Saturday, April 30, 2011

Happy, Happy, Happy!

And this is why ...

One big advantage of playing in a brass band is that they will provide instruments for players who don't have their own. Until now I have been playing on a small bore student trombone belonging to the band, but had pretty much outgrown it - able to blow too much air in, which instead of making a bigger, louder sound, made a nasty, raspy one, so I was having to try to remember to hold back.

So ... they bought a brand new, professional standard large bore trombone for me to use! Playing it is like moving from driving an old Mini to a Mercedes. It almost plays itself, and has a beautiful, flexible tone (most of the time, I've only had it three days and I'm still learning!). Easier to play loud, easier to play quiet, and better everywhere in between. I can actually sound good. Miraculous!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Seven Quick Royal Wedding Takes: 29th April 2011


1. I love, love, loved the dress - simple and elegant, with that gorgeous lace. Though the BBC's description of the 2.7 metre train a "short" bemused me somewhat.

2. I also loved the music. The Church of England does music for big occasions so well. I loved Crown Imperial at the end, and the classic hymns. And I hope those choirboys are going to get a good holiday after all their hard work. They deserve it!

3. The hats! Hat watching while the guests arrived was one of our favourite parts. A couple appeared to be satellite dishes attached to the wearer's head. A tall blue creation looked like something from Star Trek (a milliner boldly going where no woman had been before?) and Princess Bea's attracted almost as much comment on Facebook as The Dress. "Pink octopus" was one of the more polite descriptions. Others were clearly giving their wearers trouble, in particular one so wide brimmed its occupant could only see where she was going by tilting her head backwards.

4. Tevye and the girls bought me a bottle of champagne for Mother's Day (which falls in March or April here) and I had been waiting for a good opportunity to drink it ... today seemed as good as any, so I checked off number 94 from my Day Zero Project list and drank champagne for breakfast. Then some more later to wash down smoked salmon sandwiches (with salmon we didn't eat at Easter because it was still Passover and we couldn't have bread). Very celebratory.

5. A bit of wedding trivia ... the first royal wedding at Westminster Abbey took place on 4 January 1243, when Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother of King Henry III, married Sanchia of Provence. Most of the fifteen royal weddings at the Abbey took place during the twentieth century.

6. Courtesy of Sally at Castle In the Sea (or rather, of her daughter), the royal wedding name game. The rules are:
1. You are Lord or Lady Somebody
2. Your first name comes from one of your grandparents.
3. Your hyphenated surname is a combination of your first pet's name and the name of the street you grew up on.

That gives me Lady Blanche Jock-Hollingdon. We didn't have a street name, so I had to go with the place name instead. Tevye could be Lord Felix Joey-Parfett. That's what comes of having a budgie for a pet.

7. And finally, wasn't it nice that it didn't rain, particularly after all the forecasts for showers over the past few days.

Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aysgarth, Yorkshire

I have a load of photos stacked up from various trips over the last month that I have been meaning to post. This batch made it as far as a draft last week, but never got any further. Ah well! I'll try to catch up this month.

On the way back from Cumbria at the end of March, we stopped off for lunch at Aysgarth in Yorkshire because we spotted a water fall marked on the map. The water fall turned out to be a series, and we only made it as far as the gentle upper fall.

This is St. Andrews Church, on a hill overlooking the falls:

One of the things I love about exploring old churches is that they often contain unexpected hidden gems, and this one had a spectacular one. Inside we discovered the stunning Jervaulx Screen. This is the rood screen from the medieval Cistercian abbey of Jervaulx, which probably dates from the fifteenth century. Jervaulx Abbey held the advowson (the right to appoint a priest) of Aysgarth Church, and the screen was moved here to protect it when Jervaulx was dissolved by King Henry VIII.

A close up of the fan vaulting at the top of the screen:

And of marquetry on the end of one of the built-in seats:

Looking down from the top of the falls:

This waterfall is all of about two feet high - not exactly Niagara! A very pretty setting though.

