Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hadrian's Wall

On our trip up north last weekend we made it as far as Hadrian's Wall.

By the time I got to the top, I needed to sit down. The Romans built on hills to make it harder for the Scots. And for future tourists.

This road from Birdoswald runs beside the wall. As you can see, when the Romans wanted to build a wall from A to B, they went in a very straight line. From west to east:

And east to west:

A little further along this stretch we picked up two hikers who were trying to cram the Hadrian's Wall  east to west coast walk into four days. By the time they reached this point they were hitching as one of them had hurt her ankle. We spotted her limping and were able to save them seven miles by dropping them at the campsite they were aiming for.

I had never visited Hadrian's Wall before, which means I get to check off another World Heritage site for my Day Zero Project list (I'm aiming to visit seven, and along with the two in Budapest that gives me three so far).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's On The Calendar Wednesday: March 30th

 Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt (Creative Commons)

Today is ... PENCIL DAY. Or at least, the day on which the pencil with a rubber attached was patented in 1858 (or eraser, if you are in the US). Did you know that 'one pencil has the potential to draw a line 35 miles long, write an average of 45,000 words, absorb 17 sharpenings, delete its own errors and beat out an infinite number of drum solos'. No, me neither. If you are so inclined you can find out lots more about pencils at here, where is even a six lesson unit study. Here are a few facts from about the rubber / eraser on the end of your pencil:

Fact #1:
Pencil manufacturers make erasers, too, which makes sense since we tend to think that it’s a done deal - an eraser is a regular component of the everyday pencil. But that’s not always been the case….
Fact #2:
Pencils with erasers are an American phenomenon. The first patent for attaching an eraser to a pencil was issued in 1858 to Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia. Even to this day, most pencils sold in Europe are eraser-less! [Not true of the UK!]
Fact #3:
An eraser by any other name? Originally, what we now call an eraser was referred to as a "rubber" because the tree resin it was made of "rubbed out" pencil marks. In Great Britain, they still use the original term. But then they also call trucks lorries, elevators lifts and toilets loo!
Fact #4:
An eraser isn’t called eraser by eraser manufacturers, either. Their name for the little erasers on pencil ends: "plugs!"
Fact #5:
More and more of today's erasers are made from something other than rubber! While some of the "pink" erasers you find on pencils are made from synthetic rubber blended with pumice (a grit that enhances its ability to erase), an increasing number of erasers are made from vinyl. Vinyl is a type of durable, flexible plastic.

Derwent Pencils has a nice section on its website about how pencils were traditionally made, and lots of tips and projects for pencil-based artwork. Their pencils are made in Cumbria, where large graphite deposits were first discovered in the sixteenth century.

Meme invented by Pamela at When Good People Get Together.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 28th March 2011

Outside my window ... a beautiful sunny spring day, warm enough to go out without a coat.

I am thinking ... about the final assignments for my course. I want to get as much done as possible over the next couple of weeks before the girls finish school for Easter.

From the learning rooms ... nothing particularly noteworthy this week.

I am thankful ... for warmer days and lighter evenings.

From the kitchen ... lots of old bananas need using up, so I'm going to try making banana muffins and banana bread. Not sure who, if anyone (apart from me!) will eat them, but worth a try.

This week's menu plan:
Monday: Chicken stir fry
Tuesday: Mince and sweet potato pie
Wednesday: Chicken in bbq sauce
Thursday: Pasta with red pesto and creme fraiche
Friday: ????
Saturday: Around the world meal with our neighbours. I am supposed to be making the main course and have completely forgotten what country I picked out of the hat?
Sunday: Roast lamb

I am wearing ... jeans, purple sweater and cardigan, hand-knitted bamboo socks.

I am creating ... nearly finished with the body of the mountain view cardigan and just one front of the aran cardigan to go. I am taking a break to knit a pair of cotton socks for my Mum.

I am going ... to stop procrastinating and start decluttering.

I am reading ...  The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert. Light reading.

I am hoping ... Mum's recovery continues. She is back home and much better in herself, but still finding walking harder than she did before her bout of cellulitis.

I am hearing ... Cherub talking to her Sylvanian Families figures.

Around the house ...  frankly, a mess. Everything is in serious need of cleaning and decluttering. Other people may get the urge to spring clean. Unfortunately, I don't. My policy of ignoring it and hoping it will go away is not working.

One of my favourite things ... wild, bleak moorland. Tevye prefers the dales, I prefer the moors. Something about all that space.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... Tevye's birthday tomorrow (no special plans as we went away for the weekend); usual band, orchestra and archive commitments; around the world meal with our neighbours on Saturday.

