16 February 2018

Lunchtime Concert


Todays' concert was the Stondon Singers. This highly regarded choir of 25 singers was formed in 1968 initially to perform the works of William Byrd at Stondon Massey where the composer spent the last thirty years of his life. The varied programme included works by Byrd, Maurice Durufle, John Tavener, Imogen Host, Thomas Morley and J.S. Bach. M and I had sandwiches and tea and settled down to enjoy the beautiful singing.
Afterwards we visited the market where I bought some new wellies, browsed around a few shops, we only went into one charity shop! and then headed to John Lewis for coffee and hot chocolate and a good old chat before heading home.

Hope you have a good weekend.

~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


12 February 2018

A Short Walk

Lovely walk this morning
cold
crisp
blue sky
sunshine
not much time today 
so did the short walk 





















a little bit boring 
Rufus

Me  and Buster

~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


7 February 2018

It's A Dog's Life

"It's A Dog's Life" 
What does it mean?
Well it has two meanings
It can mean a miserable unhappy existence
or, as in the case of our dogs, a wonderful life. 

Take a look at what life is like for Buster and Rufus.

This wasn't staged, it's Rufus, he just plonks himself down regardless of what's there.

He wasn't sniffing the tulips! it's just the way he was laying

I can't remember how piglet came to be in the garden, 
but Rufus is always quick to spot a comfortable place to rest his head!


If you ever find yourself hankering after getting a dog but don't know what breed to get I would highly recommend a Lurcher. Being related to Greyhounds they are couch potatoes, which is strange, you would think being racing dogs Greyhounds would be high maintenance.  

They get long walks, sleep all day, Rufus loves playing with his toys and we get a lovely welcome home when we have been out, even if it's only for a couple of hours. They are lovely well behaved boys.

A Lurcher is not a breed of dog but is a type of hound that results from cross breeding a Greyhound with a breed of Terrier. They are unique to Britain and Ireland and have been around a very long time.  They are thought to originate from the time when only Noblemen were permitted to own pure bred Sighthounds such as the Greyhound, Saluki, Deerhound, Whippet and Wolfhound. The punishment for a Commoner for possessing one of these  types of hounds was death. So the Lurcher was bred to fulfill the need for the Commoners and Poachers to own a fast and efficient hunting companion.

If you do get a dog, please go to a reputable breeder and make sure you see the mum and dad. And don't reject the idea of a rescue dog. Rufus is a rescue and he is a darling.


~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


2 February 2018

A Good Read

In the Woods by Tana French
Twelve year old Adam and his friends Jamie & Peter were playing in woods near their homes when something terrible happened. Adam was found with his back to a tree clawing the bark, he had blood on his shoes and slash marks on his back. Jamie and Peter were never seen again and Adam’s amnesia holds to the present day. 
Twenty years on Adam has changed his name to Rob and is a detective in Dublin. The plot circles around the murder of a twelve year old girl, Katy Devlin, whose case Rob and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to investigate. The body was found in the same woods where Rob’s friends disappeared, at an archaeological dig site, and the coincidence is enough to make him nervous. 
Cassie and Rob have been work partners for a few years and get along famously. Cassie is one of the few people who knows the truth about Rob's past. There are many rumours that they are romantically involved, though both deny this they live almost like a married couple, spending a lot of time at Cassie’s cooking dinner, drinking wine, and Rob crashing on Cassie’s couch. 
Katy’s murder takes the pair along many lines of investigation. Could her death be related to her father’s protests against the new motorway, could one of the students on the dig have had a reason to attack her. She might have been abused by her father or another family member. Or could it be related to the disappearance of Rob’s friends, as a hair clip worn by Jamie appeared near the crime scene. Rob discovers where Katy was killed and arrests and confessions follow. The conclusion is chilling. 

Described as breathtakingly brilliant, close to perfect and a superior novel about cops, murder, memory, relationships, and modern Ireland. mmm well I wouldn’t go quite that far, I don't recall much mention of modern Ireland. It was a good story with good characters and very good description of police procedures, and relationships, but there was far too much dialogue about the working and social relationship between Rob and Cassie, some of which was quite infantile. Page after page of what they were drinking, eating, thinking, talking about and crashing out at Cassie’s place. About a third of it could have been edited out without losing any of the plot.  