Looking up the falls from the road:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 25th April 2011

Outside my window ... bright and sunny. Again. This has been the warmest Easter I have ever known and is set to be the warmest April on record. High 70s on Thursday, Friday and Saturday - may even have hit 80, which is unheard of for April. Really, it has been like the best summer weather. Forecast to cool down after today, though. I just hope this doesn't mean summer has been and gone for the year already!

I am thinking ... how nice it is to able to be hospitable. Having two American students staying over last week was a lot of fun. Cherub and I took them to Warwick Castle on Thursday, where Cherub confounded me by bolting from the meet-a-princess attraction she had been looking forward to, and immersing herself in the fighting knights display I thought might frighten her.

From the learning rooms ... testing Angel on GCSE chemistry (and learning new stuff as chemistry has clearly moved on since my day!), and cheerleading Star through left-to-the-last-minute English homework.

I am thankful ... for a beautiful Easter and a long holiday season - this four day Easter weekend is followed by another next weekend, with a bank (public) holiday on Friday for the royal wedding followed by the May bank holiday on Monday. Lots of people have taken Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week off work and the weather is adding to the holiday mood. The girls are back at school on Wednesday and Thursday, but I suspect it will be a rather half-hearted two days!

From the kitchen ... still out of sync due to holidays and Passover. Matzoh meal pancakes and Easter leftovers today, fish and chips tomorrow, a pasta bake from the freezer on Wednesday, and I haven't though beyond that yet.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas.

I am creating ... nearly finished the first of my blue cotton socks, and working on the first sleeve of my summer cotton cardigan.

I am going ... for a walk this afternoon. Somewhere. Anywhere. Just want to take advantage of the weather!

I am reading ... Climbing the Bookshelves by Shirley Williams (autobiography).

I am hoping ... for a good summer term for all three girls.

I am hearing ... Cherub watching TV, which Tevye and I are about to co-opt to watch an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs. We are half way through series 3.

Around the house ... summer clothes, sandals, sunhats, sunglasses.

One of my favourite things ... chocolate. Especially after a chocolate free Lent.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... Today: jobs round the house this morning, then out for a walk this afternoon; Wednesday: girls back to school; Thursday: one of our American student friends will be back with us again for her last night in England; Friday: will probably watch the royal wedding in the morning, but other than that no plans yet for the weekend.

A picture thought I am sharing ... Cherub enjoying sun and sand at the local open farm on Saturday.
Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Gallows

In his Good Friday homily this afternoon our priest asked what we would think if we came to Church and found a noose, a guillotine, or an electric chair above the altar. Would it shock us? Well, yes, it certainly would me. Does a cross or crucifix still shock us? Or do we take it for granted? Are we desensitised to the reality of crucifixion?

I imagined a gallows standing by the altar instead of a crucifix. I thought of how a picture of a hanging, or even an empty noose gives me a sinking feeling in my stomach. I think of Nazi victims, of the gruesome image of a corpse left hanging at a crossroads where it would be seen by travellers (as happened in the old days), the horror of life twitching away at the end of a rope. Even the thought of the worst of criminals dangling from a gibbet horrifies me. I hate the death penalty. I can accept the argument for just war, that there are times when a fight to the death is awful but necessary. But execution in cold blood? I can't get my head round it. Another terrible image is the lynch mob. The cruel mob that drags an innocent man to his death, by beating, by hanging, by stoning - or simply causes a miscarriage of justice when the authorities, under pressure and fearing a riot, condemn an accused man unjustly.

And that is the essence of Good Friday. A jeering mob baying for blood. A miscarriage of justice. A gallows. A public execution. Horror and pain.

And God Himself died.

For us.

For me.

Can I truly get my head round that?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 18th April 2011

Outside my window ... another beautiful morning. I could get accustomed to this! Cooler than it was a week ago and forecast to cloud over this afternoon, but still very pleasant spring weather. Lots of green on the trees now.

I am thinking ... I must try to get to sleep earlier. I have realised that during the school holidays when there are people around all day, I buy myself quiet time alone by staying awake far too late.