A picture thought I am sharing ... I saw this cat while we were away. Don't you love the way he just stayed defiantly on a car roof, staring me out! And the way his fur matches the colour of the stone wall.

 Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Wildsmith Lent and Easter

Cherub and books are an unpredictable combination. Being Miss Stubborn and Contrary she wants to choose her own books, not let me choose them for her, and over-enthusiasm on my part is likely to persuade her that she does not want to read that particular book! Also, timing is everything - sometimes she just isn't ready for a book and it has to be put away, then a bit later she will latch on to it. 

This Lent I decided I would like to read Bible stories to her, but she is not in the mood for the Lion First Bible that she liked a couple of years ago (and, darn it, I lost our second copy and was reduced to borrowing it from the library). I was thinking of trying the Lion Storyteller Bible, but before I got round to getting that out she was diverted by Brian Wildsmith's Jesus, drawn in by the gorgeous illustrations and the familiarity of the Nativity story. As a picture book, it is quite substantial, and we are working through it three or four pages at a time, which seems about right to allow a bit of discussion and a close look at the pictures.

Once Cherub takes to a book, she usually likes to work her way through as many books in the series or by the same author as I can find for her, so I think we are heading into a Wildsmith Lent and Easter. I already have The Easter Story, a simpler book than Jesus and like his A Christmas Story told from the perspective of a donkey. To round things out I am planning to add Moses for Passover and Mary for May. I also have Saint Francis, which Angel loved but Cherub hasn't wanted to read yet, and may dig that out if the Wildsmith kick lasts. I'm happy to keep going with it as long as possible, as I love the colour and detail of Wildsmith's illustrations. Perhaps I should also throw in Joseph to go with Moses. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Last night Angel and I went to watch the first performance of Star's Year 8 school play. There is a tradition at her school that Year 8 perform a play or musical before they move up to Upper School for Year 9. Angel's Year 8 play was Oliver!, performed with more enthusiasm than polish. The new headteacher is a drama enthusiast and has moved the bar up several notches. This year's play was Merrick, based on the life of Joseph "John" Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man (remember the film?).

Merrick was quite a challenge for youngsters of that age (12 and 13), but they did a great job. It was performed in the round, with the minor characters and chorus all sitting in a circle around the main floor area and moving in and out as the play required - the crowd had an important role in both conveying and manipulating emotion, being variously threatening to and supportive of Merrick. The boys who took the main roles of Merrick and his doctor Treves were excellent. Merrick's deformity was conveyed simply by acting, without any special makeup. The highlight for me was a monologue given by Treves describing Merrick's condition, while Merrick himself conveyed the reality of his disabilities simply by movement under a single green spotlight. Difficult to describe, but a real emotion grabber, beautifully acted by both boys.

Star is not really a drama person, so I was slightly surprised she wanted to be in the play rather than backstage, even as part of the chorus without a speaking part. I think she has enjoyed the experience - always a bit hard to tell with Star. She has certainly enjoyed several non-uniform days and missing lessons for rehearsals! All the extra rehearsal time definitely paid off, based on last night's performance. And I have to say I am in agreement with the headteacher, who feels that youngsters gain more from the challenge and experience of performing a well-rehearsed play than they miss from a few lost lessons.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 22nd March 2011

Outside my window ... a little grey, but forecast to be a nice spring day. I actually managed to go out without a coat yesterday. So glad it is finally spring!

I am thinking ... about plans for the Easter holidays. Star is spending a long weekend in Devon with a friend. There is likely to be a zoo trip for Cherub and Little Friend N, and Angel and I are planning a mother-daughter shopping trip while Star is away.

From the learning rooms ... Angel has lots of PE this week, preparing for practical GCSE assessments over the next couple of weeks. She came home with aching legs yesterday after three hours of rounders. One of Cherub's topics this week is bird's eye views - their theme this half-term is "In the Air".

I am thankful ... Mum is well on the mend after last week's medical dramas. The antibiotics have done their job and her foot both looks and feels much better.

From the kitchen ... chicken in some shape or form tonight, I think.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas.

I am creating ... still working on the aran cardigan and mountain view cardigan. I have a few other project plans building up.

I am going ... away for the weekend with Tevye. Can't wait!

I am reading ...  South Riding by Winifred Holtby, which has gripped me even more than the TV series. I would have finished it before now if life hadn't intervened and curtailed my reading time. Winifred Holtby was a extremely gifted writer. So tragic that this was her last book - she died while still only in her 30s, and South Riding was published posthumously. I'll write a proper review once I finish.

