Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Entertainment from 'Christmas Past'

The world hasn't been so nice lately -- Sometimes humour is definitely in order. My favourite sketch from Eric Morcambe and Ernie Wise, English humour at its very best -- and Andre Previn wasn't bad either!

Monday, December 17, 2012

O Wisdom

I grew up not so far from Newtown, Connecticut. I can smell the air and see the landscape so clearly. It's Christmas time. Decorations are up, Christmas trees are shining bright on the town green... and suddenly, in the midst of preparation and the great celebratory rush, devastation is thrust upon us. There have been other tragedies that have knocked us back at this time of year. The first I experienced was the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Another was the 21st of December 1988, the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am 103. And now we suffer the chilling agony and pain of the slaughter of  the Innocents.

Today is the 17th of December. The day when many churches begin the recitation of the Antiphons of Advent. Today's reading is O Wisdom (O Sapientia) and it seems appropriate to dwell on this in order to try to make sense of what on earth is happening in our country in particular. I believe that if we as a nation do not do something to control the use and availability of guns it will happen again and again.

Do not tell me that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Don't tell me that more cars kill people than guns. The purpose of a gun is to kill. That is not the purpose of a car, as you well know! And the argument that we need to protect this Constitutional 'right' because it might be necessary for the populace to have guns should a government betray its people and needs to be overturned -- is so flawed  it beggars belief. First of all, what non-democratically elected person or group determines this? If this were true, it would follow that any person has the Constitutional right to determine that he or she has the right to destroy the government should he or she think that government needs overthrowing.

Right now there is uproar. I hope those with a voice will lead the way to a better way than the rule of lobbyists from the National Rifle Association. They have been pulling the strings for far to long. In the 60's I worked for my Congressman in his Washington office. As long ago as that Congressional and Senatorial offices were besieged with hundreds of letters and phone calls from the NRA. American legislators have got to stop being 'for hire'. Feelings are strong right now, but we all know that the strength of feeling will fade. The other day on television an American living in Britain said that teachers should be armed -- he is not alone. He insisted that if they had been armed in Newtown they would have been able to 'take him out'. What has happened when people believe this is an answer -- armed teachers of small children. And just where would this weapon be kept -- on the teacher? Under lock and key? How would it be feasible to access it if some maniac appears brandishing his own firearms?

Another woman today argued that if we weren't allowed to have guns then only the bad guy would have them ... I don't pretend to know the answer to the predicament we find ourselves. When there are over  300,000,000 guns in the country it seems an impossible task to have any kind of meaningful gun control. But perhaps we should start with a ban on assault weapons and take it from there -- if the Supreme Court doesn't knock it down. But I say, it's time to fight and maybe lose, but fight again and again and again.

So I call upon Wisdom today especially:
O Sapientia (Is. 11:2-3; 28:29): "O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I've been thinking a lot the past few days about the two DJ's involved in the 'prank' that went so tragically wrong last week.  Actually, I was thinking more about what I was like when young and eager. When I 'had the world by the balls' -- so to speak...

The case of the two DJs from Australia is so graphic -- so sure were they of their success and future careers one moment and so broken the next. I can remember having that intoxicating feeling that nothing could or would ever stand in the way of my success in whatever endeavour I was exploring at the time.

So I do identify with their youth and to some extent the quandary in which they find themselves. The problem is we can so easily forget when we are young that the universe does not revolve around us -- that there are other people in the equations of our lives.

In their interview I was touched by their obvious chagrin and despair. But I was also surprised by the seeming lack of understanding about the cause of their predicament. Prank telephone calls made thousands of miles away to people you don't know about information that is none of your business. Did it not occur to anyone that the people on the other end of the phone could lose their jobs -- or receive severe reprimands?

The story is now already 'yesterday's news'. But the ramifications are no less severe for the people whose lives are irreversibly changed. Which is another indictment of our society's capacity to indulge in the salacious, the embarrassing with eagerness, greedily soaking up the information, reacting and then becoming bored with the nitty-gritty of detail. And in the meantime, lives are shattered and hearts are broken.

Friday, December 07, 2012

'Tis the Season to Be Greeting!

I love to give and receive Christmas cards. For me it is a way to keep in touch with people who are important to me, even though I may not see them very often. I always try to write a personal message on all the cards I send to people that I seldom see, which means that at least once a year I do think about about the people I write. But the past few years, and this year in particular, postal rates mean a lot of second thoughts about who to send cards.

I chose badly for sending outside the UK. 1.20 pounds for any card over 10 grams. That's $1.92 at today's exchange rate!) Fortunately I do have enough cards that fit the bill for the lower rate of 87 p or $1.39  -- otherwise it would pay me to buy another box of smaller cards. As rates climb higher and higher, one can imagine that in the not too distant future there will be no such thing as the postal service. In the past year I suspect that I've only mailed birthday/anniversary cards and packages. Amazon means that I can order goods from the American website and so avoid expensive international charges. A long time ago, in a Universe far away during the olden days, I remember when it cost 3 cents to mail a letter!

Of course the weight (and size) of a card isn't the only consideration when choosing a card! Some people are not Christian or have no religion -- careful then to find a card that says something inoffensive such as 'Season's Greetings' or 'Peace'. Others are religious and prefer not to get winter scenes, or robins or cardinals and want a Madonna, or a manger scene or the three wise men.

A former vicar of our church once gave a sermon in which he held up a card with a picture of something inoffensive and non-religious on it (a robin, I seem to remember) saying to the congregation that this card did not convey what Christmas was all about and complaining about cards that did not properly convey the meaning of Christmas.

It so happened that the card turned out to be from the Bishop. And the Bishop just happened to be in the Congregation that day! Talk about "getting your vicars in a twist"! :-)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent Is not Christmas!

This year as a prelude to the madness of the pre-Christmas period I took the opportunity to attend a 'Quiet Day' that was organized by our vicar. The venue was the very beautiful and exquisitely peaceful, Ince Blundel Hall, a Roman Catholic Convent and Nursing Home.

In his opening remarks, the vicar proclaimed, "Advent is not Christmas". In fact, he repeated this phrase several times throughout the three lectures of the day. Advent is supposed to be a time of preparation, of contemplation, of expectation,  and of desire. It is easy to find this special time 'eclipsed' when so many 'Christmas' celebrations seem to be held before the fesival day actually arrives -- all the singing of Christmas Carols and Christmas dinners and parties, for example. By the time Christmas Day arrives and the festivities begin -- many of us are physically exhausted. Spiritually, many of us are not ready at all. And when this happens, Advent has been 'eclipsed' -- sometimes even before it has begun!

This Quiet Day was a good way to reflect on  this Time of Preparation. The rooms we were able to use were elegant and relaxing. I felt surrounded by prayer and holiness. The sisters were a calm and peaceful presence. The world outside may tend to scoff at the monastic life as inconsequential, but a few hours spent here and I felt I was in an atmosphere that gives to this world a presence, a force of good that continually and diligently benefits humanity.

