Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Happy Birthday Ma'am

I just realised its 21st April, the Queen's birthday. She's 83 today. Happy birthday,

Ma'am, and Many Happy Returns of the day!

Not that she'll be reading my blog, or any other, but this is just my loyal greeting to her.

BBC Radio 4 used always to announce the Queen's birthday - ALL Royal birthdays in fact - before morning news bulletins. Then it got to be just the 8am bulletin. "Today is the birthday of...........". Then it was only for the Queen. I missed todays 8 o'clock so I don't know whether they did or not. I hope so.

I wonder if the flag is out on the town hall?

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Being English

I do love being English. Oh I don't have your Oxford vowels or speak the Queen's English (whatever that might be) but to be instantly recognisable as an Englishwoman makes me proud.

I love the Royal family, all of them in their own way, and it grieves me when foreign newspapers start dredging up smut and sensationalism around them.

Sometimes it's that Prince Charles is a grumpy old man. So? He had an unhappy first marriage (doesn't matter whose fault it was, he was not happy). He has 2 kids who have been a trial to him sometimes, just like anyone else's. Sometimes they are a source of great pride - just like anyone else's. His wife is called everything from a dog to a horse, she's "ugly" her hair is "70's" she's "gauche". I think the Duchess of Cornwall is beautiful but not in a Diana way. She is calm, respectful and clearly adores him. She wears her hair like that because she likes it. Through all the years she has remained discreet and dignified (never mind whether or not there was a torrid affair going on. Their's wasn't the only one.). And she makes him happy. We should be glad about that. He is the man today that he should have been 30 years ago. But he can be grumpy if he wants. He has the right - just like everyone else.

Trooping the Colour? State Opening of Parliament? Lead me to it. Festival of Remembrance? Edinburgh Tattoo? You touch-a ma telly, I smack-a your hands! Oh, and the Last Night of the Proms. There I'll be, in spirit if not in person, waving my little flag and singing along.

I just wish we as a nation were a little less reticent about day-to-day patriotism. I wish office buildings and - at the very least - local government offices flew the flag like they do elsewhere in the world.

I wish we would make something of St. George's day. After all we muscle in on St Andrew's, St. Davids and St Patrick's. What did George do wrong?

I wish it were not so unfashionable to be English. Foreigners think of us as an umbrella-weilding, bowler-wearing troop of hooray Henry's.

Mind you, we always stereotype the French as always riding bicycles and having strings of onions around their necks, berets on their heads and stripey sweaters! Oh and pointy little moustaches.

Germans wear nothing but tiny little leather short pants and they are arrogant! I wonder if they care? I've never met an arrogant German.

We apparently rush out to wash our cars and cut the grass (un coup de grace - see, I know French) the second the sun comes out and we are the only nation on earth, it seems, who never pays a tradesman to come and do our jobs around the house. We wash our own windows, do our own decorating, clean out our own guttering.

Except me, and I get Keith to do it while I watch a Royal wedding! C'est la vie!
.....I made this myself ages ago but can I remember how I dd it?

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

I've just noticed

By the way, my previous post was actually published today Weds 15 April, not 12th as it says. I only started it on 12th. Thought I would mention it.........

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Eat your heart out, Mary Poppins

Now, I have to throw myself on Marlene's (Stitchin' by the Lake) mercy here. I've been reading her latest post about Camping and it really did set my mind a-wandering - it doesn't take much. I hope she doesn't mind me using her theme.

We used to go camping, Keith and I, in the 70's and our first attempt was SUCH a disaster. We borrowed his sister's frame tent and just about everything else we thought we needed. Easy peasy, we thought, but it wasn't until we got to the campsite near Broadway in Worcestershire that we discovered none of the metal poles was sprung together like they should have been - and we had never put up a tent before. Four hours it took us in the pouring rain and a howling gale. The high point for the lookers-on, of whom there were many(twitching tent flaps), must have been when, with the frame on its 'knees' and the canvas having just been pulled down over the roof, an almighty gust of wind wooshed under the canvas and took the whole thing off across the field, and me with it hanging on for dear life to one of the legs. Think of Mary Poppins!

A couple of days later we thought we would spend the day in and around the Cheddar Gorge, which is a good drive from Broadway. By the time we got there the drizzle had become a torrent. I'm sure the Cheddar Gorge is spectacular but I couldn't tell you from experience. The very steep road into the town was more like a river. We stayed long enough to buy a cagoule each from the Army and Navy Stores then we cleared off back to Broadway.

Worse awaited us! Now we knew why there was plenty of space near our pitch. The site was on a slope and we were at the bottom of it! Rule #1: pitch at the top if raining. It was a quagmire. The tent was sinking in the mud, the guy ropes doing their own thing, the canvas at a rakish angle, so we just bundled the whole lot up into the boot of the car, mud anorl, and set sail (so to speak) for my cousins flat in Birmingham. We didn't mind sleeping on the floor (I couldn't do it now). We draped that horrid canvas over cousin's balcony and retired to that cosy, welcoming floor.

Next night Keith was designated fetcher of fish and chips, went out to the car and found it had been broken into and all the cassettes pinched and the dashboard damaged.

The following night he went out, before we retired to the floor, to check the car was OK and it was........gone! As we were young and impoverished (i.e. we had no money) we couldn't go home by train so we had to sit it out until the police found the car - another three days. The instant we got home we traded that car in; we were convinced it was jinxed. That car just ASKED to be stolen andjoyridden all over Birmingham. It was a Ford Capri and was p-i-n-k. It was on that same expedition - before we had to abandon ship - that we saw our only other pink Capri. It was at the Cotswold Farm Park and we were parked next to it! Later on it was to seem as if Pink Capris were sent to torment us.