From the learning rooms ... Angel is determinedly revising for science GCSEs. Unfortunately, she spent a week revising the wrong section of the books, but at least she realised her mistake before she got too far with it.

I am thankful ... I made it half way through my 40 bags in 40 days challenge. Admittedly, I am not going to manage the other 20 this week, but 20 bags is at least respectable.

From the kitchen ... oh HELP!!!! Passover starts tonight, which makes menu planning extra complicated; we have a couple of American students staying over Wednesday and Thursday; Angel and Star come and go at random times in the school holidays, sometimes with friends. Yikes! Think maybe lazy chicken (chicken and potatoes slow cooked in a casserole) and chilli may be on the menu somewhere. As for the rest ... ?????

I am wearing ... very old blue pyjama trousers and mismatched pink pyjama top. The elastic has pretty much gone in the trousers and the time has come to accept they have reached the end of the line. I'll cut them up for cleaning cloths later on today.

I am creating ... still socks and cardigans. Finished Mum's socks, and have now started a pair for myself to use up the cotton yarn.

I am going ... to do battle with a long to-do list today. Lots of unexciting but necessary chores.

I am reading ... Climbing the Bookshelves by Shirley Williams (autobiography).

I am hoping ... Little Friend N continues to recover well. He had a tonsillectomy the day after we went to the zoo last week. 

I am hearing ... Cherub watching TV downstairs. Actually, I suspect Cherub is playing and not watching at all so I should really go down and turn it off, but I am being lazy.

Around the house ... reasonable order considering it is school holidays and the girls are home. I have reinstituted the "five minute tidy" I used to use when Angel and Star were little. Set the timer and everyone tidies for five minutes. Amazing how much can be done in five minutes, and how racing against the clock motivates Cherub!

One of my favourite things ... small girls in long nighties. C.U.T.E.  I bought Cherub a couple on Saturday to replace her old outgrown ones.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... Today: Catch up day for housework, supermarket shopping and a little studying, and Star gets back from her weekend away with her friend; Tuesday: To Tevye's sister's for a seder meal; Wednesday and Thursday: hosting an old homeschooling friend's son and his friend (they are spending a semester studying in Rome and have some time off to travel); and of course it is Holy Week and Easter weekend. Probably won't manage to fit in my archive day and band practice this week.

A picture thought I am sharing ... Tevye and I spent a lovely day pottering around Cambridge yesterday. There were quite a number of buskers, including this one with a unique selling point - he plays the guitar and sings from inside a litter bin. Bizarre!

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, April 15, 2011

7 Quick Takes: 16th April 2011

1.  I love the way small children go through phases of fixating on a particular skill they are developing. (Come to think of it I guess that applies to any age, but it tends to be more obvious in little ones). Last year Cherub went through a stage of drawing like a maniac at any opportunity. This Easter break, it seems to be writing. She sits there, carefully sounding words out to herself, then writing down something that bears a slight passing resemblance to a phonetic version - usually with just enough common sounds for the reader to make an inspired guess at the word. For example, all stories start "Wunsapoltim" ("Once upon a time ..."). Unfortunately she hasn't yet grasped the need to leave a space between words, which makes the guesswork a little trickier. Direction is also hit and miss. Sometimes she starts at the back of a book and works forwards. One page started at the bottom and went up. Occasionally there is a hiccup and she writes backwards. But on she writes ... stories (always about a girl called Rose), lists of names (registers?), and even instructions for playing a game.

2. She is also thoroughly into the Brian Wildsmith books. As predicted, when she likes one, she likes them all. We have read Jesus, The Easter Story and Saint Francis. Moses and Mary arrived yesterday, and we are already well into Moses (some of these are meatier books than others, and I am splitting them up rather than trying to blast through in one reading). I forgot just how much I love his Saint Francis. Beautiful pictures and flowing text, written in the first person as Francis speaking. One of my all time favourite picture books.