I love it when I hear something in a lecture I've never before considered: The Advent/Christmas period is particularly suited to the North of England because the steely climate is of death and rebirth. I was reminded of these two carols, much favoured in this part of the world: 
Hills of the north, rejoice; 
river and mountain spring, 
hark to the advent voice; 
valley and lowland, sing; 
though absent long, your Lord is nigh; 
he judgment brings and victory. 
Or Christina Rossetti's
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Advent is a time of more darkness than light, but the darkness gives way to the light and the 'Kyrie' comes to the 'Gloria'.  In his concluding remarks, the vicar said that "Advent is the eruption of eternity into time." and  "The Advent season is about the pursuit of wisdom." This reminded me of the Antiphons which are a very beautiful part of the Advent tradition and are said from the 17th to the 23rd of December:
O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly.  Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
Which emphasises another point he made several times: Advent is not just a calendar event, it is a 'state of mind'!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Eyes Have It

Yesterday I made my way to the annual appointment at the Southport Eye Clinic. I say 'annual'... The last time I went for my Glaucoma check was 3 years ago! This was inadvertent on my part and possibly due to being a confused little old lady! Because I also suffer from type 2 diabetes and have regular visits to the Eye Clinic to check my eyes, it did not occur to me that the two conditions were checked upon quite separately. So when I received a notice of an appointment for the Glaucoma check I assumed the NHS had made a mistake and 'the left hand, didn't know what the right hand' was doing.

It didn't help that in July when I had the diabetes check I was told that although everything looked fine I would probably be invited to a follow-up check-up. I explained that she should make a note that I would be in France for the next 6 weeks and any appointment should be made after that. She made the appropriate notation ...

When I returned to England I had two notices from the Glaucoma Clinic. They look exactly like the notices for the Diabetes Clinic. The first was for an appointment at the end of August. The second was telling me that since I'd missed the appointment they were referring me back to my GP. I felt like a very naughty little old lady!

After a bit of two-ing and fro-ing my senile mind understood the complexities of the issue! Yesterday I attended the Glaucoma Clinic!

The first thing was an eye test -- administered by someone other than the doctor. I had great difficulty reading very far down the eye chart with my left eye. In fact when I took the eye test in the States last May I had the devil of a time and was greatly relieved that I managed to get through it. Last March I was so worried about my ability to read highway signs until on top of them that I went to my optometrist  and got new glasses. I was amazed during yesterday's exam when after having difficulty, the girl woman giving me the test added a 'thingy' with lots of little holes over the eye hole and suddenly all the letters were clear! Magic stuff. I wonder if I made something out of cardboard with little holes all over it and plunked it in front of the left lens of my specs ...

Anyway, after the doctor examined me, and checked the eye pressure and put two sets of drops in and I asked him why I was having so much trouble seeing clearly. He said it would be because of the cataract -- which I knew I had and which I have been assuming was the problem. I then  asked him a number of questions about when did they deem it appropriate to have them/it removed. He told me a good indication was when there were problems driving!

More discussion, more tests. At least I wasn't sent away to book another appointment to come back another day to do these tests. What was really strange to me was suddenly being confronted with the next stage. I had the impression that I was being referred back to my GP to discuss the options of where I wanted to have the surgery done. Private hospitals in various places were mentioned -- as well as different NHS hospitals (I think!!!). Or I could continue going to the Eye Clinic were I was and have the surgery done in Ormskirk (8 miles away). I made the decision to stick with where I was and am now in the NHS pipeline for whatever is next.

When I asked 'how long' he replied it would be in a few weeks. 'After Christmas'?, I suggested. He indicated it probably would be (I think!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

After the Polls are Over; Many the Hopes that Have Vanished; After the Poll

Twelve years ago my heart was broken. Al Gore was 'robbed' of his rightful election victory. I was so depressed and unhappy. So relieved when four years later John Kerry was the new Democratic candidate. I thought he would be a great president. I could not imagine that George W. Bush could possibly be re-elected after all the 'terrible' things I could clearly see he had done. I got through the next four years by joining The Daily Kos and wallowing in left wing thinking and grass roots planning.

I became a strong Hillary supporter and believed that America would never elect a black President. But when Barack Obama  became the candidate I was able to support his candidacy enthusiastically. If the man could succeed through the primary jungle and the Clinton machine -- well he would be a force to be reckoned with come the election.

So I have a political view that is to the left of centre. The aftermath of the recent election has shown that there are an awful lot of people on the other side of the political spectrum who are now feeling as I did in 2000 and 2004 -- very upset and very angry. And honestly I ache for these people while at the same time feeling unbelievably relieved that President Obama was re-elected.

Last week a young woman in Arizona tried to kill her husband by running him down with her car in a parking lot -- because Romney lost and she believed she would have to leave the State and move to New Mexico. Her husband's fault was that he had not voted! At first the story tickled my funny bone -- until I saw a picture of the woman -- a police mug shot -- and she looked so angry and so young and so vulnerable. It wasn't so funny to me then...

In The Times yesterday was a small snippet about several states that have filed petitions demanding that their State be allowed to secede from the Nation. Apparently, the White House has promised to respond to those states with more than 25,000 signatures by December 12, 2012 -- 36 states are compiling or have compiled signatures. And not just states that voted Republican either -- New Jersey, New York and New Mexico, as well as California  are filing. To be honest 8 years ago I had similar feelings -- though I don't remember any petitions being filed. It didn't occur to me that a state should secede on its own, but rather that the blue states and red states should be separate countries.

There have also been petitions submitted to strip people who have signed petitions of their citizenship and exile them -- where to exile 900,000+ people, one might ask?

In the UK Scotland is having a vote on whether or not to separate itself from the United Kingdom -- I think the vote is in 2014. The Man says 'let 'em go', if that's how they feel. Well, I guess that will happen if that's what the people decide.

For what it's worth, if you are disappointed and angry with the election results I send commiserations and sympathy even if I wouldn't change the result.

One last thought. The worst that can happen in a democracy is that there is no opposition. Democracy demands tolerance and compromise. Our country was founded by people who profoundly disagreed about what kind of government was best. The  basis for many of those arguments still persist. Resolving those arguments has wrought a great nation -- let's not 'blow' it...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Energized at Last!

It feels like  being catapulted into a new life! I am figuring out all over again just what 'normal' is. Blogging and fellow bloggers  have become very important to me, but since my grandson has arrived I have found it impossible to find the time and the energy simultaneously to do much of either!

He met a new cousin!:

Began a new school:

Spent a few days in London before saying farewell to Mom...

Not long after Sam started school we had a call from our son in Italy. The  news was not good, except that it was ... He had totalled his car in an accident during the rain when his car planed into a wall when it hit a large puddle. He and the two other people in the car were 'shaken not hurt' -- though they did end up in the hospital. As you can imagine euros are needed for another car as his job teaching takes him to various different schools all miles away from where he lives as well as each other! 

