Freya and the blog title stakes

Mirinda attended the second college graduation day this morning. This time, for Escape. She left home at 06:30. This week, the graduation was at the Mermaid, London, which is at Puddle Dock. She didn’t get home until after 20:30 having had a good time. Or so her staggering seemed to imply.

Puddle Dock, which appears to have nothing to do with Beatrix Potter, was filled in at some stage, but it was still there in 1920 when Charles White wrote that the dock

 … is a square opening in the river bank, between two blocks of warehouses, a place where the dark, drift-strewn waters of the Thames flow right up to the streets of the City.

The Mermaid, which is no longer a theatre, was opened in 1959, built during one of the redevelopments of the area around Blackfriars. It’s now a conference centre.

I didn’t go to this one, instead, I was busy at home. It marked the first time I’ve been at home on my own for an entire day for yonks.

I was looking forward to taking the girls to the park, but the weather had other ideas. Storm Barra dumped gallons of rain on us all day. It was a good day to be inside. In turn, it was a good day to play ‘throw the ball up the extension’ with Emma.

As you can see from the photo above, Emma thinks she can move things with her mind.

So, as well as other, more administrative things, I finally worked out how to create a list of all my blog post titles. As of today, the list has 4,773 entries. There are a few doubles but, generally speaking, there’s a lot of variety. I rather like the ones with similar beginnings. For instance (entries 4,372-4,383):

  • Unexpected and pleasant Volish visit
  • Unexpected brass – non-existent jazz
  • Unexpected cricket ticket
  • Unexpected favourite band
  • Unexpected gig
  • Unexpected journey
  • Unexpected joy
  • Unexpected lunch
  • Unexpected pleasures
  • Unexpected red balloon…
  • Unexpected return to Venice
  • Unexpected Wednesday roast

A lot of my entries have quite original titles. Some are overheard and intriguing, others are more descriptive or are from sign posts I liked. However, my inventiveness clearly goes out of the window when I’m not feeling too well, as this list proves (entries 3,435-3,443):

  • Sick
  • Sick
  • Sick
  • Sick
  • Sick City
  • Sick continued
  • Sick up and fed
  • Sick, sick, sick
  • Sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick…

In the cockerpoo stakes, Emma is clearly ahead. She has 16 entries that start with her name while Freya has only eight. I’ll have to try and close that gap.

Speaking of which…while Emma spent a goodly chunk of the day chasing a tennis ball, Freya imperiously watched.

I also sorted out Mirinda’s work Mac.

A rather productive day all round, I’d say.

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On the accuracy of shepherds

Tonight, at a WFA webinar, I found out about British Army tanks during the German Spring Offensive of 1918. It reminded me of the time Nigel told us about his visit to the Tank Museum. Nigel made it sound very boring. In terms of tanks, he was right. Though I should add that I am not saying the Tank Museum is boring! Rather, that Nigel’s delivery made it sound boring.

To be fair, though, while I learned very little from Nigel, tonight, I learned about the difference between the Mark IV tanks and the whippets – mostly speed though reliability was a problem as well – and how many were in a Tank Company (12). I learned about ‘splash’ which is how soldiers described the tiny fragments of metal chipped off and flying around inside a tank when it’s hit on the outside. Splash is mostly harmless though it does tend to pepper you with metal. I learned about Battlefield Drizzle which is what soldiers called the indiscriminate shelling in battle rather than direct targetting.

But mostly I learned that not all WFA webinars are interesting. Conversely, here’s an interesting webpage that tells all about the tank corps in WWI.

Fortunately, the rest of the day had been better. The sunrise, especially, was beautiful as I approached Park Road. Mind you, I’m not sure the shepherds would have been so pleased.

And the shepherds would have been right. Once I’d returned from the shops, the rain started and pretty much stuck around for the rest of the day. Of course, that made hanging the Christmas decorations completely unappealing and, therefore, not hung.

Then, late in the day, I realised I’d forgotten to buy any yoghurt. Normally, I’d have done without it, but I also had to visit the post office so decided to go into Farnham. Again. This time I was given a lift as Mirinda wanted to go to Hamilton’s.

The rain had also stopped, which meant there was a lovely rainbow arch to walk under on the way home. I had to use the wide-angle function on my phone so the photo is a bit odd but, it was very clear and bright in real life.

We did get a bit more rain but, for my trip back from Farnham, I was dry, walking beneath blue sky and sunshine. And a rainbow arch.