Have a good weekend

And

~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


30 January 2018

Lunch Club

Every Tuesday myself and other volunteers help out at the Salvation Army's Tuesday Club luncheon date. It's well attended by mostly older ladies and gents. Ages vary from late 60's,  70's  and 80's. Our current eldest is 92! Some are lonely and it is their only outing of the week, for others it's one of many outings keeping them in touch with friends. For one or two it provides a few hours solace from the painful loss of a much loved lifetimes' spouse. And a few attend by recommendation from their GP because they suffer from depression. 
The day starts at 10 am with tea/coffee and biscuits. We then go into the lounge where our guests talk to each other, read a magazine or fall asleep :-) They also talk to us. They have some lovely stories to tell. It's all too easy to look at an old man or woman and see just that, as if they have always been that age. But we see the young girl or boy, the newly weds, men going off to war, parents raising a family with all the hopes and dreams that most of us have. We currently have two ladies who used to be midwives, one used to visit new mums here in my village in the days when midwives did that.
We also arrange entertainment. Once a month a lady from a music group visits, she has a disc player and hands out song books and our ladies and gents choose songs they like, we all then sing along to the music. 
We have jigsaws, colouring books and picture making. Sometimes we play bingo, with chocolate bars as prizes, and a small group play cards. I've modified the game of Articulate which is good fun and helps exercise the little grey cells. 
At about 12.15 we go back into the hall for a two course lunch prepared by the volunteer kitchen ladies. The menus are varied, with chicken; sausages; fish; jam roly poly; apple strudel; cheesecake. Today was meat pie with creamy mash, cabbage and parsnips, followed by rice pudding and jam, and finish off with tea or coffee, all for only £4. 
My friend M and I have been helping for 6 years, H a bit longer and V about 4 years. It can be quite depressing and sad because over the years we have seen some lovely old folk sink into depression or dementia and eventually stop coming. And inevitably many have died. 
But it can be humorous as well. 
The four of us have made a pact that when we are really old we will look out for each other and not let us sit with our legs wide apart showing our drawers, or fall asleep with our mouths open letting our false teeth fall down! 
I know that sounds irreverent but we have to maintain a sense of humour because we are painfully aware that at the rate time is passing we will soon be the waited on instead of the waiters.



~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


26 January 2018

Lunchtime Concert

Every Friday Chelmsford Cathedral hosts lunchtime concerts. They can be organ recitals,  chamber music, school singers, a trio of violin, cello and piano, soloists, all excellent and all free - but I think everybody who attends puts something into the coffers, and let me tell you it is always well attended, almost standing room only.

The Cathedral website publish what the concerts are and my friend M and I try to go to one or two a month. Today's concert was an excellent folk duo, one British and one Swedish. Their style blends traditional and historical material with contemporary sounds. Their instruments are Swedish nyckelharpas, flute, Scottish smallpipes, Swedish bagpipes, English border pipes, guitar, accordion, cowhorn, harpischord and piano. Occasionally, if I've done a bit of shopping beforehand I close my eyes and just drift away with the music, but not today, I didn't want to miss a second, it was beautiful, and there was some audience participation needed. Sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee are available or people can take their own. 

I didn't do much shopping today, just some milk, cereal and Asti Spumante, oh and chocolate! Hotel Chocolat still have their post Christmas sale on, a few items are less than half price so it would be silly not to :-)

Back home now and I have just enjoyed my favourite M&S chocolate and hazlenut tart with a cup of tea. No cooking tonight. My daughter and son-in-law are away for the weekend, so I'm in charge of my grandson. Aged 14 and 6' 1" I can hardly say I'm babysitting, more like supervising! We usually have fish n chip Friday (he has 2 jumbo sausages and chips), and McDonald's Saturday. I know I spoil him, but that's what nans do, and it gives me an excuse to have fast food now and again!



~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


21 January 2018

Quiet Day

Quiet day today after a busy one yesterday. My daughter and I enjoyed a few hours together shopping. It wasn't a marathon, only about 4 hours, but that's my limit, I can't shop til I drop nowadays. Arrived home about 5:15, just enough time for a bit of a sit down and rest before going out to a Burns Night do in the village hall. 

The evening started with a local choir singing a couple of Scottish songs followed by a couple of readings and then the toast as the haggis was piped in. I have never eaten haggis and didn't think I would like it so I opted for the vegetarian option, but it was stodgy and not very tasty. There was plenty of both on the table so I tried the non-vegetarian one, it was much better, moist and tasty. It was accompanied by delicious gravy, mashed potato, cabbage and my favourite veg, mashed swede, I could eat plates of it. Pudding was clootie dumpling and custard, very nice. We then had a great time Scottish country dancing, accompanied by lots of laughs when we got it wrong! Everyone had a lovely time and returned home exhausted and happy. 

It's snowing now. I am going to spend the rest of the day reading, and, if I can move of the sofa, maybe a bit of sewing.


~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


18 January 2018

A Good Read

Secrets And Lies

Christine Keeler's name is as synonymous with the sixties sexual revolution as is the pill. An English former model and showgirl, little did she know when she walked into a dance-club and met society osteopath Stephen Ward she was also walking into the history books. And what a history. She could never escape being Christine Keeler, she will be a headline forever.

Having found fame and success as a model - the portrait of her astride a chair is iconic - she then had a short affair with the then Minister of War, John Profumo, which led to the downfall of Harold Macmillan's government, and was at the epicentre of the social and political earthquake that followed. She was the subject of scandal, intrigue and gossip and was tried for perjury and briefly jailed following the death of Stephen Ward, who had introduced her to Profumo.

After those directly involved are no longer alive, Keeler wanted to tell the full story of that extraordinary time. Set against a backdrop of political turmoil and Cold War espionage it is a fascinating story of her unstinting resolve and, given the people she came into contact with, her almost miraculous survival.

It was the early 1960’s, the days when most British people believed the ruling classes were in monogamous marital relationships and good girls remained virgins until they married. So when the story broke about her relationship with Profumo the public couldn't get enough of the scandal. They also learned about orgies attended by high court judges and members of parliament, as the various court cases and public enquiry relating to the story were reported in the newspapers. The scandal tarnished the reputation of the ruling classes almost overnight and brought down the government of the time. 

Add to this melting pot of scandal Keeler's friend Mandy Rice-Davis, the two beautiful and wild teenagers had associations with gangsters and racketeers and sexual relationships with black men (frowned upon in those days). The events turned out to be one of the biggest scandals of all time and is still being talked about today. There is even a musical about Stephen Ward. 

It is generally recognised that Ward should not have been convicted of living off immoral earnings. Keeler states that Ward was spying for the Russians and that she and Ward were the victims of a cover up. Not everyone agrees with that. However it's interesting that such was the climate at the time that it was more important for the establishment to pursue the immoral earnings charge rather than the political problems of spies right under their noses, some of whom were the establishment.

Profumo was eventually forgiven for his wrongdoings, Keeler has been alternately patronised and ridiculed - confirmation of hypocrisy and privilige and how the established elite will close ranks and say anything to protect their interests. 

It's a very interesting read. I have mixed feelings towards Keeler. On the one hand I felt sympathy for the young teenager drawn into a glamorous and exiting world, but totally out of her depth, and could be seen as a victim of circumstance. And on the other hand feeling frustrated as she continued hanging around with the same people and repeating the same mistakes. 
But then who's to say how any of us would react if we found ourselves in the same situation in the potent "anything goes" swinging sixties.


~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 




17 January 2018

Does Appearance Matter?

I don't understand
how a woman
can leave the house
without fixing herself
up a little, if only out
of politeness.

And then, you never know,
maybe that's the day
she has a date with destiny.

And it's best to be
as pretty as possible 
for destiny.

─ COCO CHANEL ─

Well there have been times when I have been most impolite and missed my date with destiny! 
Times when I have been busy with sewing/reading/dollshouse/bingeing on Netflix and then suddenly realised I need provisions. Not a scrap of make up on, messy hair and wearing casuals. Do I fix myself up, or say s✷d it, put on a hat and go? The latter always wins - I want to do the shopping and get back as quickly as possible. Never more so than at this time of year, and I must at this point admit to being seen in the supermarket wearing gardening or decorating gear - mon dieu!! 