3. Alongside Brian Wildsmith, she is on a Ramona kick. Wildsmith and Ramona, together with her school reading book, currently make up our bedtime reading routine, occasionally with an extra picture book added in if we have time. The Ramona chapters are quite long, so mostly we don't. We made it to the end of Beezus and Ramona last night, and have Ramona the Pest ready and waiting for tonight. Star used to love Ramona, and I bought a set of six books from The Book People for her. Frustratingly book number five has gone missing. Why? Where? Now I will have to search for another copy in the same edition, because having an odd one in a set would irritate me!

4. Angel is job hunting and was out this week dropping CVs into various businesses in town. She already has one part time job, coaching at the gym on Saturday mornings, but wants to start saving for driving lessons. The minimum age to learn to drive in the UK is seventeen, and to drive solo everyone has to pass a very thorough and rather intimidating practical driving test. Professional driving lessons are really a must for beginners, which makes learning to drive an expensive business, particularly when you add on the fee for a license, a theory test, and other incidental expenses. Insurance for under 21s is also incredibly expensive - adding Angel onto the insurance for our small car will at least treble the insurance premium. We have said we will pay to insure the car, but she has to pay for lessons. She still has another 11 months to go before she hits the magic age, but she is determined to have the money ready so that she can learn as soon as she can.

5. American readers ... I know the rules are different in the US, and that teens can drive at a younger age (is sixteen the norm?), but I don't know any more than that. What qualification, if any, do they need to drive unaccompanied? Is the expense of training and insuring a young driver an issue for you too?

6. Blog post of the week: Everything you'll ever need to know about makeup by Jen Fulwiler, guesting at Betty Beguiles. There is stuff here that I wish I had learned decades ago. These days I am a light foundation, dash of concealer and lipstick person - foundation and concealer to even out skin tone and for the built in sun protection, and lipstick because as I get older my lips look bleached out without it. They have become part of my morning routine and take only a minute or two to apply. Jen may have inspired me to experiment with a couple more items. Mascara more than once in a blue moon? Lip pencil? (I've never had one of those!). I wear just enough make up to have a favourite brand - Boots Number 7, partly because I genuinely like their products, and partly because Boots often give out discount vouchers which mean I can buy higher quality makeup for budget prices.

7. A plaintive Facebook message from Tevye this morning. A colleague at work has demolished the kettle. He does not function without a regular supply of tea.

Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary

Thursday, April 14, 2011

10 Boys I'd Let My Daughters Date

Pragmatic Mom is posting a list of the Top 100 boys in Children's Lit You'd Let Your Daughter Date.  Very fun, although she is much more up-to-date with (American?) children's books than I am and I didn't recognise a lot of the boys she has chosen so far. On a smaller scale, here in no particular order are ten boys I would pick for my daughters (or myself in my younger days!):

1. Peter from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I'm afraid I can't get past Edmund's stupidity in being fooled by the White Witch, so it has to be Peter.

2. Dickon from The Secret Garden. The strong, silent, nature-loving Yorkshire type.

3. Charlie from Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola books. He is so sensible and tolerant with his exuberant little sister, you just know he is going to grow up into a wonderful young man.

4. Harry Potter. I could use a wizard around the place. (And as runner-up, Neville Longbottom - not obviously exciting, but reliable, loyal and courageous.)

5. Gilbert Blythe, the boy who eventually marries Anne of Green Gables. Anyone good enough for Anne is good enough for my daughters!

6. Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Nothing to do with character - though as it happens he is a nice boy - just think of the endless supply of chocolate.

7. John Walker of Swallows and Amazons. The romance of a sea captain, and it would be reassuring to know my daughter was not dating a duffer.

8. Julian from Enid Blyton's Famous Five. To quote Wikipedia, 'tall, strong and intelligent, as well as caring, responsible and kind'. And let's face it, what British child hasn't wanted to be a member of the Famous Five at some point.