In fact, the shepherds should be happier because the sunset was delightful.

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Her brain is like her trousers

What a lovely day we had, the day we went to Rowland’s Castle. Which was today. We spent a marvellous few hours with Lisa and Rupert (and a bit with son Luke). Of course, being a Sunday, we had a roast.

Before we headed out I had a very important job to do. Our new neighbours were out hanging their Christmas decorations and other houses in the street have started their hedges to flickering. Mirinda said it’s time.

I ventured up to the loft and dragged down the 39 boxes of Yuletide tat, brushed the dust off the lids and brought them down to the extension in preparation for tomorrow. I guess December 6 is D Day.

We then loaded up the girls and headed off for our lunch date.

We’ve only been to Rowland’s Castle once. We dropped Will and Marsha off after a Victory dinner a number of years ago. They were staying with his parents who were happily minding the child. Of course, it was the middle of the night and we didn’t see much of the village. Actually, we didn’t see any of the village.

The eponymous castle was a motte and bailey built sometime betwixt 1066 and 1199. History claims that Henry II visited once for a bit of a hunt in the 12th century. The castle was gone by the 15th century and all that remains are a few bits and pieces that could only be discerned by the educated eye.

And more educated than me, I have to stress.

One thing that did get me excited (because I’ve never seen one before) was a Victorian double arched bridge. Lisa asked me what I was taking a photo of, which surprised me given this beautiful construction:

According to Will, there’s an excellent pub just beyond the left arch. We didn’t see it, but we did go by the other two pubs in the village. The village hardly seems big enough for three pubs but how delightful would it be to be a regular, stopping off at one on a Monday, another on a Wednesday and the third of a Friday.

One of the (other) lovely things about Rowland’s Castle is the green. Apparently, it’s almost shaped like a lung. I don’t know about that, but it is very impressive. They have a fair there every year, and it’s the centre of the village for all manner of things. There’s a few benches so I’m thinking a few oldies might just sit there and watch the world go by. Perfect after a visit to the pub.

At one end of the green is a small flinty church. Called The Church on the Green, it’s of the reformed variety and, of course, being a Sunday, it was closed. Mirinda tried all the doors, but entry there was none. There is another church and a chapel in the village, but we didn’t see them.

The church dates from the late 18th century when non-conformist faiths were taking off in the UK. The land was originally meant for three cottages but the builder, for whatever reason, only managed one and the church was built on the remaining plots. I imagine the brethren thought this was a message from God.

We walked by and headed round, back to Lisa and Rupert’s house where we indulged ourselves in a delicious roast chicken lunch.

The conversation round the table was lively and varied, as it should be, including discussing Luke’s university aspirations, how to move whisky bottles from Turkey to Scotland and just how violent lacrosse can be.

It was also decided that Lisa’s swirly trousers matched the crazy way her brain worked. This was a good thing. And, speaking of clothes, I’m clearly down with the kids. Lisa told me that Isabel (teenage daughter) only wears unmatching socks as well.

We had a lovely time but, of course, we had to leave before our welcome was worn out. I said to Mirinda on the way home that we have to have them over to ours again in the new year just so we can go back to theirs.

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Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen

This morning I discovered Nina Hagen. Not that she was lost or anything. I heard about her in reference to Angela Merkel. Angela, who is stepping down as German Chancellor, picked a Hagen song to be included in her farewell bash. It seemed an odd coupling to me, given that Nina Hagen is a rather outrageous punk/new romantic and Angela a devout Christian, but then I heard the song and translated the lyrics. After discovering that they both came from East Germany (GDR), it makes a sort of sense.

The song, Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen (You didn’t bring the colour film) was released in 1974 and is about a holiday that is ruined because the boyfriend only brings black and white film for the camera, rendering the holiday snaps dull. It satirically refers to how everything in East Germany was, basically, colourless. How it was given such a wide release when less critical songs were censored, is anyone’s guess. Possibly because it’s funny. Apparently, about 60% of the East German populations knew the lyrics.

The Merkel connection comes from the fact that she, also, came from East Berlin (her Lutheran priest father moved her there when she was but an infant). She knew the song and, presumably, the lyrics. Maybe she’ll sing along during the tattoo. My admiration for Angela has grown.

Maybe my feeling of connection also comes from the fact that we are all around the same age. I guess that makes them my peers.

