Friday, 30 May 2008

Could Have Done Better

I was always advanced with reading (that's me with the glasses) but never good with 'sums', as we used to call them. What follows is a little piece I had in my other blog but it tells you a bit more about the hotch-potch that is Me.

For me, the sheer persistence of junior school teachers ensured that certain things just suddenly 'clicked'.

Mr. Coom threatened to throw me out of the recorder band if I didn't pay more attention to learning my times tables. Actually, he also threatened to throw me out the window but the only person who believed him was me! That was probably the clincher! Believe it or not, the instant the five times table took root in my mind, telling the time was the glorious blossom which rewarded me. There were only clocks with hands then so you had to learn it. So to this day I know my tables and I can add up and take away quite successfully - without a calculator. Not as good as my friend Judith though but she used to be a barmaid. Nobody can add up like a barmaid!

Once Mr. Skinner explained that division was only 'sharing' things, that mystery was cleared up too. They had only been trying to teach me division since Infant School! I do have a bit of pity for those kids today who are not taught these things in case they get bored. Not much though.

When I was having the Great Filing Cabinet Clear Out I came across all my school reports from age 7 to 17 when I left. I haven't looked at them for years. I always thought science subjects were my Achilles Heel but I was surprised to see several comments in Chemistry throughout Grammar School that "Angela tries very hard even though she finds the subject difficult". Fancy that now! The chemistry teacher was an Irishman and I could barely understand what he was saying, never mind "try hard"! It becomes very clear that when they say "She does her best", what they really mean is "I'm afraid she's doing her best".

But Maths and Physics were by far the worst. It was in the physics lab where my lifelong hatred of the smell of Bakelite began. I can't even remember why that was but there was something on each bench made of bakelite and I hated it. When I first worked at British Steel in the late 60's my office phone was bakelite and I used to squirt it with all sorts to mask that smell.

I went to my sis's yesterday and she put a colour on my hair. I was supposed to have had it done at the hairdresser's on Tuesday but they wanted £52 for the job. It was £42 last time I had it done just before Christmas so I thought a £10 increase was a bit much. I just had it trimmed. They charged me £17 just for that! I dont know what other places charge, maybe £17 is quite reasonable, but when you think how many of those they could do in an hour...........

We were supposed to be going to Lincoln today but when he saw what a pig the weather was Keith decided to do a Great Scrub of the cooker instead. That put paid to the Easter biscuits I was going to make. Can't do them tomorrow either because that is the Great Scrub of the kitchen walls. Oh, we shall be so clean and sparkling by Monday I'll be able to take tonsils out on the kitchen table!!

See you soon,

Sunday, 25 May 2008


I have quite a large collection of cookbooks. I love them just to read, though the large ones are a bit difficult in bed - your arm freezes! I know there are people with much larger collections than mine but I bet they too have their favourites: the few books they always find themselves reaching for.

I'm not a great fan of celebrity chefs, except for Delia Smith. Readers of my other blog, which I no longer do, will know that Delia is my guru! I have most of her books and I have yet to find a recipe of hers that is not absolutely correct. If she says 'cook for 7 minutes' then just do it. An absolute beginner can make incredible dishes just by following her instructions to the letter. My favourite book of hers, though, is the 'Book of Cakes'. You can see from the picture above (which was supposed to be below!) that this is a well-used book. Its pages are yellowed, curled and stained. Its back cover has fallen off. All the pages are there but not necessarily in the right order! And yet this book holds a cake for every occasion. In fact many of its pages actually contain blobs of cakes for every occasion!

But I do have one book which is even more precious to me because from it I learnt the most basic rudiments of cooking. I learnt how to cook breakfast. I learnt how to recognise different cuts of meat and what to do with them. And I learnt how to make a Victoria Sponge and Fruit Scones. With those two skills under your belt (so to speak) you can produce an impressive tea table of all sorts of goodies. It's Marguerite Patten's Step-by-Step Cookery. Sorry, the pictures are 'up there' again. It's the first cookbook I ever had and was a gift about 40 years ago. I must confess to wondering at the time 'What has she given me a cookbook for?', pretty much what a 17-year-old these days would think. But I was soon hooked and to this day I use her scones recipe, though I no longer have to look in the book. I did for years though (my memory!) so those pages also contain blobs of almost every scone I ever made. The dog goes mad when that book comes out because there's always the chance of a squashed currant falling out. To prove it works, just look at those scones straight from the oven the other day!

Apart from Mrs. Patten's book, which is too big, the books I use all the time live in my kitchen cupboard alongside the Church magazine, washing machine instructions - for Keith, you understand - and money off coupons. The picture of the other books, though I'm going to add it now, will also appear at the top, I fear. Where am I going wrong? That old McDougall's one - I don't know where that came from! It's ancient though, as you can tell from its condition and it's priced at 6d. That's 6 OLD pence, about 2½p in today's money. Hands up anyone who can think of something you can buy for 2½p now?
Now then - PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE WITH SUGAR, TREACLE, HONEY AND MAPLE SYRUP, WITH FLUTTERING EYELASHES AND MY UNDYING ADORATION............please can someone tell me how to make my photos appear where I want them and not in a glob at the top.

Sunday, 18 May 2008


First, sorry for the lack of pictures, I didn't know my subject matter would turn out to be that, so I didn't take any! I know some will not agree with what I'm about to say but..........hey, you don't have to read it if you don't want.

I should think there isn't a town in England that doesn't have an ever increasing immigrant population and nowadays we have so many different nationalities here. They usually find themselves living in the 'wrong end' of our towns. Keith and I had a wander along Frodingham Road yesterday morning to see what's afoot there these days.

It has never been the most salubrious of areas, being in the town centre, more or less, but I've always quite liked it. It's a little village in itself, but over recent years it has become run down - boarded up shops, scruffy houses, litter everywhere: truly the 'wrong end of town'. What a surprise we got though!

There are European and Halal food shops along both sides of the street. Like a phoenix from the ashes they have risen from the boarded up buildings. There's a post office - a different one; the old one was closed down ages ago - several newsagents with newspapers and magazines from all over the place, including England, men's and women's hairdressers, even a doctor's surgery. They are making something of an area we had given up on.

We have an ever growing foreign community here now. One way or another half the world claims the right to live on our tiny island. In our town there are a great many Iraqis who have fled their own country. You would be surprised how many are fleeing back again! We have Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians flooding in on the back of the EU. There has been a strong Polish community here since the last war but now even the price tickets on Tesco's deli counter have Polish subtitles!

It did look as if most of the shops are owned by Iraqis and Sikhs, even the shops which appear to be European. Keith knows many of the owners and workers in them because they all have other jobs at the chicken factory where he works! You have to give them full marks for hard work.

They are all so friendly too. They greet you, they shake your hand, they SMILE. For shame we should be so astonished to be smiled at! The goods they sell you won't find in Tesco. They're not what I call 'vogue ethnic' but 'everyday ethnic'.

There's a lot of bad feeling towards the immigrant population in this town because, according to letters in the local Telegraph, they "don't speak English" "live in their own exclusive communities" "treat women badly" and "take jobs away from English people" and so on. But what else can we expect if we ignore them? If we don't speak to them, how do they learn the language? If we don't welcome them into our communities, our homes, how are they to begin to integrate into our way of life and customs? How should they know we don't treat women 'like that'?

We've had all sorts round here at our house and, without exception, not one of them comes into the house with their shoes on. I don't make this rule, they just do it. It's a mark of respect. They never come empty handed either, even if they only bring a pack of sweets.

If you visit their homes they always give you their best. Coffee isn't served in their everyday mugs, you get the best china, or whatever passes for it. But always it is their best.

Make no mistake, there are some baddies among them, just as among us, but basically they are good, hard-working people.

Now then, if all these different nationalities - Iraquis, Kurds, Indians, Bangladeshis, Poles, Lithuanians etc etc - can all live and work together down Frodingham Road with no more than the odd spat, what right have we to be so stand-offish?

Thursday, 15 May 2008

It drives me mad - but keeps me sane!

Some people think of cooking as a science, some think of it as an art, I think of it as a lot of washing up! No, not really.....well, it is but just for a change I don't mind. What I hate, and never quite get used to, is people destroying my masterpieces that have taken me ages. I'm talking about cakes of course. They can take me a long time to do these days because of my limitations of mobility but I usually have something or other in the freezer that I can fish out if needed. I don't make a living out of it either. You have to be either fitter, more dedicated or more hard-headed than me to do that. No, I just do them for family and friends.

Now then, let's see if I'm clever enough to load up a few pictures here for you. I mean 'upload' don't I! The one at the beginning of the text, which wasn't supposed to appear just there, is a Duchesse de Nemois peony arrangement I did for Keith's 60th birthday. The cake got demolished!

Oooh - look where the others appeared! Bear with me won't you? Perhaps I should have done the pictures first and the words after.

Thw wedding cake was a 3-tier fruit cake with the top two cakes stacked and placed on pillars above the bottom cake. The flowers were a bit of a nightmare because the bride (my niece) wanted long, pointy, white tulips with eryngium, purple appleberries and rosemary. You know what rosemary looks like, don't you? Well to make a single sprig I needed to do about 500 tiny little leaves and paint each individual one. I've never mentioned rosemary to any bride ever since!

Let's try again and see if any will appear below here. Er, naw, they're at the top again! The third one down isn't actually mine. Keith did it on Easter sunday. It was a madeira cake from the freezer, split and sandwiched with jam and whipped cream. Maltesers represented Easter eggs, grated chocolate sugar paste was a 'nest' and a piece of randomly rolled out yellow sugar paste was supposed to be an egg yolk. The liberal sprinkling of icing sugar was meant to represent the covering of snow we had that day. I was quite touched actually because he did this while I was still snoring away in bed. He had taken the cake out of the freezer the night before and put it in the bottom of the wardrobe to defrost!
Please can someone tell me how to make pictures appear where I want them in the text?
See you next time.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


Snitched from our local Church Newsletter:
The best vitamin for a Christian is B1
Under the same management fr over 2000 years
Don't give up on yourself; even Moses was once a basket case.
What was Noah's wife's name? Joan of Ark
Lead me not into temptation, I can find the way myself
The things that com to those who wait might be the things left behind by the people who got there first
Accept that some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue
Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them
If you lend somebody £20 then never see that person was probably worth it
My next bit has nothing whatever to do with the above. I'm going to tell you about my grandmas and grandpas, with whom I was unusually well endowed. Apologies to anyone looking in from my former blog as you already read most of this.

There were three grandmas, officially: Big Grandma, Little Grandma and Auntie Gran. Big Grandma was mum's mum, Little Grandma was dad's mum and Auntie Gran was the woman mum's dad got married to in the 1950's sometime. Are you with me so far?

I had two Grandfathers: Grandad was mum's dad and Grandpa was dad's dad. As Grandpa died in 1953, we never knew him and he only knew two-thirds of us! OK? We didn't actually know we had Grandad until not long before Big Grandma (keep up!) died in the 1970's. That was because he ceased to exist once he left home in the '30's. Now there is a man I would like to have known much better. I mean, for 40 years (more or less) he had been somewhere. done something. He lived and breathed, ate and drank and was the father of 3 children. So many questions I would have had for him. He divorced Big Grandma (or maybe the other way round) at a time when divorce was not a usual solution to the marital troubles of the working class. As far as I know he didn't see his three children. He just....disappeared, leaving his family in Erdington while he went off to live in Smethwick. Well, that's where he fetched up at anyway!
Grandpa - I would have adored him I think. Apparently he was like my dad, but with hair. He was from Co. Durham, like Little Grandma, and it was those two who provided my first eye-opener when I started on a bit of family history: they were married in June 1924, Dad was born in November 1924. You don't need a degree in doing sums to work that one out! He came further south during the Depression. I don't know if he was one of the Jarrow marchers but he could have been. I'll never know now.
Big Grandma was from Birmingham and I do remember her very well. She used sometimes to come up and see us and for us little kids it was always a real occasion. I could always tell as soon as I got home from school whether she had arrived because she always smelled of trains. To this day I associate her with the smell of steam trains.
As her name implies she was a big woman, not in height but in girth, and I was fascinated by her corsets. They were a terrifying pink contraption with laces up the side and whalebone stays. It used to take her ages to put these on in a morning but it was compulsive viewing! Good job she shared a room (and bed) with my sis and me on these visits or I might never have witnessed such a performance. How she did up those laces on her own I have no idea, then there were the hooks and eyes - priceless! She used to wear those pink knickers with the legs that were elesticated just above the knee and when she put her dress on she used to look like a well stuffed sausage. I used to wonder why grown-ups remarked about her 'harvest' dress, now I know: 'All is safely gathered in'!!! And, now I think of it, she was probably younger than I am now (50's). How times do change.
Little Grandma used to come on the train to visit but for some reason the smell didn't cling to her. She was a little thin woman and it is alleged that I look like her. I've never been able to see it myself. I'm not thin for a start. Maybe I don't want to because she was no oil painting! I always remember though at my dad's brother's wedding in 1965 - it was just a few days after Little Grandma died actually - all the old northern aunties at the wedding reception with their "Disn't she lewk leek ower Bella" which, for our friends across the Pond, is the closest I can get to writing a Durham accent!
Where the corsets and train smell were what I associated with Big Grandma, I associated wigs and mothballs with Little Grandma. Yes, NHS wigs. They used to be horrible at one time and very distinctive. Do you remember? She had had some kind of tumour on her head I think. She had a big bald patch just left of centre (sounds political!) and wore one of these wigs all the time. She always looked as if she spent hours every day finger-waving her hair. And she always smelled of mothballs. Her clothes, her house. her furniture, everything. She had a 'thing' about anything getting moth-eaten. Maybe that's why I am so scared of moths - I thought they were going to eat me - LOL! She was the only person I knew who had pierced ears. Well, let me clarify - her ear-rings were stuck through her ear lobes. She couldn't bear to do it herself so my mum did this terrible stabbing every morning. There would sit little grandma wearing her nightie, no wig and no teeth while mum stabbed her ears.
Auntie Gran I knew - and know - nothing about, except that her name wasn't to be mentioned when Big Grandma was around. Fortunately, we didn't know what her name was so we couldn't mention it! We were in our teens when we met her and unfortunately, after Grandad died, she was banished again. She's gone too now but I would have liked to know her just a bit.
Finally, my surrogate Gran - Old Helen. She lived in our street when we were little and was commonly known as 'the Merry Widow'. Everyone said her husband 'did away' with himself and us kids were forbidden to have anything to do with her. He didn't, but anyway. She used to have lots of German visitors - at a time when emotions still ran high following WW2. It was the early '70's before I got to know her. We would spend hours talking (and drinking and smoking!!) and I think she was largely responsible for the continuance of the thirst for knowledge which I had always had but which might otherwise have died from starvation. She always described herself as a 'mine of useless information' and so she was and I am proud to say she passed some of it to me. It'll come in handy one day! She would have been 100 years old this year but died 7 years ago.
Love, Angie

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A Bone to pick

Just so you can know me a bit better, I wanted to tell you a little bit about the condition I have that messes my life up quite a lot these days.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is the medical term for a specific group of disorders primarily affecting bones. It is characterised by bones that are fragile and easily broken, but can also be responsibe for other, related, problems. There are a number of different types of OI and they vary greatly in their severity. There is no cure so it needs to be diagnosed as early as possible - Woops! Ah well, there you go!

The cause if “imperfections” in bone formation is mutation of type 1 collagen. This is the the major protein in bones and also provides strength and structure to other tissues, including skin and muscle. It is NOT caused by lack of Calcium.

In most cases OI is caused by a dominant gene defect, which means that only one “copy” (mum's or dad's) of the affected gene needs to be passed on for the condition to be inherited. In other cases, though, children are born with OI even though there is no family history of it. This is known as “spontaneous mutation” - and that’s me - I’m a Mutant!!

Spontaneous or inherited, though, OI-ers have a 50% chance of passing it on to their offspring. Big question for potential parents among us is: do we or don’t we? I didn’t.

There are many common characteristics of OI, in addition to fragile bones: bone deformity, loose joints, triangular face - bang went my modelling career - , curvature of the spine, brittle teeth - I once broke 2 teeth on a Fruit Gum - and a blue tinge to the whites of the eyes - which does not go well with brown eyes, let me tell you.
I just thought I would share those little pearls with you…………….WAKE UP AT THE BACK!

I've also been diagnosed just last year with basilar invagination, a further nuisance complication of OI. Basically it means that my cervical spine goes too far up into the back of my head so I have only a very short neck - in fact, not much of one at all. My balance is very poor because of it so I have to spend most of my time in a wheelchair if I'm outside.

Anyhow, there you are, that's a bit of me. I promise I won't go on about it. Well not much anyway.

Talking of things medical, the list of things you can’t eat grows almost by the minute. If you’re preggy you can’t have tea, coffee, booze or fags, tap water, brie and camembert or milk straight from the cow etc. If you’re old (though no-one seems to know when ‘old’ starts), most of the above PLUS don’t cook in aluminium pans. We should stop using salt and only eat hard cooked eggs and well-done meat - no more of your "bloody beef steaks"!
We should apparently now question the wisdom of using low energy light bulbs as they contain (a minute amount of) mercury, which is BAD FOR US!! Ordinary thermometers like we used to stick under our tongues or under our arms are banned for the same reason. Hands up if you ever knew anyone who died of it?
Until next time,
Angie, xxx

Friday, 9 May 2008

Letting my Daft out

Well I never! When my new Bus Pass arrived today (got on grounds of disability I hasten to add, not age, not yet!), I made a mental note never to buy a Webcam. That’s what they were using to take the photos with when I queued up to apply: you sit by this person with a computer, answer their questions, gaze into their webcam and ZAP you’re done, next please. Mark my words, that photo is even worse than any passport photo you can imagine.
I only actually applied because I can. Can’t see me getting on a bus though because I could never cock my leg up high enough. Some of them are the low entry type but you can’t tell if YOURS will be. Or if there'll be one to come back on. Tell you what though, if I could get on a bus, I certainly wouldn’t mess about driving into town, not with a free pass! Wouldn't that be good for my carbon footprint?

I think what our garden needs is a Bird Table. Everyone’s journals seem to be mentioning the plethora of bird life and all we ever get is little sparrers tweeting in the bushes and pigeons making merry on the chimney pot. Oh, the pigeons do sometimes sortie down and have a chomp at Keith’s would-be winter cabbages. It’s like a sort of post-coital fag to them. If we had a bird table maybe some really interesting birds would pay a visit. I mentioned it to Keith and his eyes lit up. Huh!

We used to have an automatic bird feeder a few years ago. It was made by Morphy Richards and how it worked was you stood it on the window-sill at Breakfast time, opened the window, put 2 slices of bread in and pressed the handle and a few minutes later out would fly 2 perfectly done bits of toast, through the window and land on the yard. Our dog used to have a Pavlovian reaction to it. As soon as she heard the handle pressed down she would go haring out the back door to sit under the dining room window with her mouth open!

Only introducing myself

I know you're not seeing much here but I just wanted to say hi. There are all sorts of things I ought to be able to do on this blog but not being much of a boffin it's going to take time, so bear with me won't you.

Lots of things I left out of my setup bits and pieces. I have been married to Keith for 36 years. We have no children of our own but the nephews and nieces and even great-ditto are mounting up.

I forgot to say I'm disabled and use a wheelchair most of the time, quite deaf with a hearing aid each side and - I don't care. There, at least now you know I'm not famous or on the telly or royal; nothing like that. My disability is actually the reason we don't have kids - it's genetic and I can pass it on and I would have hated that.

I am a passable cook and cake maker and decorator and people seem to like what I do. I don't make a living out of cakes though. You have to be far better than me to do that. No, it's just a hobby.

There's loads more about me, but that'll do for now. I'm not sure how to let you know I'm here so I'm hoping for the best

I might occasionally publish a recipe for you but that all depends whether or not I remember to write it down as it comes out of my head (no. not brains on toast!). About once a week we have a 'clear the fridge out' dinner when I take out of the fridge anything usable and make something nice for dinner. I tell you, I've fed guests like that - but don't tell anyone, it's between you and me.

OK that's really it for now. I won't post every day, not yet anyway, but please look out for me and leave me a link so I can visit your blog.