Thursday, 27 November 2014

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Time goes by so .....



Time goes by so slowly fast
I can hardly believe it’s over a week since I last posted on this blog.  Where does the time go?  I have a theory about that.  Everyone knows that the years go more quickly the older you get.  But had you realised that the months are of different lengths?  I don’t mean Thirty days hath September, April, June and November and all that.  Danielle, a friend in the USA, was saying how ill-prepared she was for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  That immediately made me realise that November is a far shorter month than any other on the calendar.  Never mind that it has thirty days.  Its days are shorter and fly by at twice the speed of October’s.  One minute you are saying how nice the leaves look as they begin to turn into their autumn dress.  Next minute it’s Thanksgiving and the butcher is telling you he’s sold out of turkeys.   And if November is the fastest month of the twelve surely February is the slowest.  Wet, cold, windy… It just drags on forever.  And there is no way round it.  Even if we could get the United Nations to agree on a new calendar it would still go quickly when you had a lot to do and creep by when you were anxious for the new season to arrive.

Postcards Galore
I have a separate postcard blog but the sending and receiving of postcards has become such a major part of my life that I must mention it here on my main blog.

We have a daily post apart from Sunday.  It is delivered to the door and flops through the letterbox and onto the mat.  And nowadays the sound of it arriving is sometimes the highlight of my day.  Even if the day has something else exciting happening I can’t wait to see what the postman has brought.  It is rare for there to be no postcards at all.  I now have so many Postcrossing cards travelling and so many friends who use it either as a means of swapping cards or as a means of communication.  These latter have sent so many beautiful and interesting cards that I couldn’t choose just one or two to show you here but I thought I’d show you some of the more interesting ones from strangers. 

I suppose this doesn’t wholly qualify as a stranger – it is from someone who went to the same Prep.  school as me.  He is now in the Cayman Islands:-
 
 Cats seem to be the subject of so many cards nowadays.  This one is painted by Anton Gortsevich and came from Sasha in Russia.
This cat came from Oksana in Belarus and is one of many painted by the super artist Irina Zeniuk.


Books Galore
Charlie Lovett’s “The Bookman’s Tale” (2013) is one of the most delightful books I’ve read for a while.  A thriller, a novel of love and obsession, the hero is an antiquarian bookseller and it bobs back and forth between the 1980s, the 1990s and the 1870s.  What more could I want? 
Danielle in Nebraska mentioned on her blog a series of old British crime stories called the British Library Crime Classics.  I took a look at them on Amazon and found a set of five at a reduced price, all by authors I had never heard of.  I got them and if the first one is anything to go by this series is a great discovery.   The one I’ve read is “The Lake District Murder” by John Bude (the pseudonym of Ernest Elmore, co-founder of the Crime Writers’ Association).  Published for the first time since the 1930s, it particularly appealed to me because I knew all the places referred to – they were part of what I considered my second home in my youth.
 In that youth I read all the Agatha Christie books.  I could never exactly count how many there were but around 66 with 14 collections of short stories.  One I hadn’t read was “Black Coffee”.  That was for the simple reason that it hadn’t been published – it was first published in 1998 being the first of her plays to be novelised by another author- Charles Osborne.  Originally performed in 1930 it stars Hercule Poirot and is a typical, enjoyable Agatha Christie read.
Yet another crime story I’ve read recently is “The Shadows in the Street” by Susan Hill (2010.
And now for something for completely different.  Terry Pratchett has a new children’s book out – “Dragons at Crumbling Castle” (2014).  Fourteen early stories, dug out from the archives, that show off the skills of the young Terry, provide an early look at the Carpet People and who couldn’t love Hercules the Tortoise.
Two books I’ve started but have yet to finish are “Stormbird” by Conn Iggulden (the first in the Wars of the Roses series) and “The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul”.  Both are proving most enjoyable.

Blank Notebooks
I love blank notebooks.  I can’t resist buying them, especially if they have lovely bindings.  And my family are well aware of this love and treat me to new notebooks on my birthday and at Christmas (hint, hint).  What I then write in them varies enormously.  Last week Heather commented on the importance of the written word – written for oneself as opposed to composed on the computer and, sometimes, created with an audience in mind.  I promptly started writing a diary again in one of those lovely notebooks.  It survived two days and then missed four days.  I must be more disciplined but at the same time I shall not force myself to make an entry every day.