9. Nicholas Fetterlock, the merchant's son who helps to foil a plot against the wool guild in The Wool Pack by Cynthia Harnett (which I have a feeling may have a different title in the US?). A sensible and eminently marriageable young man.

10. John Trenchard from Moonfleet, a classic adventure story and a favourite of mine. A bit hot-headed, but learns from his experiences. I wouldn't want my daughters to have to wait for him as long as Grace did, though.  

And an honorable mention for Francis, the merchant in The Thirteen Days of Christmas by Jenny Overton, who isn't a boy so can't be in my list ... but a young man who buys his beloved a partridge, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five gold rings (you can extrapolate the rest) is a truly romantic soul, even if it takes a little prodding. (Very good, very funny book, by the way.)

I'm sure I have forgotten some favourites there, but I am letting go of my inner perfectionist.

Who would you pick for your daughter?

(HT: Facebook link from Lissa)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

World Heritage Sites

One of my Day Zero Project ideas was to visit seven World Heritage sites that I hadn't been to before. I was checking the official list out for possibilities yesterday, and decided to list all the sites I have already visited (this one is mostly an aide memoire for myself, so please feel free to skip!). So far I have managed 37 out of the 911 on the list:

  • Historic centre of Brugge (Bruges), Belgium
  • Mont-Saint-Michel, France
  • Palace and Park of Versailles, France
  • Rheims Cathedral, France
  • Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne, France
  • Acropolis, Athens, Greece
  • Old Town of Corfu, Greece
  • Historic Centre of Rome, Properties of the Holy See
  • Vatican City
  • Buda Castle Quarter, Budapest
  • Andrassy Avenue, Budapest
  • Masada, Israel
  • Historic Centre of Florence, Italy
  • Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Italy
  • Venice, Italy
  • Historic Centre of San Gimignano, Italy
  • Historic Centre of Siena, Italy
  • Assisi, Italy
  • Old City of Jerusalem
  • City of Valletta, Malta
  • Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Malta
  • Megalithic Temples of Malta
  • 17th Century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd, Wales
  • Durham Castle and Cathedral, England
  • Stonehenge, England
  • Studley Royal Park and Fountains Abbey, England
  • Blenheim Palace, England
  • City of Bath, England
  • Hadrian's Wall, England
  • Westminster Palace and Westminster Abbey, England
  • Canterbury Cathedral, England
  • Tower of London, England
  • Maritime Greenwich, England
  • Dorset and East Devon Coast, England
  • Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City, England
  • Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, England

Monday, April 11, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 11th April 2011

Outside my window ... a beautiful morning, with blue skies and newly green trees. We have had a few days of weather that is more like summer than spring. It is forecast to end today, though, with temperatures dropping back to normal for April.

I am thinking ...  about shoes. Last week's summery weather made me realise I need summer shoes. I ordered a pair of chunky wedge heeled flip-flips to replace a similar pair I wore out last summer. Now I need shoes for "work" (the archive). The pair I bought last year rub terribly - they felt fine when I tried them on, but just didn't wear in. I am now on a mission to find a comfortable pair with medium height heels to replace them for this summer.

From the learning rooms ... Easter break for two and a half weeks. GCSE revision for Angel. 

I am thankful ... that I have the final assignments for this module of my archive course mostly done. I have to do an essay and a report. The essay is written and just needs proof reading and the footnotes sorting out. The report is nearly two-thirds done. They aren't due until early May, but I didn't want to have them hanging over me all through the Easter holidays.

From the kitchen ... oh dear! My menu plans always fall to pieces in the school holidays as we are so out of routine. I don't even know what to cook for dinner today. Let's see ... what do I have? I think maybe orange chicken.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas.

I am creating ... socks and cardigans. Half way through the second sock of a cotton pair for Mum.

I am going ... to bed early tonight. I indulged my inner night owl and stayed up far too late last night watching The Red Shoes (classic movie for my Day Zero Project list) and puttering about on the computer. At some point today I am going to regret the lack of sleep.