After purchasing the song, playing it on the Sonos a few times and laughing along at lyrics I couldn’t possibly understand, I grabbed Mirinda and, we went to the Holly Bush for Saturday brunch.

As usual, it was pretty popular with both people and dogs. The girls were not alone. Neither were we. As usual, the food was excellent.

The kitchen is now back to cooking all day so, we assume, they have the extra staff they were lacking before.

After a very filling and delicious brunch, Mirinda headed off for a long and lovely wander around the wilds of Frensham while I, like someone’s discarded grandpa, sat in a folding chair and read.

Don’t be fooled by the photo above. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, warm. There was a vicious wind which blew icy cold air at me, every now and then. It was as if the wind knew when I was feeling most comfortable and would fix it with a few cold blasts.

After about 90 minutes, I’d had enough and went and sat in the car. In the car next to Max, I noticed another old chap was doing the same.

Late in the day, I found out that Antony Sher died of cancer two days ago. He was 72. I think we saw him in something, years ago, but I can’t find the entry. Having read about him today, I wish I’d seen his Richard III.

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Fussy cockerpoo

Mirinda had a three hour meeting this afternoon and it was my job to keep the girls quiet. Emma has a habit of suddenly bursting into high pitched and irritating barking and that’s not conducive to a happy meeting. She really only does it from the window sill in the library which, unfortunately, is where Mirinda has her online meetings.

So, I set myself up in my office. I started off with the door open because Emma likes being able to wander in and out. Freya isn’t that bothered as long as she can sit on the chair next to me. Or behind me. But, as the temperature fell with the oncoming darkness, I was forced to shut the door and put the heater on.

After a few recriminating looks from Emma at having her freedom curtailed, she finally decided to curl up on my lap. The thing is, she is quite happy to curl up on my lap when I cross my right leg over my left. This means she can rest her chin on the corner of my laptop.

Of course, sometimes my leg goes to sleep and I have to change the cross. This means she leaps off, completely dissatisfied with my choice of leg.

Once I switch back, she’s happy to jump up and curl up again.

This happened a number of times during the three hours today. Apart from the stare I get when she jumps off, it doesn’t seem to bother Emma. Well, not that much. At the end of the three hour imprisonment, she was out of the door almost before I opened it.

I had to get back into the house by 5:30 because I made the Messina lamb for dinner tonight. It takes almost two hours.

Speaking of Italy, I was chatting to the checkout operator from Piedmont again this morning. She remembered me and said it didn’t feel like a week since we’d last talked. As she scanned my groceries she asked what I was making. I told her I was cooking Sicilian and then told her all about it.

She said it sounded fantastic. I told her it was a Locatelli recipe; simple and very tasty. She said I’d have to make sure I used her check out next week so I could tell her all about it.

On the walk home, the weather was a bit threatening, but the threat amounted to nothing. It was just a bit gloomy.

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We all love the Mini

I had a Talking Newspaper today, so there wasn’t really room for anything else. It started at 08:30 and ended at 16:00 so, basically, a day’s work. There were a few breaks for coffee, but that was it. It’s a good job I don’t eat lunch anymore.

I had Susan reading with me and Charles was our engineer. Apart from a really badly written letter which I hadn’t read carefully during editing, it all went very smoothly.

I had a story about a red 1961 Mini which was delivered to Swain and Jones before heading to California. It has since returned to Farnham and, surprisingly, it has retained the metal plaque inside.

I would have included the photo of the plaque but, unusually for the paper, it was blurry. So, here’s the Mini instead.

Even more surprising is the fact that the phone number hasn’t changed. Okay, Swain and Jones is no more (here’s my 2015 post about it) but Motest, the company that has taken over the business, still has the same phone number.

The story led to all three of us relating our Mini stories. Charles had one exactly like the one in the story, and Susan had one which her then boyfriend wrote off. I asked her if he became an ex-boyfriend as a result. Susan said, “Sort of. I ended up marrying him.

The story I didn’t relate was how Fred used to have a Mini, and we were coming home from something one afternoon when someone crossed through a line of traffic, going at speed, and destroyed the Mini.

My leg was forced under the dashboard, which wasn’t pleasant, and made even worse because it was only just recovering from the bike accident I’d had a week or so before. It was awful and only scant pleasure that it was a teenager in his parents’ car who was frightened about what would happen to him.

It was a shame because we had a lot of adventures in Fred’s Mini.

Apart from the red Mini, the only other story of note was one about the newest addition to Farnham. It’s called the Wine Yard (they don’t have a website yet) and is an enoteca bar. I’d never heard of them, so I looked it up. It’s a particular type of wine bar where you can try wine over a plate of antipasti, sitting on barrels, and, if you are so inclined, you can buy the bottle. It’s a sort of try before you buy.

Now that really appeals to me.

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Faith will only get you so far, apparently

I would just like to say that the Farnham Youth Choir is amazing. We sat and were mesmerised by them tonight at St Andrews. We were there for the annual Civic Christmas Carol Service, a very popular Farnham event. It’s so popular, you have to enter a ballot to get tickets. I entered and managed to secure a couple of chairs. Religious nonsense to one side, it was an excellent night of beautiful singing. Obviously, a lot of people would say it was because of God, but I think it was because the kids have such lovely voices.

Normally, we would have walked into town but, because I’d already walked in and out twice during the day, we thought we’d take Max. Okay, Max had already been out (to Frensham) but he doesn’t really get affected by over exercise.

Both of my walks into town were accidentally during periods of brilliant sunshine. This was fortunate because the rest of the day was either grey or, for one brief period late on, pouring with rain.

The reason I had to go into town a second time today, was because I had to post some very important documents off for a remortgage. Naturally, that meant two visits to Starbucks. I also took the opportunity to collect a book from Waterstones.

The second trip also meant I ran into Neighbour Dave. He told me about Gail’s mum. She had a stroke a couple of nights ago and was taken to the hospital. She has a blood clot but doesn’t want any invasive surgery. She said that, given she’s 94, she’s ready to die. I’m not being harsh, that is what she said.

By a strange quirk of timing, Gail’s sister just arrived from Australia. By another quirk, we have returned to the ten days isolating thing because of the new virus variant, so she’ll not be able to see her mum for a bit.

These things are always difficult, but it’s particularly cruel when you are forbidden from seeing someone close that you will probably never see again. Maybe she believes in God, Jesus and eternal life on a cloud, somewhere in the sky.

Belief, apparently, makes things easier. Though it won’t help against the virus. No, for that, the only thing is masks and righteous indignation. There were lots of masks at the carol service tonight. I guess God is powerless against the disease he created.

While the masks looked awful (and muffled the carol singing somewhat) St Andrews looked lovely.

And, as I said, the choir was fantastic. And, given that’s really why we went, the night was lovely. Mind you, the sea cadet who read from Luke could have done with losing the pointless face shield. You couldn’t hear anything she said. Being nervous didn’t help. If I had to give notes, I’d suggest she stopped public speaking.

The mayor was almost as bad. He also wore a face shield. You’d think a mayor would know the pointlessness of wearing a face shield. At least we could hear him.

The always entertaining Rev David Uffindell fortunately removed his mask in order to talk.

At the end, given they weren’t serving any refreshments (covid again) we wandered up to The Wheatsheaf for some libation before heading home to the girls.

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Why the rush?

On the weekend, I was talking to Nicktor about making tea. We both make tea for our wives; real tea with leaves in a teapot. We both agreed that it tastes better. I then suggested that it doesn’t take a lot longer than using a teabag. You pour water on it and leave it for about four minutes, then it’s ready.

Later, it occurred to me that we’ve all been fooled. In the name of capitalism, we have been convinced to forego taste for expediency. Except it isn’t really expedient; not when it comes to making tea. It was simply someone’s idea about how to sell something unnecessary to people who didn’t need it. And I guess it worked a treat; which says more about the susceptibility of the buyer than the morals of the seller.

Brainwashing aside, if you really think about it, teabags are not as environmentally friendly as tea leaves. The leaves you can just pour onto the garden; teabags depend on too many factors. There’s the actual tea, the bag, the bit of string and the little tag.

But even more so than the bag versus the leaves is the fact that making a pot of tea is more enjoyable. There’s more care, it’s more an act of pleasure. These things the tea bag manufacturers have convinced us to give up. We need to make tea as fast as possible, with no care or thoughts of joy.

It’s a sad fact of life that we have to do things quicker because we feel they are a chore. Even when they’re not. Making tea is not a chore.

When we were in Beijing, we went to a tea ceremony and were treated to a wonderful experience where the woman making the tea showed us what really making tea was about. There was a lot of traditional stuff, but there was also a love of the tea. Of the actual liquid we were about to consume. It was almost religious. And it was definitely pleasurable.