The Spillchucker
Every so often I comment on the vagaries of the spellchecker.    


This week I had an e-mail from a friend which asked for my elephant number.  I gave him my phone number instead.



Another friend obviously meant to say ‘Glad you liked them’ but the phone decided she meant ‘God you liked them’.  Or perhaps she really had not expected them to be enjoyed and meant ‘God! You liked them?’  Who knows.


And when I mistyped postcrossing and wrote ppstcrossing instead my e-mail system suggested I really meant cross-dressing.  Duh!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Local Issues (which span the world)



The Doctors' Surgery



Until May of this year we had a doctors' surgery next door to us in Pensby.  Literally next door.  Sadly it moved to Heswall.  No longer can I wander in in my carpet slippers whenever I want.  Instead it involves being given a lift by Jo or paying for a bus journey.  (Bus passes do not operate until 9.30 a.m. so unless I get an appointment after 10.10 a.m. I can't go to Heswall free.  And an appointment at 10.10 for a fasting blood test would have my tongue out hitting the floor.  I much prefer a time like 7.40 a.m.)  The reason for the loss of this facility was given as creating a better facility for the customers.  The fact that most Pensby residents wanted it to stay was irrelevant.  The fact that it enabled the surgery to cut costs may not have been quite so irrelevant.



Local Policing

On Saturday we went to an art and craft exhibition in Irby.  On the way in we met our community bobby, PCSO Sue Fowles, and spoke to her for while - she said she’d been an hour and half in the exhibition and was delighted by it.  I suspect a lot of that time was spent chatting to local people she recognised.  She is a very popular figure.  Hopefully community policing will remain a local policy for a long time to come though the Police Authority does threaten it (and reduce the numbers of community police officers) every now and then.  

 Irby Artists' Association

Although all the entries in the art exhibition were by members of the Irby Artists' Association the quality overall was very high.  And all entries merited their inclusion since the Association is about doing art in the community irrespective of people’s ability.  One or two were priced quite highly (though appropriate to their quality).  There was, for example, a beautiful acrylic of a lane in Brimstage in the snow by Dennis Oakes at £185 which was worth every penny.   Had we had the money and the free wall space (and not had dozens of pictures in the loft waiting to be hung or re-hung when wall space becomes available) we would have bought it. 

Another one I would have bought was an oil painting by Barbara Dunne at a mere £45 (Partner-who-loves-tea thinks it was £65 but that is still a bargain).  I compromised by buying three original oil painting greetings cards at £3.50 each.   When you think you can pay the same amount in a card shop for a printed card these originals are a snip at the price.





This one of St Werburgh’s Street in Chester must have taken ages to paint.



At the exhibition we also recognised a painting by Jean Upton.  We saw a lot of Jean’s paintings in September when she and two other local artists had an exhibition at Heswall Library.








The talent to be found in our area never ceases to amaze me.

Local Car Parking

While on the subject of local matters like policing policies and art exhibitions I should also mention the impact that parking charges are having locally.  They went up by 350% in 2013 and, unsurprisingly, people are going elsewhere rather than pay them.  Local businesses are suffering accordingly.


Just outside the town centre there is a block of shops with free parking (for an hour) outside.  Two of the shop spaces are occupied by a cafe  - Willow Tea House - and if you are just popping in there for a coffee and a cake the amount of parking time is fine.  But if you want a full breakfast or a three course lunch at a leisurely pace you need longer.  Once again a local business is not being taken into account by the Council.

You might think I'm being very parochial in talking about these local issues but how about this for a quote from an e-mail I got today from Friend-uber-special in New York State...
"...they are just now in the process of making all the parking spaces in the library parking lot metered, pay spaces.  So the library is something we pay for in our taxes, it's supposed to be free to use for all village residents, but we have to pay to park to go inside?  No, thank you!  As it stands now, I will go to another town to do all my shopping because they've already taken over Main St. with pay-for-parking spots." 

I hadn't mentioned to her the car parking problems we were having - it was pure coincidence (or linking of thought processes) that Friend-uber-special should raise the same issue with me.  She confirms exactly what the Heswall businesses are saying and shows that the problem is occurring all over the place. 