I am reading ...  a biography of Shirley Williams (politician daughter of Vera Brittain, who was the friend and literary executor of Winifred Holtby, who wrote South Riding - think I may have set myself off on a rabbit trail).

I am hoping get back on the decluttering wagon. I didn't do any last week. I did get back on track with housework, though.

I am hearing ... birds singing outside and Cherub scuffling around downstairs.

Around the house ... appliances breaking down. Last week both the washing machine and the microwave broke. The washing machine needed a new pump and is now fixed (phew!). Then a cover fell off the top of the microwave when I was cleaning it and kind of fell apart (at least I was following my new cleaning regime, even if it did have unintended consequences!). Fortunately it is still under guarantee and should be fixed tomorrow.

One of my favourite things ... spending time with my daughters.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... Tuesday: Little Friend N is coming to play with Cherub in the morning, then we are going to the zoo with him and his mother in the afternoon; Wednesday: band practice; Thursday: archive during the day, then a pub night with old friends from Angel and Star's toddler days; Friday: Star goes to Devon with her friend's family for a long weekend; Saturday: Angel and I are planning a shopping trip; Sunday: Angel is going to take charge of Cherub and Tevye and I are going on a day trip to Cambridge (unless the weather is awful).

A picture thought I am sharing ... Cherub enjoying the nice weather yesterday - lounging on a pillow in the swingboat while wearing Angel's sunglasses.

 Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Chuckle of Cherubisms

I entertained myself today reading back over some of my old Facebook status updates about Cherub. Here for your amusement are some classic Cherubisms (apologies for repetition to any Facebook friends who also read my blog):

  • Cherub's topic at school this week is the moon. According to her there are full moons, half moons, and "present" moons.

  • Oops! Four year old + CBeebies website + super simple wireless printer = shortage of pink ink. (And no, I didn't teach her how to use it!)

  • Cherub is having problems with YouTube on the iPad. She keeps getting Peppa Pig in Polish.

  • After a particularly stroppy start to the day from her night owl sister, Cherub has coined a new noun. According to her, Star is a "stroppamator".  [Translation: a strop is somewhere between a sulk and a tantrum]

  • Surreal conversation with 4 year old this morning. Her: "I know what drawing means" ... Me (confused): " What?" ... Her: "Drawing. Like a nap is sleeping drawing the day". Me (starting to get her drift): "Ah! I see! During the day." Her (giggling at my stupidity): "Ha, ha! You thought I meant drawing when I meant DRAWING". ... Drawing. During. Whatever.

  • "Grandma, can you think of a fruit beginning with T? It's something the big girls like." Grandma couldn't. The answer? "Termites". I never realised my daughters were anteaters. Do you think they would prefer them roasted or fried? (For the record, she was thinking of pomegranates!)

  • Bad enough that I couldn't get to sleep last night and was woken at 6 by a small person, but having to try to explain the difference between a prawn and a prong before 7 in the morning is just too much. ("A prawn? I thought that was the thing that holds sweetcorn.")

  • Cherub has almost, but not quite, grasped the technology message. She made a paper "laptop" for Star, but instead of an apple on the front, she drew a slice of watermelon.

  • Cherub is desperate to play Chinese Buffles. It seems she has got muddled somewhere between Chinese Whispers and Blind Man's Buff!

  • Listening to Cherub having a conversation with her Playmobil: "Yeeowww!!! Yeeowww!!! ... Oh no, it's a wolf howling! ... No, it's not. It's her baby having a little whine because she can't find her rabbit ... Yeeowww!!! Yeeowww!!! ... Quick! Search! Calm her down! ... Yay! We found bunny." Thank goodness for that. The yowling was beginning to get to me.

