained its character and doesn't look much different now.

We had coffee and a welcome sit down in a pretty little cafe at the end of Beach Road and then caught the bus back to Lowestoft.

I just love this place!

Monday, 22 August 2016

'Parting is such sweet sorrow'

No, I'm not going anywhere. I've just been thinking about the parting cup. That is the last cup we share with friends for one reason or another. This is one of my favourite songs, written by Bob Dylan a long time ago. Do read it slowly and take in the words. It always brings a tear to my eye.

Restless Farewell – Bob Dylan

Oh all the money that in my whole life I did spend
Be it mine right or wrongfully

I let it slip gladly past the hands of my friends
To tie up the time most forcefully
But the bottles are done
We’ve killed each one
And the table’s full and overflowed
And the corner signSays it’s closing time
So I’ll bid farewell and be down the road

Oh ev’ry girl that ever I’ve touched
I did not do it harmfully
And ev’ry girl that ever I’ve hurt
I did not do it knowin’ly
But to remain as friends
And make amends
You need the time and stay behind
And since my feet are now fast
And point away from the past
I’ll bid farewell and be down the line

Oh ev’ry foe that ever I faced
The cause was there before we came
And ev’ry cause that ever I fought
I fought it full without regret or shame
But the dark does die
As the curtain is drawn and somebody’s eyes
Must meet the dawn
And if I see the day
I’d only have to stay
So I’ll bid farewell in the night and be gone

Oh, ev’ry thought that’s strung a knot in my mind
I might go insane if it couldn’t be sprung
But it’s not to stand naked under unknowin’ eyes
It’s for myself and my friends my stories are sung
But the time ain’t tall, yet on time you depend
And no word is possessed by no special friend
And though the line is cut
It ain’t quite the end
I’ll just bid farewell till we meet again

Oh a false clock tries to tick out my time
To disgrace, distract, and bother me
And the dirt of gossip blows into my face
And the dust of rumors covers me
But if the arrow is straight
And the point is slick
It can pierce through dust no matter how thick
So I’ll make my stand
And remain as I am
And bid farewell and not give a damn

It is adapted from an old Scottish traditional song called 'The Parting Glass' which was sung at the end of a gathering of friends before Robbie Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne. The song is also popular in Ireland and amongst Irish communities.

Here is Sinaed O'Connor's beautiful version:

As we get older, we can't help but wonder if this or that will be the last time we ever do that thing or see that person. Life creeps up on us and suddenly there is more sand in the bottle of the hourglass than there is at the top! This isn't necessarily a bad thing because we have stored up so many memories over the years and we are able to dip into them whenever we feel like it! They come to us unexpectedly sometimes and give us pleasure in the remembering.

So what do you do to remember? Do you just sit and think or maybe look through old photo albums? Perhaps meeting up with an old friend who has shared the same memories as you opens the channels of memory. I do all of that and more. Music, smells, all those things bring back those lovely times of the past, which are all the better in the looking back!

Walking along the canal path at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, England, recently, I came upon this interesting looking plant, which was new to me. It was growing abundantly along the side of the canal, separated from the path and reminded me of a small orchid.

When I got home, I looked it up and this is what I found:

'Indian Balsam

Impatiens glandulifera

Introduced as a garden plant from the Himalayas in 1839, and naturalised along waterways and in waste places, this tall, stout-stemmed species grows 100-200 cm high.  It is hairless and the stems reddish. There is no mistaking the rather orchid-like, mave, dangling flowers.

Flower: purplish pink, 2-5.4 cm, petals 5, forming a broad, lower lip and hood; sepals 3, lower forming a mauve, spurred bag.

Flower arrangement: long-stalked racemes arising from leaf-axils.

Flowering time: July - October.

Leaf: opposite or in threes, 5-18 cm long, elliptic, toothed; reddish glands along basal margins.

Fruit: capsule, club-shaped, opening by 5 valves, which spring into coils, shooting out seeds.'

Information from 'Illustrated Guide to Wild Flowers' by Stephen Blackmore

The Indian Balsam flowers were just behind me as I stood admiring the lock keeper's cottage below.

You can see more of my walk along the towpath here.