I am hoping ... I can manage to get some studying done today despite having Cherub home sick with a cold.

I am hearing ... Tevye and Cherub discussing breakfast. I really should be getting up!

Around the house ...  Cherub has moved in with Star so that Grandma can have her room. They are the best combination as Angel and Cherub are light sleepers and Star a deep sleeper who is less likely to be disturbed by Cherub. Having said that, if Cherub wakes, Star has been climbing into bed with her to settle her. We keep finding them curled up together.

One of my favourite things ... seeing the beautiful relationship between Cherub and her big sisters.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... trying to get a couple of assignments for my course finished before we go away on Friday; going to watch Star's Year 8 play (Merrick) tonight; doctor's appointment for Mum tomorrow morning (after which we are hoping she will get the all clear to go home); band practice tomorrow evening; archive on Thursday; weekend AWAY!!!!

A picture thought I am sharing ... Happy Thing Number 6 - sharing books with Cherub

 Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, March 18, 2011

Five Minute Friday: On Waiting

I don't have much blogging time but feel the urge to write something, so I thought I'd try this Five Minute Friday meme from Gypsy Mama. The rules are:
This is the place where once a week we take the chance to
just write, and not worry if it’s just right or not.
For five minutes flat.
Here’s how the game works: you simply stop, drop and write. Set your words free. Don’t edit them, don’t fret over them, don’t try to make them perfect.
This week's prompt is ON WAITING. Here goes ...

Strange. When I think of it I realise I am good at waiting for events, but bad at waiting for things. Clearly I am more materialistic than I like to think. If I want something, I want it now! On the other hand, I don't fall into the trap of wishing my days away to get to some special time quicker. I am not one of those who count down the days to a holiday (that would be vacation if you speak American English) or other special event on the calendar. I am definitely someone who lives in the present. I like to imagine the future, but I don't waste time waiting for it.

Yikes! Five minutes is not long. I am almost out of time! Trying to think of times that I have been conscious of waiting. Pregnancy is the obvious one. And there, I do get impatient, just because I want it to be over. I am not one of those people who blooms in pregnancy, to say the least. so not only do I want to meet the baby, but I can't wait to feel well again.

Whew! Out of time!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beware the Ides of March!

If you wonder where I have been, the back end of last week was busy, and this week has been crazy! I spent more than half of Monday night in Accident and Emergency with my Mum and her red swollen foot - by the time she admitted to my brother and I that she had a problem, she had reached the point of not being able to walk, so we had to call an ambulance for her. Of course, it had to be a crazy busy night in A and E, so we ended up with a four hour wait, followed by an hour and a half of seeing doctors, blood tests and decision making. She was diagnosed with cellulitis and kept in overnight to give antibiotics a chance to kick in. My brother and I got home at 4am.

On Tuesday she was mobile again - albeit slowly - and was able to come home in the evening. We now have her staying with us for a few days while she recovers. The doctor visited yesterday, and feels the foot is doing OK, but is concerned she may have a blood clot in her leg, necessitating a trip to the surgery for a blood-thinning injection and another trip back to the hospital today for a scan. So, all in all, a crazy few days.

Of course, I should have guessed something like this would happen. Tuesday was Angel's birthday, and this is the third time in eight years that a family member has ended up in hospital on her birthday. Angel was born on the Ides of March. Clearly this was not a good thing and she should have waited for St.Patrick's Day when she was due. I have a lot of sympathy for poor old Julius Caesar.

Normal blogging will resume when I get out of chaos mode.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What's On The Calendar Wednesday

I liked this simple meme idea from Pamela at When Good People Get Together. The idea is to post about something that is on the calendar for the day. It can be your own, or any other calendar. Today is an easy one for me ...

The first day of Lent, which gets its name from the Christian tradition of marking the forehead with ashes as a sign of repentence. The ashes are made by burning the palms used for Palm Sunday of the previous year.

My plans for Lent this year are simple:
I want to find some good spiritual reading, but so far have no bright ideas.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

TV Treats

I have been enjoying two TV treats over the past few weeks. First, a golden oldie ... Upstairs Downstairs. The original series, not the recent short sequel. I found series 1, 2, 4 and 5 on iTunes for the paltry sum of £2.99 each and downloaded the lot on impulse. Series 3 isn't there, so I am going to have to spring for the DVD for that (which will cost more than the other four series put together, but so worth it!). Tevye and I have been watching together, and are hooked. We both remembered the series from its original showing back in the seventies, and have watched the odd repeat out of sequence over the years, but starting over at the beginning has been a revelation. We knew it was good, but had forgotten just how engrossing. No wonder people rushed home to watch in the days before VCRs. It really is costume drama at its best, even forty years after it was first shown. There is absolutely no doubt it has stood the test of time. Seventeen episodes down, fifty one to go. Joy!

