Saturday, 13 December 2014

Book Review - Snowfall in Burracombe by Lilian Harry

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This is a delightful book and just right for this time of the year. As you know, I love all things 'village' so this book was perfect for me.

'In the village of Burracombe, nothing stays secret for long and behind the peaceful, rural charm, there's always a scandal to uncover, a newcomer to the village to set tongues wagging, a happy occasion to celebrate or friends to help their neighbours through the tough times.

It's December 1953. As the village prepares for the festivities, for many people a happy Christmas is by no means certain. For Stella Simmons, recovering from a car crash, the winter wedding that she and her sweetheart had planned seems impossible.
Elsewhere in the village, Jackie Tozer is dreaming of America and Hilary Napier, who thought the war had robbed her of her chance of happiness, has to ask herself if she could ever imagine leaving her life at the big house for the sake of love and adventure.  The darkest time of the year finds everyone asking questions with no easy answer.
As snow falls softly on the village, and everyone wishes for peace and joy, Burracombe proves once again that there's a always a surprise around the corner.'

so say the jacket cover! Lilian Harry has written numerous books, but this is the first one of hers that I have read! I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to you. I counted 60 characters in all. Far too many for me to remember so after reading the first chapter, I started making a list.  I wrote down the character's name, who they were and who they were married to or in a relationship with. Perhaps if I had read other books in the series, I would know by now, who is who, but I didn't. I found this book in a charity shop and pounced on it! Do you make lists of characters when you are reading?

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I have just completed two more doggie blankets for the Battersea Dogs and Cats home. I hope I can get them off in the post in time. I expect they won't mind if they're late arriving. There is a blue one and a purple one. I'm using up my stash nicely!
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Have you noticed how busy the delivery men are? It must be a very stressful time of the year for them. I hope they all get a bonus like the bankers!!! This year, here in England, we adopted the Black Friday nonsense. I say nonsense, not because it is a waste of time. If you can buy a TV at a very reduced price, then good for you, but I don't like what I see on the television with regard to the behaviour of many of the shoppers. Frankly, it was disgusting. I would much rather we adopted the Thanksgiving Day that you have over in America. Following on from Black Friday is Cyber Monday and yes, we have that too now. Those two days of sales have caused havoc with UPS etc.

Tomorrow is the 12th so I'll be posting my Christmas cards and putting up the Christmas Tree. I'm looking forward to doing that.

What will you be doing tomorrow?

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Preparations for Christmas.

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It's time to start the preparations for Christmas, isn't it! Time to find or remember where you put the decorations, the Christmas cards, ribbons and bows and of course the Christmas tree. Time to make that all important cake and start the shopping... I've noticed that my branch of Sainsbury's is getting busier by the day. There were very few free spaces in the car park this morning. On the shelves there is change!  Familiar items have disappeared for the time being to make room for all those special treats we come to expect at this time of the year.

One of the places I love to visit is Poplars, the garden centre, which is a short drive from where we live.  They always put on a good display for Christmas and each year there is a different theme.  This year's theme is The Snow Queen and you can see her in the picture below, sitting on her sleigh with the reindeer in front.  There is a Santa hut for the children. It gets more spectacular each year.  The restaurant does good business with mince pies galore and a view of the Christmas trees for sale just outside the window.

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Garden centres do big business over here these days.  They have changed enormously since the days when they were just nurseries. Now they are grand and full of all sorts of delights and it is possible to spend the whole day in them.

We bought a new Christmas tree for this year. I think it's a little bigger than the previous one but we are restricted by space so it is still small. I may need to buy some new baubles for it (yeah) but must wait and see. First I need to assess the situation and where we're going to put it etc.

Most importantly - don't forget your spiritual preparations. If you go to church, go! If you don't, consider trying it? Or follow your God wherever he/she goes. You will be all the more richer for it.

Will you be having a Christmas tree in your home this year? Have you decorated it yet?

Star

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Book Review - The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

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'Honor Bright is a sheltered Quaker, who has rarely ventured out of 1850's Dorset (England) when she impulsively emigrates to America.  Opposed to the slavery that defines and divides the country, she finds her principles tested to the limit when a runaway slave appears at the farm of her new family.  In this tough, unsentimental place, where whisky bottles sit alongside quilts, Honor befriends two spirited women who will teach her how to turn ideas into actions.'

My friend bought this book for me for my birthday, back in October and I loved it. It is the third book by Tracy Chevalier that I have read. The first was 'The Girl with the Pearl Earring' and the second was 'Burning Bright'.

My friend thought I would like the book because it deals with an English girl's journey to America to begin a new life. She knew that I had that same experience back in 2006 when I left my life in England to go and live in Tennessee. From then until 2013 I was back and forth from England to America, spending approximately six months of the year in each country. Finally, Larry and I decided that England was the best choice for a permanent home given that we are both getting older! The distances are not so great, there is not so much the need for private transport and the health service is better. Those were the three main criteria which influenced our choice plus the fact that I already owned half a house over here.

In the story, Honor's choice was different, but in many ways she found the same differences over there that I did.

I encourage you to read this book. It is a good read and very enlightening.