I have three levels of appearance:
1. Going out to a bit of a do; a day out; a social event -  
full make up, styled hair, good clothes, perfume, polished nails.

2. Going out to a casual event ie: my bowls club, coffee morning in the village hall - 
tidy hair,  eyebrows on, mascara and lipstick, casual jeans and top, perfume, polished nails.

3. Staying in; picking up my grandson from school; a sudden visit to the supermarket - 
ok hair, no make up, casual clothes, no perfume, nail polish probably chipped.

When I was working I enjoyed looking good - dressing in nice clothes, wearing make up and 
styling my hair. But now in retirement, with only one regular commitment each week 
I favour comfort over dress up. I do however follow a daily routine of basic hair and skin care.

BUT

Does appearance matter?

When I do make an effort to put make up on, style my hair and dress up, I look in the mirror 
and I feel good about myself and I'm glad I made the effort. I feel confident and want to spend 
time socialising, and that confidence I feel about myself affects how others perceive me.
Whether we like it or not, and it might not even be a conscious act, but on meeting or seeing 
someone, in those first few seconds we register visual images and form impressions. 
Such immediate impressions can be wrong, but nevertheless they are important because 
others relate to us based on them.

I often joke and say that as a female over the age of 50 I am invisible, there is some truth in that, 
which is why making an effort in older age is even more important, important to get out there 
and say 
"Hi, I'm still here and I can still turn a head or two".

And you never know, that might just be the day when destiny is waiting :-)


~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 



13 January 2018

Saturday

Lovely walk with the dogs this morning, the sky was blue instead of grey and the sun managed an appearance for a while which was a bonus. I did a slightly longer route, mainly for my benefit, I have been a bit lazy over the last couple of weeks. It's no secret to those who know me that I dislike January, I'm quite happy to hibernate indoors pottering around and eating too much!!

I read in the news that surgeon Simon Bramhall has been fined £10,000 and given a twelve month community order for branding his initials on the livers of two patients. The charge was assault by beating. Some people have been calling for him to be struck off. I'm not in that camp. Surgeons have ENORMOUS egos, they save lives, and I would be eternally grateful to the man if he saved my life, and if my liver was intact and functioning it wouldn’t really matter if his initials were on it. But is it ethically wrong to do such a thing to an unconscious patient? And what about respect, did he display a complete lack of it, was the patient just another notch on his scalpel?

My friend M and I had a lovely day out yesterday at Maldon, a lovely little town on the Blackwater estuary in Essex. Although it has a few of the standard High Street shops it is reminiscent of High Streets of a bygone era, with lots of unique shops and a glorious emporium where you can find loads of good stuff, some you've been looking for for ages and some you didn't even know you wanted! 
It also has a plethora of charity shops. M and I share a love of charity shops, so after a delicious fish and chips lunch we set off down one side of the high street and then back up the other side. Unusually for M she didn't find anything she liked. I bought this lovely necklace for only £4.95. 




Ordinarily we would wander around the many small alleyways and visit any markets that might be open, but it was a cold grim day so we went into M&S food hall, M bought a loaf of bread, I bought a scrumptious chocolate and hazelnut tart to have with a cup of tea later :-)

As I picked up the necklace after taking the photos it broke! it literally came away in my hand, luckily the beads fell on the table with just a few falling on the floor so I was able to find them all and I have bead making materials so I will be able to mend it, and thankfully I have the photos to put it back together intact. I had planned a day of sewing anyway, along with some reading and Netflix.

Enjoy your weekend.


~Be warm and well ~


Polly x 



11 January 2018

A Good Read

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane. 
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour and bumble bee tights. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time. 
Thought provoking and extremely sad, I was sobbing out loud towards the end. An excellent story, Moyes is meticulous about the subject matter. 
Thoroughly enjoyed it. The film is good too, it stays true to the book.

8 January 2018

Have I Bitten Off More Than I Can Chew? Part II


When I left part I of this post I was doing a Scarlett O'hara from 'Gone With The Wind' -  

"Oh I can't think about this now 
I'll go crazy if I do
I'll think about it tomorrow
After all tomorrow is another day

Love that film

So let's recap, this is where I left off


trying to work out how many blocks
and how many squares in each block I would need to make the quilt larger. 
It wasn't going well, my brain just doesn't do maths!