Then over the past three weeks I have been watching a new series that had me hooked from the first few minutes ... South Riding, based on the 1930s novel by Winifred Holtby. I have never read any of her work, though I was familiar with Winifred herself from her close friend Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth, a heart-rending account of the author's experiences during the First World War that I first discovered as a teenager thanks to another superb TV drama - may have to buy that next. I digress. South Riding. It wasn't what I expected (though I don't know what I did expect), but it blew me away. So many layers - romance, politics, friendship, injustice, grief, humour, Yorkshire grit - and not at all the ending I expected. And now I have to read the book. Have to. And so, it seems, do a lot of others, judging by the reservation queue at the library. I couldn't wait. No Kindle edition yet (due the end of March), but ... ta-da ... iBooks came up trumps. As soon as this post is posted, I intend to get stuck in.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 7th March 2011

Outside my window ... a bright, sunny day, but still chilly. It is nice to see the sun, but I am longing for warmthm thinking ... about Lent (which is starting so late it feels as though it should be nearly Easter!).

From the learning rooms ... Cherub is helping(!) Star with her current homework project on rocks and fossils - at least, she has lent Star her Magic School Bus Inside the Earth book, and is contributing enthusiasm!

I am thankful ... for a restful few days. I am fighting a bug and low on energy.From the kitchen ... baked potatoes and chilli tonight. Pancakes for Pancake Day tomorrow.  I haven't looked at my menu plan for the rest of the week yet.

I am wearing ... jeans, pink v-neck jumper, purple and silver flower earrings, stripy socks.

I am creating ... back to the aran cardigan and mountain view cardigan. Cherub's cardigan and hat are done, apart from sewing in the ends.

I am going ... nowhere out of the ordinary this week.

I am reading ...  French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.I am hoping ... the dishwasher gets fixed at the second attempt. It was mended on Tuesday, then packed up again on Friday.

I am hearing ... Cherub talking to her Sylvanian families.

Around the house ...  sliced up paper, scissors and sellotape. Cherub has been creating (I think she was making one of the foot measuring things they use in shoe shops).

One of my favourite things ... Evernote. How did I ever manage without Evernote?

A few plans for the rest of the week ... I should be going to Star's parent-teacher evening tomorrow, but forgot to get her to make appointments for me. As I don't have any concerns and can probably predict exactly what her teachers would say, I think I'm just going to be a bad parent and let it slide. I'm playing in my orchestra concert on Saturday, so intense rehearsals on Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon.

A picture thought I am sharing ... Happy Thing Number 5 - Whittards hot chocolate

 Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, March 04, 2011

3 Quick Takes: 4th March 2011

I am under par this week - struggling through a combination of a bruised back and a mild stomach bug - and can't summon up seven thoughts. Three will have to do.

1. My link of the week ... the high church of Chiatura in Georgia. Eek! Eek, eek, EEK! As someone who is not keen on heights, I feel dizzy just looking at the picture. (HT: The Hermeneutic of Continuity).

2. I have been looking at archives of electronic records this week. Did you know that the internet is archived? Type in a URL and the Wayback Machine will show you what the site looked like at various points in the past.  For the UK, selected web sites are saved at the UK Web Archive maintained by the British Library. You can search by title, or explore a number of special collections.

3. As I put Cherub to bed the other night she was contemplating ordinal numbers. She told me her birthday is third (after Angel and Tevye), then counted "first, second, third, fourth, fifth ... [pause to consider] ... but I don't know where 'last' comes!" Tricky concept that. First relates to a number, so why not last?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

London Aquarium

A few pictures from our trip to the London Aquarium on Monday. Cherub and Little Friend N had a great time, especially so because they had each other to share the fun with:

I didn't take the camera, so experimented with taking pictures on my new-to-me phone. It doesn't handle movement at all because of the long shutter delay, but works well enough as a back up for those days when I either forget my camera or don't want to have to carry it.

The highlight for the littles were the rays, particularly the large ones that swam over us in the walk through tunnel - couldn't get a picture of them, or the big turtles, as they were on the move. 

This fish was ugly in a beautiful sort of way ... or beautiful in an ugly way? 

I liked the effect of this starfish climbing up the glass.

The lighting effects in the jelly fish tank had them changing colour. I managed to get a nice picture of them in the pink phase.