Star

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Trees and conservation


When I was living in Tennessee, I noticed lots of things which were different to over here in England. One of those things was the trees. The trees are very different, all of them. They are all beautiful but different, rather like people! I noticed that there were many more trees in America but that they were being mown down to be replaced by buildings of concrete. You can see it clearly from the aeroplanes. When I first went over, I saw the roofs of the shopping malls and I thought they were large car parks, but the sheer expanse of concrete covering the earth is alarming.
Please stop it!
You don’t need to do so much building. When a shop goes out of business, you don’t need to move on and build more, you just need to revamp what you have.  America is such a big country, huge, massive! that it is thought the land is endless but it isn’t. Pretty soon you will lose your trees if you don’t stop the endless building. I saw it at first hand. Living in Knoxville, we were on the west side. The east side came first, I believe and now a large part of that is derelict, just left to decay. Sad, very sad.
In England we have done the same in years gone by and that is why I say ‘stop it’ to you over there. Keep what you have and appreciate the beauty.
Here is a quote from one of my favourite books:
‘Over many centuries, ancient Britain was transformed from a land covered in natural forestation in which clearances were made to a ”land of clearance” with only isolated patches of forest.  However, the average person still had the security of working the land.  This changed drastically as the peasants were thrown off the land by the institution of the General Enclosures Act of 1845 and while Britain became dangerously deforested by the demands of industrialization, there was a rise in the amount of new species of trees planted as wealthy landowners landscaped their gardens and estates.  On the one hand the rough grazing land of the peasants was taken from them, enclosed and cleared of growth for the plough, while on the other, having cleared so much land, landowners had to literally remake copses in order to house the game they kept for sport.
When timber became the long-term crop of private woodlands, new species of trees were introduced and established.  These were mainly fir, larch and spruce, and they were planted alongside our fastest growing softwood, the Scot’s pine.  During the twentieth century, great conifer plantations arose as a result of the need for quickly produced timber, especially during the times of world wars, after which they became purely commercial producers.
The Forestry Commission was founded in 1919, and it advised private landowners to acquire and plant trees on any land unsuitable for agriculture.  While the Forestry Commission has been guilty of planting acres of sombre, uniform conifers, it has in fact also been successful in arresting the decline of many of our remaining deciduous forests, specifically the seven National Forest Parks.  It is heartening to realise that a new generation of foresters (or woodmen) are now concentrating upon replacing areas of hardwood trees, for deciduous woodland shows the seasonal beauty of Nature in its fullest glory.  New forests are being born out of sympathy with nature rather than for monetary gain and the skills and wisdoms of old are once more taking hold.’
from ‘Tree Wisdom’, by Jacqueline Memory Paterson
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Friday, 21 November 2014

Last week we went to our local railway station for an important event. Dylan and his dad came too. We were going to watch a steam train come through and it did, on time and at speed! Here it is:

At the end you can see Larry ducking to get out of the picture.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGv_ZImyPXE

Dylan had never seen a steam train live before.  He wasn't sure what he was going to see. He asked his dad if it was going to be like Thomas (the tank engine). Isn't that so sweet? At the event, he was frightened, which is not surprising, after all he has only just turned four. He is used to seeing the electric trains go through but this was something different and it did go very fast.

It was a first for Larry too. He had never seen a real steam engine in action either and he found it very exhilarating.

The last steam engine to pull a passenger train in England was in 1968. It was the Oliver Cromwell and it went from Liverpool to Carlisle.  Is it really that long ago?

Do you have any memories of travelling on a steam train?

Star

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Remembering the fallen, World War 1



My great-uncle, William Harry Davis, was born in 1879 and baptised in 1882 at St. Peter's, St. Albans. Later on, with the death of his father, the family moved to Hart Hill Lane, Luton, Bedfordshire. On 4th August 1906 Harry (as he was known) married Mary Edridge. There were two children born - Stanley and Gladys.

Harry went to France with the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, but was killed on 16th February 1916 in Flanders. He is buried in the Cambrin Military Cemetary, Pas de Calais, France, grave reference F9.
I have found out this information through family research. I didn't know the story beforehand. Harry was part of a very large family of Davis's. There were about thirteen children. My little nanna, Ethel was the youngest and her brother Harry was next but one up the line with Mabel in between.

I didn't see my dad for a large part of my life because he moved to Australia when I was fifteen. I didn't see him again until I was thirty-two years old. If I had known my dad better during those years, I expect I would have heard these stories frequently. I do know that my dad, whose middle name was Harry, was named after his Uncle. I know that now but I didn't know it until I started researching.

When I heard that The Royal British Legion were offering commemoration for the fallen soldiers in World War 1, I decided to remember my great uncle in this way. I am hoping they will put a poppy on his gravestone, since he is fortunate to have one. Not everyone did.

I have no contact with this branch of the family. Does anyone on here know of them? All I know is that Harry and Mary were married in Northwood, Middx. but since he spent a large part of his growing years here in Luton, I felt it appropriate to remember him here.

Who are you going to particularly remember on November 11th?

Star

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Goodbye and thanks for the fish!

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This is my first car purchase, all on my own. It is (was) a Vauxhall Corsa and it’s ten years + with 110,000 miles on the clock. It’s been a brilliant car and if it’s possible to do so, I loved it very much. It did 30+ miles to the gallon and was easy to maintain. Now it’s been sold and will give someone else a few months or maybe a year or two of pleasure.
Goodbye little car. It’s been great knowing you… sob
Am I being overly sentimental? Do you get attached to your cars?
Star