  • Noticed Cherub still wearing her PE t-shirt under her school clothes. Apparently she didn't notice because it was "just a bit camouflaged". Well yes ... white t-shirt, white top, I see the problem!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What's On The Calendar Wednesday: April 6th

Today is the first day of the new tax year in the UK. If you wonder why our tax year runs from April 6th - not the most obvious date to pick! - here is the answer:

Until the eighteenth century the New Year began on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation or in English parlance, Lady Day (which, logically enough, falls nine months before Christmas), and this was the date on which taxes were due to be paid. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752 eleven days were skipped during September, with September 14th coming immediately after September 2nd, and the date of New Year was changed to January 1st. In order to collect a full 365 years tax, the missed eleven days were added to March 25th, moving the date for payment of tax on to April 5th, with the new tax year starting the day after on April 6th.

Archivist's note:  The change in the date of the New Year means that when describing documents from before the change they often have to be given a double old-style / new-style date. For example, February 2nd 1688 (old style) would now be written as February 2nd 1688/9 to show that it was February 2nd 1689 according to our current calendar.

Meme invented by Pamela at When Good People Get Together.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Book Review: South Riding (Winifred Holtby)

I was inspired to read this by the recent BBC TV series. I loved the TV adaptation, but the book was better. Winifred Holtby was, quite simply, a superbly talented writer, who tragically died aged only 37 just when her talent was in full flower. South Riding was published posthumously by her literary executor, Vera Brittain. Extraordinarily, the framework of this novel is local government - not a subject that I would expect to be the basis of such a gripping story. This isn't high politics and high drama; it is the nitty-gritty of everyday politics, of the people that make the little decisions that affect people's daily lives, and their muddle of social concern and self-interest.

There is too much to this book to describe in a short review. On one level it is a romance, with a dash of Wuthering Heights. On another it is a portrait of a place - the fictional South Riding of Yorkshire, in reality the area around Hull - and its people. Holtby's characterisation is superb, bringing to life dozens of individuals, all very different and all very real. I love her fairness, showing the good even in the less attractive personalities, and understanding the motivation of those whose politics were opposed to her own, real life socialism. And she wrote beautifully. This was a book I didn't want to put down, because I truly cared about the characters.  Definitely a book I would recommend.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 4th April 2011

Outside my window ... it is dark now, at 8.15pm, but I am loving the lighter evenings. Forecast is cool and damp for tomorrow, but with some lovely warm, sunny weather later in the week.

I am thinking ... how perverse it is that I am getting better at the trombone and it is making my playing go wrong! I can now put in too much air for the small / medium bore trombone I use, which makes loud notes come out raspy and splitty, Then I keep playing too high because high notes have suddenly got easier, and I am confused by no longer having to force them out.  

From the learning rooms ... coursework deadlines and practical PE GCSE assessments for Angel this week. She says today's netball didn't go too well. Gymnastics and trampoline are already done, as she had to video her routines for those at the gym. Just rounders to go on Wednesday. She has stayed late at school most days over the past two or three weeks to get her graphics and ICT coursework projects done, and they are now ready to hand in tomorrow. Now she can take a breather before getting stuck in to revision for her exams, which start in the middle of May.

I am thankful ... Mum has made a full recovery from her cellulitis and is back to her previous level of mobility. Also that my brother, who managed to slice his finger nastily to the bone, didn't do anything worse!

From the kitchen ... more banana muffins. Last week's were a big success, so I made them again today. I love this recipe. It is the first time I have managed to achieve soft, fluffy muffins. The few times I have tried them before they have leaned towards rock cakes.

This week's menu plan:
Monday: Baked potatoes, savoury mince and broccoli
Tuesday: Chicken with roasted sweet potatoes
Wednesday: Salmon fillets with potato cakes
Thursday: Something instant from the freezer
Friday: Takeaway fish and chips
Saturday: ????
Sunday: Roast chicken

I am wearing ... jeans, white long-sleeved t-shirt, white hand-knitted socks, earrings.

I am creating ... socks and cardigans. One and bit of Mum's socks are done, and I am plugging on with the  mountain view cardigan. I am taking a break from the aran cardigan, as I want to knit a little turquoise shrug for Cherub and a pair of cotton socks for myself.

I am going ... on a tour of the National Archives on Friday, as part of my course.