Well there goes my dishwasher! Fortunately, it goes without saying, no one was hurt and no one is suing ... One of the passengers is a close friend who is able to lend him her car until the insurance runs out in a few weeks time. The last we heard he may have found a suitable replacement. This all happened the day before he was to have two job interviews! Fortune smiles on him though as the man who was to interview him thought so highly of his recommendations that he practically hired him without an interview! 

All the while our new life continued apace. Sam got through his first week just fine. The following week we were to leave for London on Monday afternoon after school. We had special permission for him to have 3 days absence to spend the time with his mother before she flew back to Korea. The weekend before he was not well -- much coughing and fatigue. By Monday we decided to keep him off to continue resting though we left for London. Tuesday we went into London and saw a few sights. After lunch we headed for a quick look at Trafalgar Square before heading off to St. Paul's. 

Shortly after getting off the bus Sam lost his lunch on the pavement -- The Man left Mom and me to it and I was so glad I had an unopened packed of tissues for the occasion! Insides cleaned out and feeling better we headed into the Cathedral. The Man and I opted out of exploring the place once again -- the 24 pound fee had a lot to do with that decision. However, my daughter-in-law and Sam made the most of their investment and not only climbed up into the Whispering Gallery, but also higher to the Golden Gallery, which is not only the highest place, but also outside! Not for me, I can tell you!!

The next day we made a silly mistake and decided to take the car to Greenwich. We enjoyed a quick visit to the newly rennovated Cutty Sark before heading off to the Observatory:

That's my grandson: Both feet in the East and both feet in the West!

In the midst of our few days came the American election. As we were staying in a one bedroom flat and both rooms were being slept in at night it wasn't possible to watch television coverage. I woke every hour or so and checked my cell phone and got the news around 4.15 a.m. 

So here we are back in Southport and for the moment it would seem there might be a routine establishing itself!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Election Day, November, 1884 by Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your
powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara--nor you, ye limitless
prairies--nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite--nor Yellowstone, with all its
spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies,
appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones--nor Huron's belt of mighty
lakes--nor Mississippi's stream:
--This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now,
I'd name--the still small voice vibrating--America's
choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen--the act itself the
main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd--sea-board
and inland--Texas to Maine--the Prairie States--
Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West--the
paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling--(a swordless
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern
Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity--welcoming the darker
odds, the dross:
--Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to
purify--while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear Jumbos and Jackasses ...

A few days ago, one of the blogs that I follow surprised me -- and somewhat disappointed me. Not because of the political views expressed, which are not my views, but which I do nevertheless respect, but because of something else which I find disturbing and objectionable.

The writer questioned the Christianity of people who support the opposing party -- and so by default questioned mine. I confess that I have myself wondered the same about them! Not very helpful, is it? The only thing I can say in my defence is that I know in my soul this is wrong to do. 

Because whether you are a 'Jumbo' or a 'Jackass', I do not believe that God takes sides. I do not believe that God, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other persuasion, is political. And I firmly suggest that it is  time for a lot of people to cease and desist from bringing religion into the ungodly fray that is election time.

Don't get me wrong my heart will be broken if my man doesn't win. I will feel all doom and gloom. But what I believe is that though it is important to me who wins the election, the most important thing is how people work together for each other and their country despite their disappointments, and perhaps more importantly, despite victory.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


How often does it happen that nothing goes wrong that could have? The above photos were taken minutes after the arrival of my daughter-in-law and my eldest grandson. Even the airport cooperated -- it's the first time I have ever been to Heathrow and it has not been a terrible mass of people. On the contrary, terminal 4 was -- serene --.

Upon our arrival home there was a letter from the Council saying he had been accepted in the school of our choice! As half-term starts in two days time his first day will be Monday 29th October. So far so good ...

But my goodness how much I have forgotten about the demands of young children! From getting them fed to putting them to bed! Back to schedules and timetables, homework and vegetables.

The gods must be laughing!!!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Kids, Ya Gotta Love 'em ....

For the past 3 days I have been preparing my youngest son's bedroom for my grandson, Sam. My youngest son, Rob is now living in Vancouver with his girlfriend. If and/or when he returns to the UK it is very unlikely he will be living in the family home. So it's not as if he is being ousted from his long-held bedroom -- though we will always think of it as 'his' room, I expect.

I can not believe the state he left his room! For days before he left he claimed he was spending hours of time in his room in order to go through all his stuff and pack it away. HA! The room looked as if a bomb or two had gone off in it! And that was after The Man had cleared some ...

The first thing I attacked was the top of his chest of drawers. Most of it was trash, but a bagful of it was 'stuff he might still want' -- couldn't really see the surface. That didn't take but half an hour to sort out and dust and then empty and pack away the three drawers that were still full of clothes! And to think I thought he'd already done this!

Then there was his desk -- piled high with papers going back three or four years! Mixed in among this lot were candy wrappers, ticket stubs, pocket lint -- and so on. There were also boxes full of papers and bags of clothes to be disposed of somewhere or another. One bag of stuff he had deigned to throw out -- we think. I'll allow him the fact that  he hadn't stripped his bed -- we had to leave a 5 am to get him to the airport on time.

Then I dared to open his wardrobe! Great sense of satisfaction though to see the thing cleared out. I've even straightened out his shoes -- mostly football shoes of one kind or another. And a bag of shoes to throw away -- why oh why can't he actually physically assign stuff to the trash???? By the way -- these shoes were way way beyond repair -- suitable for the dustbin only -- Of course I haven't discussed the TOP of the wardrobe or the bags of posters or the stuff along the side of the wardrobe. Nor have I mentioned the dust or the state of the carpet or the videos and x-box games and and and and ......

So, now I remind myself that it's a good thing the lad has LOTS and LOTS of GOOD points! He is kind and thoughtful and never loses his temper (except with his brother and that doesn't count!). He can cook and he can bake gorgeous brownies and cookies. When I  need him to help me he always does and never complains. When we have dinner parties he serves and clears the table and helps wash up -- without asking and he is always polite and able to have an intelligent conversation. And he is very loving and caring to everyone.

Oh, and one final thing -- he left behind pots of money: First I'm going to count it and then I'll decide what to do with it!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Done and Dusted, unless It Isn't ...

In other words, on Friday I cast my vote for President, Senator and Congressman. But maybe I'll have to cast it again. Casting an absentee ballot from abroad is an interesting business. Not to mention the fact that every state is different!

Thursday night I received a phone call from a certain political organization I belong to located throughout  Europe and the rest of the world. In fact, earlier in the day I had gone to the website as I realized I better get my act together if I wanted to vote in the Presidential election. So  the phone call was timely, even if it did come in the midst of boiling the potatoes! I immediately got right on it!

The State of Connecticut is one of the easiest to organize casting one's absentee ballot. But it's still a funny old procedure. First I had to print off a request for a ballot from the town clerk of the town where I have an address. I then fax a copy of it with an appropriate covering letter to somewhere 'abroad' and this organization dates it and forwards it to the appropriate people in Connecticut. I must then send the hard copy of the request to the town clerk. When it is received I will be sent an official state ballot which I am to fill out and put in an envelope. This envelope is put into another envelope with a form which identifies me as a legitimate voter. I then mail this larger, all inclusive envelope to the town clerk in Connecticut.

But, I hear you ask -- what if you don't get the ballot back in time????? Which I might not because it's getting a bit close to election day for all this palaver to get done. Enter the Federal Election Ballot.

 Along with the request forms from the State of Connecticut I downloaded and printed out this ballot. What you do is fill in the ballot with the name of the President/Vice President, Senator and Member of Congress. Then mail it to the Town Clerk and IF by chance your official state ballot doesn't make it in time, they will count the Federal Ballot.

After about half an hour or so figuring out the instructions, I had the requests for the State ballot, and the Federal ballot ready for posting and the following day mailed them.

So I guess you could say I've voted -- unless I haven't!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Times They Are A-Changin'

I'm doing the filming, my friend, Anne, is showing my grandson Sam how to use his fingers! -- about 4 years ago. Apologies for the background noise... Galen is the little boy on her lap.

Sometimes in life it's just all 'go'! It looks as though after much talking about it and nothing happening, my grandson, Sam, aged 11 almost 12 will be coming to live with us for a time. My daughter-in-law is from South Korea and for the past three years the family has been living in that country.

The transition for my two youngest grandsons, Galen, almost 9 and Louis, 5,  has not been difficult. Both boys are now fluent in Korean and Galen is also mastering Chinese. The biggest problem, however, is that Sam has been quietly suffering in silence while being bullied in school.

To be honest, I don't know how well he will fare in an English school. When his father first came to England he had problems with taunts from the village kids and he found the cultural differences difficult. Part of it is to do with the age. When I was Sam's age we moved from a small town in Vermont to a much larger town in Connecticut. It took me a long time to establish friendships and to stop aching for the familiar.

So the plan is that he will come, with his mother, in about two weeks time! We are hoping his mother will be able to visit for about a month before she returns to Korea. It will be the first trip to Europe for both of them.

And while we hustle and bustle around trying to organize everything for them, my stepson will, a few days before Sam arrives, be flying off to Afghanistan for a third tour of duty with the Territorial Army. In the meantime, our youngest son has flown the nest and is now in Vancouver, BC looking for work as well as adventure!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Cat's Meow (Part 2)

Continuing the Story...

It was mid-afternoon, the day after our very interrupted night's sleep when we once again heard cries coming from the roof overlooking the terrace -- every bit as loud as the night before. "Meow, Meow" ad infinitum it seemed to us.

"There it is!", exclaimed The Man from his vantage point between the pine trees.

"Meow, MEOW" whined the kitty-cat from the top-most part of the rooftop.

Suddenly, Dee Ready's cat, Dulcy, took over my psyche. (I was in the midst of her book at the time)
 "Meow, Meow" I answered her cries. Joining The Man at his vantage point, I could for the first time see the little mite. Since we never did discover kitty-cat's gender for sure, I am going out on a limb and dubbing 'him' a chappy -- he had that 'little lost boy' look about him that is almost impossible to resist. I've named him Percy because he was so persistent ...

Anyway, I 'meowed, meowed' back and forth with little Percy and he would step forward from the top of the roof half way down and then back away again. So I guess I was sort of convincing. Anyway, at some point or another I spied my phone and started to film him and his meowing-meowing. While I did this The Man went out on the little balcony and tried to entice him with a small bowl of milk. We knew the little mite had to be hungry because Mama was refusing to feed him in order to lure him down to the ground as his sibling had done before him. Anyway as soon as Percy saw The Man with his offering he scampered back up to the farthest point on the top of the roof.

Then after a further 'nudge' from my feline controlled psyche, I started to play back the bits of video I had shot complete with the sound of Percy's meowing.  A Ha! I had not been able to convince him with my own meowing, but he knew authentic 'meowing' when he heard it. I held the phone/camera up toward the roof and he came right down the the edge. He was looking and looking -- scampering from one end of the roof to the other. Peeping over to the balcony looking for the source of his fellow creature.

You can see from the picture that at the edge of the roof line there is an overgrown honeysuckle bush reaching for the sky. I held the phone up into the bush and after several minutes hesitating he courageously jumped! I didn't get everything on the little video, but here is the gist of what happened:

And so The Man took him across the garden the the area around the haystack and set him down -- in the hope that Mama would come and fetch him -- before a hawk or some other bird of prey ...

But I was not happy watching Percy over there meowing away. And I was worried he might wander into the clutches of the hunting dogs at the bottom of the garden -- that didn't bear thinking about!!!! So over I went and the timid little creature just played 'cat and mouse' with me... So out came the trusty phone and on went the luring video. Quick as a flash the cute little mite was bounding after me and across the garden back to the patio -- and as far as I was concerned, relative safety! And he wandered around -- keeping a good distance from me.

The Man and I could tell the poor thing was hungry, but he was not interested in milk -- no way! So I had a little think -- wishing I had some uncooked fish -- Then I remembered that The Man had some smoked salmon lurking in the fridge! I took a few small thin slices and broke then up into little bites and put them into a little dish. Then I took a cracker and broke it up and sprinkled the bits around the dish. 

In the meantime Percy had been investigating the neighbour's garden which borders the back of the house around the corner from the terrace. When his nose once again came into view, I do believe he got a whiff of smoked salmon -- I didn't stand too close, but closer than I had been previously -- it didn't take him long. Tentatively, he tasted a cracker -- he like that and had some more -- inching ever closer to the little bowl of fish! How I wish I'd videoed the little chap savouring the delights of smoked salmon.
Later I tried to entice him with a bit of sausage that had been cut up, but he wasn't interested. He found a place between the honeysuckle bush and the wall of the house and took a nap.

And that was the last we ever saw of Percy... We assume that during the night Mama came and got him. All the sausage was gone and so was the milk. No doubt she probably watched the day's activities from some hidden place. We kept an eye out for the little fella for the rest of our stay, but sad to say he'd disappeared. We saw Mama several times, and the last time it looked like she was due another litter...

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Waxing Lyrical (maybe!)

One of the best things here in the Lot, among many other 'bests' is that the clear nights mean brilliant starlight skies. There is nothing more ethereal, more wonderful, than lying back on a sunlounger and letting the universe fall upon you.

This part of France has very little, if any, light pollution. So when the weather is fine we are treated to heavenly sights no longer experienced in Southport, UK ... In fact I would dare to say there ate few places left in western Europe where starlight is a regular occurence.

I am up and down two or three times most nights and as the weather has been exceptionally fine and the temperature balmy, it has become habitual for me to wander out to the patio, gazing upward.

In the hours of darkness we can see ourselves travelling, rotating, spiralling: the dust of stars in the magical perilousness of life...

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Come September

On the 31st of August the first hint of autumnal weather was upon us. And with the change out came the duvets and i n came the fire wood -- all nicely chain-sawed up by The Man himself! On September first the wind was in the right direction and as there was HUGE pile of grass cuttings and prunings to be burnt the fire was lit and The Man stood by,hose in hand to keep it all under control -- a feat which has so far been successfully accomplished!
It always amazes me how quickly the seasonal change happens ... At least here and where I grew up in New England. No sooner did we get back to school -- two days after Labor Day (the first Monday in Setember) but the thermometer dropped, summer clothes were forgotten and Fall clothes were to the front of the closet, with winter coats at the ready!
Well, this is southern France I'm happy to say and the process is not quite so quick -- some lovely warm days are forecast for the coming days, even though the signs are here that summer is getting ready for bed... last night we lit the first fire since I've been here and went to sleep under the duvet. Tonight will be the same.
For those of you who may be wondering about Part 2 of 'The Cat's Meow'... I'm planning to finish it off when back in the UK with my laptop and a decent broadband connection so that I can post a l
short video of the little critter. This would be impossible using the cell phone. We leave for England on September 13th and will arrive home on the 15th. Our two sons are now at the house and will be there for about a week. One will then be off for a romantic adventure in Vancouver, Canada and the other returning home to Italy. Around the same time my stepson will be heading of with the Territorial Army for Afganistan, while my third son remains in Korea.
It all makes me feel a bit 'ho' and a bit 'hum'! Not only that, but any day now somebody will start reminding us of how many shopping days it is until (scream, scream, scream)!!!

Please forgive any typos and editorial faux pas ... Using a cell phone touch pad is somewhat challenging!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Twelve Habits of Highly Successful Cats and Their Humans by Dulcy and Dee Ready

"Do you yearn for joy? Do you dream of a welcoming lap and gentle words? Do you wish to know the deep delight of a life filled with tangy tuna and abiding love? Then follow my twelve habits"
So begins this charming book chronicling the 'training' of one human lady by her feline mistress!
Habit one: Practice being unique... In her description of how to acquire this habit, Dulcy asks her fellow felines whether they can "howl melodies that pierce the night". For sure the little kitty-cat that paid us such a 'melodious' visit, as described in my last post, could howl not only to pierce the night, but as you will see one day soon, in the day as well!
With each of Dulcy's habits, Dee Ready explains how Dulcy's feline advice also pertains to humans. For example, Dee describes how when we were young we were the centre of our world and that our experiences were filled with' wonder':
"'Look at my bean plant. It's growing!' And we beamed with delight as if the sunshine of our smile had made the seed sprout."
But as we become part of the larger world we lose that sense of uniqueness. Dee then describes how she rediscovered her uniqueness and how through her relationship with Dulcy she was able to learn that "with practice, we will become what we have always been called to be --unique, lovable, one of a kind. A gift to the universe."
I found it interesting to contemplate what each habit meant and then to see if I could imagine how it would relate to humans. For example, what does it mean to 'Discover Your Heartwish'? And how do you 'Listen with an Open Heart?
This is a little treasure of a book. One that celebrates relationship. Relationship between ourselves and others; between ourselves and other creatures; and between ourselves and our 'self'. There is serious insight and humour -- "Habit 7, Trust Your Instincts" where Dulcy describes her instincts about dogs had me laughing out loud!
Most of all it is a book about love ...

I highly recommend Dee Ready's blog:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Cat's Meow

It started loudly a few weeks ago at the mid-night hour, just as The Man and I were drifting off to our dteams. Our loft has long been a haven for various creatures, but particularly for feral cats and their litters. They have kept the mouse population under control and while not exactly welcome broadly tolerated.
Our bedroom has two windows, a velux window in the roof and a dormer window, from which all kinds of detritus was thrown at after the walls were smashed to bits. At the time only the dormer had a screen. So when tne almost, if not quite ear-splitting MEOWS started just outside the window I was sure an animal was about to come crashing in upon us.
The Man went to the window to investigate only to find a small kitten who aware of his presence quickly scampered to the other window. A game of 'Cat and Man' followed with the little fellow/lass running from one end of the roof to the other and 'cat'erwailing all the while. The poor mite was screaming for help and terrified of getting it. The Man even went outside with a flashlite and tried to think of a way he might capture it, but wisely decided that clambering over the roof tiles in the middle of the night after a feral little kitten was not the better part of valour!
Back to bed and just as we were about to drift off the mewing began once again. That was when we discovered Mama below on the terrace watching intently but saying not a 'meow'.
Now it just so happens to be true that at the time I was in the midst of reading two books by Dee Ready (and Dulcy) about her extraordinary relationship with and mutual love for Dulcy, a feline of exceptional quality.
So, being in the middle of their lives, in a literary sense, I suspect that I just might have been susceptible to a bit of 'cat'anormal persuasion. Mama down below bears an interesting resemblance to the wise Dulcy, and has a black and twitching tail very much like the one Dulcy accidentally lost!
It was very obvious to us that Mama was determined that her child find his/her way down to the ground. We knew there had been two kittens and the other was not around. We suspect the sibling had already followed Mama down some days before. Our little kitty was the perfect 'scardy cat'! He was also very hungry one... The way down was via a fig tree that grows along the side of the house and conveniently to our roofline and access to their haven and nursery: our loft!
The little meowing monster had exhausted him/herself and sleep descended on the little farmhouse. But that is when I am sure that Dulcy herself appeared in my dreams and pounced upon my psyche ... For the next day I really believe Dulcy helped us with the rescue... (to be continued)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Late Evening Sun

Let me know if the quality of this image is good enough, please... It's amazing what you can do with just a smart phone! The size of the picture went from 1Mb down to 271 kb using the phone's photo editor! Just think what I would not have learned if the tablet had not gone 'wonky' on me.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


This year I have gone out of my way to ensure a modicum if Internet access from the maison secondaire. Since there is no broadband access from this itsy-bitsy corner of our village, I had a challenge before me...

Last year I had thought that at least my cell phone would enable me to download my e-mail in between visits to the local library twice a week and the Internet office provided in the nearby town. Unfortunately, the phone went up the creek after two weeks...

But that was last year. This year I was determined tl come up with better solutions. First, I decided to get a tablet ... Mostly because it is lite-weight and since I was having to fly down with Ryanair, that was an issue. I then worked how to set up mobile Internet to use with the tablet. Next I found apps for both the phone and the tablet that would allow me to post to blogger and to work offline. I even discovered that blogger has an app that would enable me to post pictures! It had taken a lot of effort, but by last week I had it all figured out!

Then last week I went to turn on the tablet. The one I got for my birthday last June... It would not turn on!

I admit it...I am an addict to the Internet and to blogging in particular. So why can't the gods just leave me to get on with it? The good news is that at least I bought it through Amazon and when I get back to England it will be replaced. And I am, for the moment at least, able to post using my phone, tedious though it is... But I do miss keeping up to date with my favourite blogs ... Blogging is after all very much a two-way street...

In the meantime, I'll have to make do with reading and lying about in the sunshine--life is tough when an addict has to almost go 'cold turkey'!

Friday, August 10, 2012

All Wired Up and Ready to Go

Our new bedroom seems huge to us! All of the work was done by The Man. The biggest job -- which is true of all renovation, is what you can't see! Above the ceiling is a loft and his first job was re-wiring the electrics so that it would no longer be necessary to have a lampshade hanging from the middle otf the ceiling for him to hit is head on. If you recall in the little film I made, you can see the electrics hanging in mid-air. The electric sockets that had been on the wall behind the bed, now had to be moved to the new wall.

After that a bit of wallpapering, the laying of carpet and oh yes more miscellaneous wiring!

The Man had told me that he would not be able to build the closet until next year as he hadn't brought enough wood with him and he couldn't find the louvred doors that he wanted. However, the more he thought about it the more he thought he could build a temporary solution by using the doors and material from the old wardrobe!

He started to build the frame. As the structure took shape he discovered that the doors from the old wardrobe were pretty much the right size for what he had in mind from the beginning.

While all this ingenuity was taking place, I was in England getting daily reports from The Man who was sounding more and more pleased with himself wnile at the same time insisting that I was to be the final authority as to whether all his work as acceptible...

Of course I love everything he did! Believe it or not, the estimate we had from a neighbouring carpenter to build the closet was 2,700 euros. The Man reckons it cost him 60!!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Waving the Flag for Britain

It's been cmplicated and I've had to be patient and find work-arounds, but it is possible to post a picture -- but only one at a time, else it would take days of waiting for them to go through the e-mail shoot of the tablet via a mobile phone network. I had never taken the time to experiment with sending a post using e-mail and it is so dreadfully simple that anyone can do it! So, it's over a week now of being here -- 10 days I think and here is the house as I found it when I got here! Tomorrow you can see the renovated bedroom with closet, which we are both very pleased with -- a true example of British ingenuity! Until then the sun is shining and it's not too hot -- right good weather for Paradise!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wipe Out on the Learning Curve

Here I am sunny France, safely arrived without a hitch and pictures at the ready. But I am totally frustrated trying to figure out how to upload them using my little Android tablet...:-( Maybe I will try again...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Weighting for Take-Off

Since Monday I have been more or less concentrating on Packing to get through the Ryanair hurdles. Since I will be coming back around the 5th of September I need to have enough for every eventuality of weather. It's so much easier with a Volvo estate to hand -- 'Simples', as the Meerkat would say ...

Packing makes me feel incoherent. I am always changing my mind and I always take more than I wear/use. But inevitably I leave out something I later wish I had brought. The Man thinks I should be able to cram everything into the one bag of carry on with a limit of 10 kilos. This is not possible -- for me. So I opted for the heaviest checked bag Ryanair allows -- 20 kilos at a cost of 35 pounds. For another 45 pounds I could have had a second bag with a 15 kilo limit. I'm making do with just the one...

By the time I figured out the t-shirts (one can never have too many) and trousers, one skirt, underwear,  cosmetics, creams, shoes -- probably too many, if a mere 6 pairs can be considered too many for 8 whole weeks, electricals, mail, pills, books and other essentials -- my total limit of 30 kilos total is just about upon me. For each kilo I go over Ryanair will charge me another 20 pounds... And of course there is in the back of my head the worry that their scales won't agree with my scales and even if I'm under they won't think so -- oh, help!

In addition, since Monday I found myself incredibly uncomfortable and itching, itching, iching. Welts began to appear on my torso and upper arms and then my wrists. Quick reference to the Internet and I was pretty certain I needed an antihistamine -- which was indeed the case and the condition is more or less under control and as long as I take the little pills, the welts and itchning disappears. Which puts new meaning into the idea of being 'itchin' to go!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Taking Flight and Come September

As you can see I ready to go: Passport in hand and boarding pass, too! My date of departure is the 22nd of July and I am relieved to at last have a date! Limoges, here I come... The packing has commenced!

Now then, who is this handsome devil? Let  me introduce you to Sam, my eldest grandson...

Sam is eleven years old. Three years ago he moved with his Mom and Dad, my son, and his two brothers to Korea from Olympia, Washington, where he was born. Of the three boys, Sam has had the most difficulty acclimating to living in Korea. For a couple of years now The Man and I have been discussing with his parents having Sam come to live with us for a while. He desperately wishes to do this and we really want him to come. Two nights ago my son called France, thinking I was there, and had a long talk with The Man. The Man is particularly fond of Sam. They are on the same wave length and were often to be found having long thoughtful conversations away from the rest of us.

So, it looks like Sam will be coming to England in September. For how long we do not know. Sam may be about to learn that lesson about 'the grass being greener'. But for a while at least, he can have a new adventure with Grandma and Grandpa and have a bit of a rest from the trials and tribulations of family life in Korea. And hopefully, be a happy boy again...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Airlines, Passports, and ... and... and

My last trip the the States has ended up being a senility inducing experience. I've reported extensively about the 'Ordeal by Passport'. Thankfully, that is now resolved. My passport arrived last Friday, exactly one week after my visit to the American embassy. Aha, you say -- now you can be off to France! HA! But more about that later.

The saga of my airline reservation rebate is continuing. I wrote in great detail about this several months ago.

I am still waiting for my refund from the airline... Initially, Expedia said it could take up to 12 weeks! That was up on June 12th -- I marked it on my calendar. I have spoken with United -- they didn't have any record of receiving any request for a refund. I could go on and on. I keep calling Expedia -- but since The Man's credit card record actually shows that the money went directly to United Airlines -- it really is the airline that is the problem. At the moment I am calling Expedia every day. But it's wearing me down. The Man and I both think that we will have to take it up with the credit card company. Since he is the primary account holder it will have to wait until we return to the UK in September. The latest word from Expedia is that we should have the refund "any day now"...

Would you believe it ... my delay in going to France is because I am waiting for not one, but two passports to be delivered! My two sons have both had to renew their British passports. One should be here within two weeks -- Tuesday next will be two weeks. The other will probably not be here for at least another 3. And both could be later than advertised simply because it's a busy time of year at the passport office. In fact rumour has it that the passport office is weeks behind. I've decided, however, that I will hang around here until Sunday the 22nd of July. Apparently, it is not necessary to be in to sign for them -- they are delivered by a special service that photographs the place where they have been delivered. So arrangements are being made to have someone check our mail regularly until they arrive. What really is annoying is that our boys both knew they had to do this months ago and they kept putting it off and putting it off!

I think there must be a 'Passport Genie' out there determined to torment me. I'm getting ready to abandon ship...

Oh, my goodness! I've just talked to The Man in France! You'll never guess what's next ...

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Back to France and the "Why" of the Walls!

In answer to a question in a comment from Friko as to why the walls we tore down had ever been put up in the first place. (See It's All in a Day's Work.) It all goes back to the French couple who owned the house before we bought it. They had bought the place in the late 70's as a retirement home. The upstairs hand never been lived in. The house had been a two-room cottage. It must have been very very basic at the time.

The kitchen, separate toilet and bathroom and a small upstairs bedroom were added to the house at the time of the initial renovation -- right up to the property line of our neighbour. What had been an inglenook fireplace was made to hold a wood burning fireplace that also allowed heat to filter upstairs.

The couple must were not very tall. Madame could walk down the centre of the upstairs passageway without difficulty, while I had to scrunch up against the wall separating it from the two bedrooms. They needed this passage way to get to the other side of the first or second floor -- depending on which continent you live!!! 

Here is a floor plan of how it was when we first bought the house:

When we first looked at the house we were not at all happy with the upstairs. But we thought maybe it would be possible to 'fix' it with a little bit of ingenuity. In other words we had a 'plan':

Let's build a second staircase at the other end of the original cottage -- in the dining room. We were very lucky that our neighbour M. Estival, was not only a charpentier and and ebinieste -- he had also constructed the existing staircase as well as all of the other cabinets and windows and doors in the house! We approached him for a quote and discovered that his was by far the most reasonable compared to two others -- he also would build a mirror twin to the existing staircase and would build it of oak and would cut the hole in the ceiling -- all other quotes were for pine and for The Man to cut the hole. And we didn't have to pay him until the work was done and when we got back the following year was just fine with him! We left France in September, he built the staircase over the winter and  was finished when we came back to France the following June.

A floor plan of the ground floor of our house with the new staircase:

I've dreamed of being able to knock a large portal in the wall between the kitchen and dining room to open the whole thing up, but alas and alack once upon a time that wall was an exterior wall and knocking a hole would require the talents a stone mason and be more expensive than we would want to spend on a second home. Having access to the patio from every room in the house makes up for a lot!
I have been shocked to discover that in all the years since the second staircase was built, I have only taken one photograph and that just shows the corner of it! So here is a picture of the original:

And here is a reminder of how the bedroom was when I last saw it at the end of September. 

Since then  the electrics have been re-done (no more light hanging in the middle of the room) the walls have been papered and carpet has been laid. At the moment The Man is starting to build the Closet where the old wardrobe used to be. By the way, does anyone know where he can buy louvered doors -- either in the UK or in France?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

"Minor Tribulations"

I was up early; my appointment was at 7.45. The car was picking me up at 7.00 for the short drive to the U.S. Embassy. I had thought of taking the bus -- only a short walk away-- but decided I would have more peace of mind being taken there. When I arrived 15 minutes later, the line was already forming, but the queue was still relatively short. By the time I was weeded out from those applying for visas I was third in line. So far so good.

Fortunately, I had received an e-mail from the Embassy reminding me of my appointment. The e-mail also provided me with some additional information I had not seen on the website and that was that no cell phones, i-pads, PDA's or i-pods were allowed into the embassy. Good thing I knew that because I had made plans to use my GPS to navigate my way there!

There were two young girls behind me also for passports. One, a student, just needed to add more pages to hers, but the other had been in London for a week and on her first day at the school had had her bag stolen with her passport and all credit cards, as well as her computer, and phone and so on. So her entire week had been marred by this very big upset and she was quite worried about what would happen. She was planning to return to the States the following day to sort everything out. Poor girl! I felt so sorry for her, but tried to re-assure her by saying that the embassy would be very sympathetic and that they were always having to deal with this sort of situation and that everything would be fine. The other girl it turned out had had this same experience -- only in Rome a few years ago. From other stories I've heard it is terrible how these thieves really target the young and inexperienced and how much havoc they cause for them.

OK! I was called into the security area and told to put my handbag through the x-ray. As I was getting ready to put my  other bag through the guard put my bag on top of the machine and said, "You have a camera".

"No," I said.

"There is one in the bag," she said.

Suddenly, I realized! I'd forgotten my small digital Canon! I'd carefully removed my cell phone, but completely forgotten the camera! I  took it out. The guard explained to me that I would have to store it and that that would mean I would have to leave the place and walk up the street a block and a half to a drug store and they would store it for me! When I became totally exasperated and told her to "Just throw it away" she calmly explained that as there were no bins either there or on the embassy grounds I would have to do as she suggested.

I must confess I was on the verge of again turning into a little old lady, but at the same time I realized it would do me no good and I was just going to have to give in to the inevitable. I walked to the drug store, paid 3 pounds and returned to the front of the queue, where they were looking me and let me straight in.

And so in went my bags. I walked through the 'magic' X-ray door and back to the other side of the X-ray. The guard asked to see my keys! I had three sets of keys. The first set he handed back to me. The second and third set, however, had little battery flash lights on the key rings!!!!

"You cannot go into the Embassy with these", he said embarrassed that the keys had not been seen the first time the bag went through!"

I was beginning to think that I was never ever going to get into the building and I would never ever be able to get a new passport! However, much as I wanted to again turn into a simpering little old age pensioner lady -- I didn't. The guard and I discussed the importance of these little flash lights and it was suggested that I could go across the street into the park and dump them into the bin at the gate. This I did.

Again I entered the security room! I placed my bags to go through the machine... Again I went successfully through the X-ray door. And now time I held my breath. And the guards, who were now becoming my mates, were holding their breaths, too! YES! I PASSED. I was allowed onto the grounds and into the building and up to the passport office! And then everything was a piece of cake. I had been slightly delayed -- if I'd gone in the first time, my number would have been '3' now it was '13' -- so not to bad.

And the moral of the story is -- Don't ever go to the U.S. Embassy unless you have absolutely and positively no other choice! By the way, when I went to get my camera two hours had elapsed and you would not believe how many items they had 'stored' for people. I'd just been the first of the day...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Ducks Were All in a Row!

My mission to the US Embassy in London has been accomplished -- successfully! They will be making their utmost effort to see that I have it in time to travel on the 15th of July! Of course this being me there were some minor tribulations getting through security and being able to enter the sacred American space -- but in the end there was a happy ending! More about that anon. I am waiting for my son to help get me to Euston Station and my train back to Southport.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Horses for Courses of Alice and Paint, Embroidery, Sculpture, Photography with Coffee and Cake!

Well then, it must be time for the Holy Trinity 2012  Art Exhibit! This is my favourite event in the church social calendar. Each year the quality of the work on display amazes me. This year we had work exhibited from one very promising 7 year-old artist to another very successful local artist in his 90's!  By the time the exhibit is mounted there are usually around 300 works displayed.  For the first time we also included photographs.

The weather on Friday was the worst it could possibly be as rain and wind lashed and battered everything the ventured outside. No one in England and Wales escaped the onslaught. I feared being blown away off the steps as I forced myself through the tempest to the waiting  cab -- indeed I had no wish to go at all -- no one in his or her right mind wanted to venture out that day. However, I was committed and off I went...

The first artist has arrived and is  handing over his paintings
Mounting an art exhibit is a complicated business -- even one that lasts for such a short time -- from 10.00 a.m. 6.00 p.m. Saturday from 12.00 Noon until 4.30 p.m. Sunday. Several months before forms are sent out and requests are made for exhibitors. We charge a fee of 2.50 to hang each picture, but if the we do not take any commission if the artist's work should sell. From the first paintings, it is only a few hours before 280 entries have been hung and we are ready for things to begin! 

This is all thanks to the very hard work of many volunteers. I was of absolutely no use at all when a picture I had decided to move slipped out of my hand and tumbled resolutely to the floor. The frame had broken apart but the glass and photograph were not harmed. Fortunately it was repairable and able to be re-hung the next day. As a result, I decided no more hanging for me and skulked back to escorting artists to where they could deposit their work. This meant I didn't have to touch anything!

It an important part of our ethos to encourage all artists young and old! This artist is 7 years old and shows a lot of promise and we were verypleased to have as our youngest exhibitor...

The handmade pieces above were all done by a local girl while recovering from an illness. We were very pleased to learn that two of her pieces sold!
Fortunately the weather on Saturday and Sunday was perfect: the sun shone, but it wasn't so warm that people would be heading for a day at the beach. We had a good number of people through the door and at by the end were very happy with the number of paintings that sold. And, yes, I bought one!

Each year we have a special exhibit of a local artisan and this year was a wonderful display of rocking horses. In addition to the amazing horses were other handmade wooden pieces including teddy bears, 3 dimensional scenes from Alice in Wonderland,  jewellery and clocks. Woodlove and Lovewood make all of their hand-crafted  pieces in solid wood. Did you know that the rocking horse is not a creation of the Victorian era, but that many models have been found in ancient tombs?

According to their literature:
The distinguising features are the heads which are all hand carved and have different expressions. The body and head are constructed of Julutong, the legs of Beech, for strength and the stand of Mahogany. These horses are then hand painted and have full leather tack and real horse hair is used for mane and tail.
Some of the woods  used in the clocks are not available from timber merchants, being now very rare, and have been culled from old buildings and furniture, making them well over one-hundred years old. If you want a clock made from Granny's old kitchen table, we will advise.
The idea is for the artisan to show how he accomplishes his work, and it was very interesting and even amazing to see the many steps in this labour of love, it takes to make each rocking horse.

The manes and tails are made of real horse hair... 
I love these table top horses! 

I meant to go back and buy a couple of these adorable bears... :-(

Hidden to the left is our youngest artist!
(Neither the church nor I are benefiting in any way from writing about Woodlove and Lovewood...)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

All in a Day's Work!

Finally at the end of last summer we did what we'd been saying we'd do for 12 years! The Man tore down the walls in our tiny bedroom and made ready for the decoration and finishing touches -- which he is now making ready for when I get down there (sooner rather than later, I can hope)! So this afternoon I got down to it and gathered the mediocre films and combined them to show you what he got up to last September!

So far this summer he has re-wired the room -- cleared out the loft above the flat part of the ceiling and put in some recessed lights. In addition he has torn off the terrible wallpaper that remained and put up the lining paper. The fitted carpet is ready and waiting for him to take care of as soon as the wallpaper is hung. The biggest part of the project is building a closet along the far wall -- where that ghastly wardrobe is seen standing in the film. We had hoped to have our next door carpenter neighbour build the closet, but 2,700 euros was not the price we had in mind by a long shot! So The Man will do it himself. The wardrobe may have been ghastly -- it is now in pieces -- but it held a lot of stuff: 3 sets of sheets, numerous towels, not to mention clothes and clothes and clothes, plus shoes -- now all is packed away in various storage bags and guests will have to live out of their suitcases because I have purloined what storage space was provided in the other two bedrooms!

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Copyright: 1998 Naxos Records

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sometimes the Weather Just Doesn't Matter!

Last Friday, June 15th, was my birthday. One of my dearest friends decided that my birthday present would be to take me to the Lake District for a special meal and over-night stay. Our venue was the Fayrer Garden House Hotel in Bowness. And a very beautiful setting it was -- despite the non-stop deluge of rain that persisted all that day and for most of the next...

It was my intention to use this post as a rant on the many years that my birthday has fallen on rainy, cold, miserable British summer days. Yes, indeed, I am taking this very personally. I grew up with a birthday almost guaranteed to be warm and sunny. England has never -- not ever -- cooperated. But at least this year I was surrounded by great beauty and luxurious surroundings. And I didn't have to leave the hotel for dinner as the restaurant was superb and the service friendly, but impeccable.

So I have decided to let the rant go -- The Good Lord willing, there is always next year ...

On Saturday we left to explore the area around Ulverston and to meet up with my friend's husband. They have decided to move from North Yorkshire to the Ulverston area in order to be near the Manjushri Kadama Meditation Centre. The centre is a modern Buddhist establishment dedicated to the attainment of world peace. I was absolutely fascinated by the visit.

The rambling gothic Conishead Priory was rescued from years of neglect and is being painstakinly restored by the residential community. The Buddhist Centre stands in 70 acres of grounds that include mature woodland, paths, a lake, streams and a beach on the shores of Morecambe Bay. The history of the ancient Priory is very interesting:
The present Priory building stands on the site of a twelfth century Augustinian Priory. It was originally founded in 1160 by Gamelde Pennington as a hospital for the ‘poor, decrepit, indigent and lepers’ of the Ulverston area. The hospital was run by the black canons of the Order of St. Augustine. They ate and slept under one roof, living a common life of poverty, celibacy and obedience in accordance with the example of the early Christians. They also conducted a school at Conishead for the children of their tenants and workers. (More history)
In 1997 on the site of the old Priory kitchen garden, the new Manjusri Kadampa Meditation Centre was opened. I was impressed by the underlying simplicity of the structure which seems to be able to describe the complexities of this world without succumbing to them. Every level is representative of something intrinsic to the attainment of spiritual enlightenment. There is a lot of symbolism within and without the Temple -- much more than I could possible remember let alone understand and properly describe. However, I do have a worthwhile example.


The male and female deer with the wheel between them symbolize the final stages of the path to enlightenment. They are above each of the  doors on the four sides of the temple. The male deer symbolizes the experience of great bliss; the female deer the realization of ultimate truth, and the wheel the union of these two realizations.

The adornments on the roof are gold-leafed, which required many weeks of work by Kadampa artisans, and the windows above the doorways are impregnated with gold. Precious substances such as gold are made as an offering to the holy beings. They also symbolize the preciousness of the spiritual path as the only way to achieve liberation from suffering and experience lasting peace and happiness. To a Buddhist, inner realizations such as wisdom and compassion are far more valuable than ordinary wealth.

I found the interior of the Temple to be very peaceful and calming. It surprised me how much it reminded me of the interior of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool. The people I met were very warm and welcoming. Unlike Christian churches, Buddhists do not have missionaries. They wait to be invited... They do, however, welcome all people who visit them. The Temple is open to everyone.  For more information about opening times you can visit their website.

While I found the experience very interesting and worthwhile, I was not comfortable with certain things -- especially the statuary and the ornate decoration of the different Buddhas. I was, however, intrigued by a very ornate 'mandala' with many objects of a symbolic nature and I loved the symbolism and effect of the large central lantern. One thing is for sure, modern Buddhism is here to stay. Centres all over the world are growing at a phenomenal rate and so therefore are prayers for peace and tranquillity -- that has to be a good thing...