If I told you enough was enough and we never went camping again it wouldn't be surprising would it? Uh-uh.......we bought a tent of our own and, bit by bit, our own equipment, and we did quite enjoy camping in those days. Thankfully we learnt a lot of hard lessons first time out and tenting was never that bad again.

Until along came......... That sounds like blog-fodder for another day!



The following wasn't quite what I had planned for today. It came to me in an Easter greetings email from Sybil. Sybil has lots of friends so you may already have seen it but, whether you have or not, the message is the same:




The Empty Egg

Eight-year-old Steven was mentally retarded and had many health problems. His health appeared to be growing worse ever daily. His teacher was concerned his classmates might stop identifying with him and loving him as they became more aware of his differences.

In April, the teacher asked the class to put together one plastic Easter egg filled with a small object representing new life in the Spring. Thinking Steven might not understand (and not wanting to embarrass him), the teacher had each child place their egg on her desk so that she could open each one individually.

She needn't have worried. The first egg contained a tiny wild flower, which truly was an indication of new life.

Next, came a rock and the teacher assumed the rock was Steven's. Her reasoning was that rocks don't symbolize new life and growth. But a little boy shouted from the back of the room that the rock had moss on it, thereby showing new life. The teacher agreed.

A butterfly flew out of the next egg and the little girl that brought it bragged that the butterfly was hers, and how it had come from a cocoon, symbolizing new life. The teacher agreed again.

The fourth egg was empty. The teacher knew this had to be Steven's egg, and she nervously set it aside, hoping he wouldn't notice. As she began to pick up a different egg, Steven excitedly announced that the empty egg was his! Hesitating, the teacher replied, "But it's empty!""That's right," said Steven. "Just like Jesus' tomb was, and that means new life for everyone!" The teacher was amazed at Steven's insight and his love for Jesus.

Later on, at the end of the school year, Steven's condition worsened and he died. At his funeral, the children from his class each placed an empty Easter egg among the flowers. Many of the adults at Steven's funeral were puzzled by the appearance of all the eggs, and the message Steven shared with his classmates was shared again! An empty tomb some two thousand years earlier gave Steven the hope of a new life! Although the flowers were beautiful, it was the empty eggs that shared the message of hope in Eternal Life through Jesus Christ!

What a wonderful message to share this Easter with those you love."Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is nothere; He is risen!"? Luke 24:5 NIV

~Author Unknown~

A Blessed and Peaceful Easter to everyone

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

School Dinners

Hands up who thinks there are some pretty precious celebrity chefs around?
I suppose I had better not name any (I'm talking about British ones here but for all I know they're the same the world over) but you know the sort......their prowess at swearing and boozing and belittling people far outstrips their ability to cook and their recipes and methods don't stand up to close scrutiny. Please can we have a celebrity chef showing ordinary people how to use ordinary ingredients, ones that fit the budget and don't need cupboard-loads of special equipment.

School Dinners
I used to love school dinners in the '50s and '60s. Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, Cottage Pie, Stew and Dumplings, Liver and Onions -everything. Puddings were equally yummy, even when it was rice pudding or tapioca (frogspawn). I even liked semolina, which I was reliably informed was used in the school office for gluing papers. My all-time favourite was chocolate sponge with pink custard. Pink tasted exactly the same as yellow but yellow just would not have done.

And I loved being a 'dinner monitor', in which exalted position you had to be a part of the small posse who put out the tables and set the cutlery. You had to leave your classroom VERY QUIETLY 15 minutes before the dinner bell went and go along to the school hall. Gosh, you did feel important walking out of lessons like that! Our tables were octagonal so each had 8 place settings - knife and fork to right hand and left hand, dessert fork across the top with handle to left and spoon above that (handle right). A water glass was placed at the right of each place and each table had a jug of cold water There would be a teacher at each table and at her place you had to set a triangular folded napkin. Nobody else got one.

As the hungry hordes took their pre-ordained places and 'teacher of the day' joined them the Dinner monitor handed over to the Grace Monitor whose sole duty was to look as pious as possible while he said "For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful our men (sic). You may be seated." As this took place on each table you can imagine what a racket there was of shrill little voices and scraping chairs.

The adult dinnerladies brought round the dishes containing the food we were having and the "Serving Monitor" stood up. To him fell the daunting task of equally dividing the main dish - meat pie let's say - and serving it onto plates. All would be well unless someone was absent and there was a piece left. It was the very devil of a job dividing that already small piece among everyone! For sure no-one was backing down, not even in the interests of world peace! You helped yourself from the vegetable dishes and were trusted to only take one eighth so there was enough for everyone.

Around came the dinnerladies again, this time with whatever was for pudding (dessert if you're posh or American) and - cue the "clearing up monitors". Each table had 2 of these, one for plates and cutlery and the other for everything else. The serving monitor dealt with dishing up the pud and, again, you helped yourself to the custard, making sure you left enough for everyone. Mind you, there was sometimes a bit of kerfuffle when it came to who got the skin off the custard! Clearing up monitors did their stuff again and then, when everything was cleared and tables clean, everyone except the dinner monitors, who put away the tables, could go.

See where I'm going with this? The point is that this wasn't a special effort to try and make us eat what was good for us. It wasn't a lesson in table manners. It wasn't an exercise in being considerate of others. It just happened. And we grew up just knowing these things whether we liked it or not. None of our fod was special, just what English school dinners were and if you didn't like what there was ......well there was no other choice!

Yes, I liked school dinners and all they taught me. And there was no need for any celebrity chef to do it or for wringing of hands or gnashing of teeth over it. I didn't like Miss Burlinson though, who was often at our table and was certain we were a bunch of Philistines!

I'm going to publish now just as it is because somethig odd is happening with my computer and I'm afrad I may lose the lot if I mess about with any pictures. Autosave is constantly failing.