I made templates which helped. 
But after all that exertion of the little grey cells I realised 

I DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH MATERIAL FOR THE AMOUNT OF BLOCKS I WOULD NEED...aaarrrghhhh..... what now?


Well I walked away, had a cup of coffee and then went back to it

and


Using the material I had I put more strips around the edges, 
bought ¼ metre of material in a contrasting colour and pattern (top right of picture)
and put a wider border around it.



Adding a bit of contrast by putting a square block of colour in each corner.


The next job was to make binding for the edges using left over material. 
The length of the binding was about 2" short!
Thank goodness I don't throw scraps away until the project is finished. 

These 2 scraps of material came in very handy. 
By joining them lengthways it was just about wide enough.

I then sewed straight lines through the material and fleece,


 put a border around the edge

  and voila the finished lap quilt.

The backing is fleece instead of the traditional material with wadding inside. 
Fleece is warm and soft which helps sooth distressed children.
The lap quilts I make go to Project Linus

 I'm so pleased its finished, I'm ready to start the next one now! 

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another
John Dewey
20th Oct 1859 - 1st June 1952


~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


3 January 2018

Have I Bitten Off More Than I Can Chew?

One of my friends in the WI moved house recently. 
She didn't have room for her huge stash of craft items so she asked if I would like some material and wadding for making quilts for the Linus Project that our WI supports, oooh yes I thought and dived into the box and carrier bag like they were Aladdin's cave.

Me and my "Oh yes I like a challenge" 
I'm sure I 'm going to have a lot of fun designing patterns.
One good thing is that all the material is good quality cotton and all the same weight,
and a lot of it is already cut into strips or shapes.

I won't even attempt to make these though

and I'm not sure if I will be able to do anything with these single medium size blocks above.

I decided to start with these.
The large blocks in the middle and the 3 smaller ones had already been made,
so my first job was to make a fourth one.

I struggled with the star shapes but it looks ok. 
Now I had to decide how to fill the other gaps 

I made 4 more blocks for each corner 
and put some strips in-between the middle blocks to fill the gaps. 
The blocks aren't very good, I didn't want to do more star shapes so I did squares.
I'm not happy with the dimensions, but they will have to do. 
I then put some strips along the longer edges.

This is where it got tricky. 
To make it the same measurement as the other lap quilts I have made I need to add more blocks. 
I have to work out how many blocks and how many squares in each block, remembering to add enough for seams. The blanket isn't square and there are two different sizes of blocks. I've spent most of this morning trying to work out the best way to do it, I can only do very basic maths, my brain just isn't wired for it, I get confused by numbers, so right now I'm overwhelmed!! 

I feel like Scarlett in 'Gone With The Wind' when she says 
"Oh I can't think about this now 
I'll go crazy if I do
I'll think about it tomorrow
After all tomorrow is another day" 

That is one of my all time favourite films. 

To be continued!!...........

I need sustenance, time for lunch then a WI meeting this afternoon.

~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


1 January 2018

Reflecting

Once the hangover has dissipated and we return to the routine of daily life some of us will be wondering what the year ahead has in store for us, and at the same time reflecting on the year that has just gone. Did you make any 2017 resolutions? If so did you keep them? Do you keep a check list of what you would like to achieve and tick it off when completed? I suspect the first entry on a lot of people’s list would be to lose some weight and get fit. I think memberships to gyms and slimming clubs quadruple in January then taper off in March. I won’t be doing either of those things but I will return to sensible eating instead of devouring every chocolate, cake or dessert I could get my hands on!! 
Do we set ourselves up for failure by attempting unrealistic goals? That’s not a criticism, we are creatures of habit, and no matter how hard we try we nearly always revert back to default mode. 
But if you think about it we achieve a lot just in our daily lives – jobs to go to, training for careers, homemakers, raising families, caring for loved ones, and even us retired folk achieve a lot with hobbies, voluntary work and days out.
There are about a dozen things I could put on a New Year’s resolution list but I’m not going to. I’m going to continue trying to keep fit and healthy and enjoy family, friends and life. 
If you do make some New Year resolutions and they fall by the wayside in a few months time, don’t beat yourself up, think about what you do achieve every day.


~Be warm and well ~


Polly x 
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