And I feel that about lots of things. We have lost the joy of making, of doing, of going. People catch planes on short haul trips and moan and complain about how awful it all is when they could catch a ferry or a train or a bus and have a much more pleasant journey. But, no, people believe that they have to get there as soon as possible. The journey is no longer important.

(I realise that people take the plane because it’s invariably cheaper. The fact is, it’s only cheaper because everyone does it. The airlines know people will put up with it if the price is right. Supermarkets do the same thing. If consumers stopped doing it, the prices of the alternatives would reduce. But, of course, people don’t work that way, something that capitalism exploits beautifully.)

There’s also food.

The pleasure in making a meal from scratch is vetoed because “…it takes too long and I don’t have time. ” So goes the common refrain. And yet, the making can be almost as fulfilling as the eating. Most people these days just want to get to the eating and, in order to achieve this, eat all manner of artificiality.

Some people don’t care what they put inside their bodies. Which is very weird. People wear masks in order to keep a virus out but are more than happy to devour food colouring, stabilisers, carcinogens, etc, because they can make a meal in five minutes rather than half an hour.

I love food. The taste, the smell, the creation; it’s one of lifes greatest pleasures and I don’t understand people who waste their senses.

I also don’t understand people who are intent on running towards death rather than strolling through the amusement arcade that could be their life. If only they’d stop and enjoy it with a real cup of tea.

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Too old for the splits

It was all a bit slippy this morning, walking into town. On the way in, I walked on the grass and, on the way back, I took the back streets. Oddly enough, down the back streets, one side was slippy while the other was not. It was as if the snow had only fallen on one side of the road. And not always the same side either.

In Starbucks, Sandra told me how, as a child in Lithuania, she would walk to primary school through snow drifts taller than her. She would get to school and her eyelashes and eyebrows would be frosty and frozen. She couldn’t lick her lips because her tongue would stick to them. I decided not to complain about the weather.

Instead, I discussed the joys of brewery tours with the woman on the check out at Waitrose. She said that she and her husband had enjoyed one in the Cotswolds, on the weekend. She said at the end they were very generous with the free beers. Not that she likes beer, but her husband was very pleased.

It reminded me of the episode of Still Game when Jack and Victor go on a brewery tour in order to get the free beer at the end, only to get one small glass each. They wind up going on the tour over and over again.

In the meanwhilst, Mirinda spent the day in Winchester, strolling around the Christmas market and generally enjoying a day off. She had a lovely lunch at The Ivy and returned home suitably rested.

By the end of the day, most of the snow had gone but, in the afternoon, the back of the garden still looked quite pretty.

I did suffer what could have been an embarrassing accident at one stage. The leaves on the terrace were mixing with the melting snow, causing a rather slippery surface. I slipped and went into a full leg stretch, straining the muscle in my right inner thigh. It’s going to ache tomorrow but at least no-one saw it.

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Who stole the letter box?

Yesterday, sitting in Marriott’s Warehouse having lunch, Bill from the Midlands showed us a couple of photos from Sheffield taken that morning. His son-in-law had sent them. There was a lot of snow. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was because of Storm Arwen.

It would seem that Nicktor and I were walking around King’s Lynn in it last night. A few deaths have been reported, so I’m rather glad we were given a lift back to the hotel rather than walk.

Anyway, our drive home today featured nothing but blue sky and sunshine. The route was full of storm warnings, but of Arwen we saw nothing.

Our drive home also featured numerous post boxes. Sadly, not the one we were looking for.

Nicktor has a book which lists post boxes and, it includes an Edward 8 in North Street, Hertford. Given Hertford was sort of on the way, we drove the length of North Street looking for it. We saw a few post boxes but none of them, an Eddy.

There’s a three way junction in the middle of Hertford which, along with the cars, is responsible for the appalling traffic jam through the centre of town. Calling it gridlock would not be exaggerating. It was not that appealing which is sad because the town looked very interesting.

There was also a bit of traffic on the M25 but over all, the trip home was nicely smooth and uneventful.

At home, making Persian roast chicken, I happened to look out the back. I guess Storm Arwen visited us quietly and without any fuss.

However, all that aside, the biggest thing I heard about today was the death of the genius who was Stephen Sondheim. The man responsible for some of the most brilliant musical theatre that this world has ever heard. Okay, he was over 90 and had a wonderful life, but that doesn’t stop me mourning the loss of an amazing man.

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