Our Local Library



It is also ironic that Friend-uber-special should mention the library because the local council here are talking about closing ours down or reducing their hours to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  How ridiculous is that.  What about people who work for a living (some still do despite the unemployment level)?  What about schoolchildren?  



This is one of many budget cuts proposed for consideration this year.

The Public Loos

Another budget cut proposed is the closing down of all public toilets.  As one whose disability gives me the potential for 'accidents' if there is no toilet around it will restrict even further my ability to go out.   

Excuse me a moment while I have a little scream into a paper bag.  Aah, that's better.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A Walk - not just a Ramble!



Health
It is not unusual for my health to dominate my thinking but at the moment it is with positive thoughts.  My GP was away recently and normally I don’t bother seeing anyone else – I just wait till he’s back. It is so much easier than trying to explain my case history to someone new who only has a five minute slot for the whole consultation. But on this occasion I saw another member of the practice.  He suggested a referral to the stroke rehabilitation physiotherapists at Clatterbridge (even though I haven’t had a stroke).  It turned out to be an excellent idea.  Laura, the physiotherapist I saw, was most helpful and understanding.  Neurological consultants are concerned about finding a cause, measuring the progress of the deterioration and finding a solution – and have only been successful at the middle one.  This charming neurological physiotherapist was concerned with the impact that my disability has upon my lifestyle and with finding ways of lessening that impact by tips and tricks and exercises.   I was most impressed.

More Reading but Nothing Serious
Edwards St Aubyn “Never Mind” (1992).  When I read ‘Lost for Words’ I thought I’d found a new author whose works I would love and I looked forward to working my way through his complete works.  He has a series of novels about Patrick Melrose so I chose this, the first one.  One review describes it as ‘epic, intimate, appalling and comic’.  I know the critic was using appalling in the sense of nightmarish or harrowing but I think the use of it in the sense of ‘awful’,  Not for me.  A mere five out of ten.
I have read a few more cosy crime books recently, including some by new authors.  Michael Pearce’s ‘A Dead Man in Malta’ (2010) was enjoyable and ranked about 7 out of 10, bearing in mind it was never meant to be anything more than a fun read.   
Ann Purser’s ‘Tragedy at Two’ (2009) had a slightly darker side, raising, as it did, the thorny issue of gipsies and their effect on a settled village community.  Or the effect of a settled village community on a Romany encampment, depending upon your viewpoint! 
Ann Granger “Testimony of the Hanged Man” (2014).  The latest in the series involving Inspector Ben Ross and his wife Lizzie, investigating crimes in Victorian England.  Fun cosy crime.
Susanna Gregory “Death of a Scholar” (2014).  The twentieth chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew, set in 14th century Cambridge.  Amusing cosy crime and keeps me up-to-date with the whole series.

Claude Izner “The Pere-Lachaise Mystery” (2007).  I mentioned the first in this series recently.  I have now gone on to read this one, the second in the series, and then “The Montmartre Investigation” (2008) and “The Marais Assassin” (2009)
Garth Christian (Ed.) "A Victorian Poacher; James Hawker’s Journal" (1961) The story of a Victorian poacher who spent his life dodging fines and worse as he took hares and rabbits and game-birds from the rich estates to feed himself and other poor.  In those days if a man stole a sheep he got 14 years transportation.  A pheasant would cost him the same.   Not the best read of its kind but interesting nonetheless.

Ponytail and glazed expression
It is a while since I showed a picture of myself so I thought I would treat you to two today – back view with my controversial ponytail and front view with a glazed expression (but perhaps that is usual). 



Autumn Walks
I have had a few walks from home into Heswall recently.  Sometimes I have walked back as well. Walking back is a lot easier because it is mostly downhill.   At other times my bus pass has come in useful.  The first time I walked it I was shattered and my breathing was bad.  It took me 45 minutes.  I can now do it with little more than an ache in my arthritic hip and perhaps a slight tug on another muscle or two.  My time is down to 25 minutes.  That is assuming I don’t keep stopping to take photos which I have done on a few occasions.  













 It’s a lovely time of year for walking.





I usually end up in Avanti – my favourite coffee shop.   Aroma in Irby has nicer coffee but is too noisy and we rarely go there now.  And sadly Linghams coffee shop has become ‘Toast’ which has different staff from the old days and little variety - the name Toast just about sums it up.


Would you like to join me for a cappuccino?

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