I am reading ...  nearly done with The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert. Meanwhile, I am building up quite a wishlist of Kindle books.

I am hoping manage my "forty bags in forty days" decluttering. I am behind, but thanks to dealing with a paper mountain last week, not too far behind. Sixteen bags done so far.

I am hearing ... Tevye watching TV downstairs.

Around the house ... turning a corner with mess and clutter, I hope. I have started the Motivated Mom checklist, and cleared out lots of files of history notes - ten carrier bags of paper to recycle!

One of my favourite things ... reading to Cherub before she goes to bed. We have got into a nice routine of reading for thirty minutes or so, rather than just the quick bedtime story she used to have. It is nice to be beginning the chapter book read-aloud stage again.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... Tuesday: an outdoor play session with Cherub at school to fit in with their "up in the air" theme (playing with anything that flies - kites, balloons, bubbles, aeroplanes and so on); Friday: trip to London to visit the National Archives; Saturday: hoping to work in the library and get my second end of module assignment drafted.

A picture thought I am sharing ... another animal staring me out on our trip up north last week.

 Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Saturday, April 02, 2011

7 Quick Takes: 2nd April 2011

1. I am a day late writing this as I decided to try to get the first of my two final assignments for this term's course module drafted yesterday. They aren't due in until early May, but I want to get them essentially done before Easter, Passover and the school holidays make chunks of time and coherent thought hard to come by. Having tried to keep my essay nice and tight and to the point, I ended up 350 words short and finally gave up trying to write any more at 3am. At least it is more or less there, albeit still needing footnotes, a little padding and tidying up.

2. I am a Motivated Mom again. When I fall off the housework wagon, I need something to pull me back on to it, otherwise I flounder around not knowing where to start. Pathetic, but at least I know where to go for a kickstart. Motivated Mom is simple, doesn't overwhelm me, and gets me back into better habits. When I went to look for the Motivated Mom planner, I was delighted to see they now have an iPhone / iPad app. Job done! (Well, jobs not done yet, but at least I'm trying!)

3. On the subject of iPhone / iPad apps, I am definitely an e-reader convert. I find reading on the iPad or MacBook easier than a real, paper book, because I usually knit while I read and don't have to worry about pages flipping over of their own accord while my hands are occupied. I love, love, love the Kindle app. I can read the same book on the iPad, the MacBook, or my Android phone, and it will magically open at the spot I left it on another machine. Having my current book on my phone is a bonus, as it means I can read wherever I am without having to take a book with me. I tried the iBooks app recently - South Riding was available on iBooks before Kindle, and I was impatient to read it - but found it disappointing. The reading experience was fine, but it is only available for iPhone or iPad. Not being able to access the book on the laptop (not even on an Apple machine, what is up with that?) or my phone was a frustration.

4. This week's archive find was a contract for the rebuilding of the canal bridge linking the two halves of our town. I can't remember the exact date, but I think it may have been 1845. The aim was to reduce the height of the arch - I imagine it must originally have been a humpbacked bridge - and the specifications included good quality Yorkshire stone and two coats of oil paint.

5. I have also come across a number of agreements involving debtors. In one case, a long list of creditors agreed to accept repayment of just half their outstanding debts. Given that the debtor had left the country and gone to Germany, I imagine they were lucky to get anything! In another case the creditors of a local clergyman agreed not to pursue him for payment for the next three years.

6. From Tevye's Facebook:
Conversation with Cherub during a card game this morning... Ch: "I know what 3 and 3 is." Me: "What is it?" Ch: "6". Me: "That's right. You're very good at sums". Ch: "What's sums?" Me: "Adding up." Ch: "Yes, and I'm very good at adding down too." Well, that's an interesting way to describe subtraction!
 7.  I am cooking a Russian main course for our meal with our neighbours tonight. On the menu: Chicken Moscow, Russian roasted potatoes, red cabbage, and lemon basil carrots. A-Next-Door-But-One is complaining that the country she picked out of the hat for dessert is nearly impossible! Thank goodness for Google.

Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary