Wednesday 31 December 2008

The Chestnut Centre

Helen and Ian are staying at The Willows with us at the moment and on Tuesday Ian drove us down to Derbyshire where we met up with Bryony and Mark at the Chestnut Centre. I am going to put some photos on my Pensby Blog but unlike Helen and Mark, who can content themselves with a couple of photos, I feel the need to show loads of photos so I've also added this webpage.

There are lots of photos on it so it may not load very quickly.

What will 2009 Bring?

Binocular, presumably to be ridden by Tony McCoy, will win the Cheltenham Gold Cup,

Liverpool will win the Premiership for the first time.

Liverpool will also win the European Champions League.

The first four in the Grand National will be Character Building, Comply Or Die, Butler's Cabin and Mon Mome. Character Building will win but the others may be in a different order.

Arsenal will win the FA Cup, beating surprise finalists Newcastle United.

The credit crunch will continue throughout the whole of the year with a fuss ensuing over pension funds and the collapse of a major High Street store.

Felipe Massa will win the Formula One World Championship.

World Peace will break out – only kidding! (Nevertheless, I wish you a peaceful and healthy and enjoyable 2009.)

My Odd Thumbs

I was born with strange thumbs. A trait inherited from my Mum, I can bend the top of my thumb right back. The joint of the distal and proximal phalanx is very flexible. At least that used to be the case until about six years ago when my right thumb stopped doing it. After a lengthy and unpleasant period of clicking in the joint it seized up and now has limited flexibility and is painful.

Now my left thumb is going the same way. I have managed to keep it free by lots of exercise but, whenever I sleep for an hour or two, it stiffens up and becomes very painful to move. The big question is do I persevere? Will it be any less painful than my right thumb if I keep the joint flexible or am I just prolonging the agony of the intervening period? Decisions, decisions....

Tuesday 30 December 2008

A Cartoon from Jo

A Cartoon from Jo!

Thornton’s Continental

From one of Jo’s Students – Thornton’s Continental.

My Absolute Very Real Complete Utter Favourite Chocolate – Sicilian Lemon Mousse. If I had a soundtrack of lip-smacking and drooling I would play it.

Monday 29 December 2008

Pineapple Mayweed

Pineapple Mayweed (Matricaria matricaioides) is an annual, 10 - 40 cm tall with a non-rayed composite flower head. It has a distinctive pineapple scent. Its leaves are pinnate.

Pineapple Mayweed is found in waste areas. It can be seen growing in cracks in the pavement in the centre of some towns but is nowhere near as common as it used to be. The use of weedkillers on pavements and streets has killed of many weeds in towns and cities. I remember walking with GB in Edinburgh a couple of years ago and being delighted to see lots of weeds on the edges of the pavements. They are such a rarity it was really noticeable.

Pineapple Mayweed may be eaten as a tasty snack item while hiking or added to a wild salad. It makes a calming tea when steeped in hot water. The crushed leaves, stems, and flowerheads may be applied to the skin as an insect repellent. A wash made of pineapple weed will remove greases from the hair and act as a general shampoo and natural hair tonic. It can be used as a treatment for diarrhoea, stomach aches, flatulence, as a mild relaxant, and for colds and menstrual problems. Externally it can be used for itching and sores.

Old Adverts

I love old adverts. Here is one for GB –

He loves his Marmite, does GB

A Twiglet competition

I should love you to enter this competition, if it proves successful I shall offer a ‘proper’ prize next time.

Firstly, for those on the other side of the Atlantic who, it seems, don't have them, may I explain what a Twiglet is. Twiglets are marmite flavoured snacks manufactured in Aintree, Liverpool, by Jacob's Bakery Ltd., a subsidiary of United Biscuits. They are marketed in the United Kingdom and Australia, packaged in a 150 gram bag. They are also available in 25 and 45 gram bags and in 200g tubs. Descriptions from the package: "a whole lot of crunch in a wholewheat munch", "entertain your senses!", "distinctive knobbly shape", "baked not fried".

Normally a Twiglet is long and thin and straight. This time the Twiglet machine went a bit berserk and produced what I think is undoubtedly an animal.

The Competition - to give this animal a name!

The Judges – Jo and I.

The Prize - the satisfaction of knowing you've won!

Sunday 28 December 2008

Identity Theft

Someone had been cloning my cash cards, getting me banned from e-bay and doing assorted other unkind things. Hey, this is the season of goodwill and all that. Give me back my identity please.

Oliver Postgate

Oliver Postgate, the English animator, puppeteer and writer, died earlier this month, a fact of which I have only just become aware.
Born in 1925 he died on 8 December 2008. He was the creator and writer of some of Britain's most popular children's television programmes. Pingwings, Pogles' Wood, Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, Clangers and Bagpuss, were all made by Smallfilms, the company he set up with Peter Firmin, and were shown on the BBC between the 1950s and the 1980s, and on ITV from 1959 to the present day. In a 1999 poll, Bagpuss was voted the most popular children's television programme of all time.

Saturday 27 December 2008

A Saturday Sally or Rambles Away from my Chair !

Sally: a brief journey; an excursion or trip.

Every now and then Nan posts a Saturday Sally. The title came about as a result of her thinking back to her childhood trips out in the car to visit people. “The word, sally, popped into my mind. I looked it up to be sure it meant what I thought, and I was happy to see it did. I love the way the two words flow together, Saturday Sally. And sally is such a cheerful sound, a cheerful word. You don't hear it much anymore as a child's name but I find it delightful. Sally. It sounds like sunshine.”

Nowadays in blog terms Nan has used it to suggest three blogs that she has visited which she would recommend others to call in at. “I am going to post a link to words I've read or photos I've seen that I found wise or funny or interesting or moving. I'm going to limit myself to three each time I post a Saturday Sally.”

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so I am imitating Nan and I shall be posting the occasional Saturday Sally or, as Nan herself suggested, Rambles Away from my Chair!

I shall begin this first one with Ian Buchan’s fascinating blog The Runagate’s Club ( which, inter alia, delves into his past life. The blog title and address are themselves hints of Ian’s nature – A runagate was a vagabond and Sir Edward Leithen was a character in several of John Buchan’s novels!

The second, appropriately enough, is Nan’s own blog, Letters from a Hill Farm, which is a miscellany of her life in northern New England. It would be hard to say what I find so interesting about it but I just love the style and range of subjects.

My third one for this first sally is Welsh Hills Again. Written by ElizabethM, an accountant, it is the story of life on the side of a hill near Bodfari with a huge wild garden, veg, fruit, cats and chickens.

I hope you enjoy visiting these three blogs.

Friday 26 December 2008

Christmas Day

Candles galore on Christmas Day.

Time to Open Presents.

Which one shall I open next?

Who’s this from?

Lots of books – of course!

Time for Dinner.

Just the gravy and the mash to go - Thanks Jo!

It's still Christmas

at our house...

So don't expect too much sense out this blog today...

Seattle is where exactly?

I made a fool of myself responding to a comment by Robin on my extended family posting the other day. Fortunately, it being my blog I managed to delete the comment fairly quickly and hopefully nobody read it... It revolved around Seattle being in Washington.

Like most folk I knew that Washington the state and Washington DC were different places but what I had failed to pick-up was that Seattle was in Washington. In my ignorance I thought it was somewhere around the Great Lakes. I had actually Google mapped it the other day but because I did so at a close-up level I hadn’t zoomed out and seen which state it was in. So, looking at Robin’s profile and seeing Seattle and Washington I had assumed she was in two places at once. After all, if GB can be in the Outer Hebrides and New Zealand why shouldn’t Robin be in Seattle and Washington, I thought. Oops.

I am aiming to learn a lot more about the USA as I travel around the postings of my fellow bloggers but it would help if I had some basic idea of the geography. Just as I was thinking that, along came the book “Stephen Fry in America” – a Christmas present to myself and Richard - which is divided into States. It looks to be a brilliant book and hopefully I shall avoid some basic schoolboy errors in future. Then again, I've just read chapter 1 - Maine - and discovered it has a Washington County. Maybe I'll just get even more confused.

Thursday 25 December 2008

Christmas Pudding

If you traditionally set fire to your Christmas Pudding – as we always do – spare a thought for Oliver Cromwell. Setting light to the pudding on Christmas Day harked back to pagan festivals and as a result was banned by Cromwell and the Puritans in the 1650s. Mind you, the pudding wasn’t worth eating at that time either because he had banned mincemeat as an unacceptable indulgence.....

(This pudding is from Taylor's Classics and is both nut free and suitable for vegetarians.)


A song for Christmas morning - Wintersong by Sarah McLachan.

(Thanks to Robin for bringing it to my attention.)

Merry Christmas

Wednesday 24 December 2008

He's on his way

By my reckoning, Santa has now left the North Pole and is travelling down the International Date Line, over the next twenty four hours he will work his way across the globe...

What a busy chap he is.

If you want to track where Santa is visit Norad's Santa

All Polished

Tuesday 23 December 2008

HapPy Christmas

HapPy Christmas

Please accept with no obligation, implicit or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice, with total respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, and their choice not to practice religious or secular practices at all… and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Britain great (not to imply that Britain is necessarily greater than any other country nor is it the only “Britain” in the northern hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, sexual orientation and choice of computer platform of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wishee actually to implement any of the wishes for him/herself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and such warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

With multitudinous felicitations on having survived 2008, insofar as you may or may not have done so to date,

                      Scriptor Senex

Let me

Monday 22 December 2008

My extended family.

When my Mum was young (the 1910s) the term extended family really meant something. Families tended to be huge, Her Mum was one of nine children of whom five survived into adulthood. Her Dad was one of seven who survived into adulthood. One of Mum’s aunts had four children who survived to adulthood. Etc., etc... There were great aunts, aunts, cousins, second cousins, first cousins-once-removed, all over the place. Holidays consisted not of Spanish beaches but of visiting all sorts of relatives.

Nowadays many a close family is extended only in the sense that members of it live at other ends of the globe. None of the previous generation survive. I only have one surviving first cousin (to my knowledge) and he lives in Australia. I only have one surviving nephew and he wanders the world so I haven’t a clue where exactly he is at this moment. My brother is in New Zealand. My two daughters are in Yorkshire and Devon respectively. My son is on the Wirral, downstairs in his den! And my wife, sensibly at this hour, is in bed.

But someone else referred to me the other day as part of their extended family – a fellow blogger. She suggested that we are a family of bloggers and that is how it feels. Knowing that not just relatives and friends but also friends from the past and complete strangers from all over the world are sharing ones interests and doings is quite remarkable. The Internet definitely has created a new form of extended family.

There are lots of bloggers whose postings I view all the time. These folk are as far apart as Yuma, Arizona; Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, and Napier, New Zealand and have age ranges from 19 to 75 (at least). (I’m not sure I should count the blogger in Finland since I cannot understand a word of what they write – but the photos are beautiful!) One I came across, totally by chance, lives just a ferry ride away across the Mersey in Liverpool. What never ceases to amaze me is how I come across a totally new blogger only to find in the ‘Blogs I visit’ column someone whose blog I read and / or who reads my blog.

I got so fascinated by this the other day that I started to do a Google map of where everyone lived. Apart from anything else it would help me appreciate where exactly places like Seattle were. I mean, it’s OK watching Frazier and “Sleepless in Seattle” but being able to stick a pin in a map and say ‘I am acquainted with someone who lives there’ is something different. My extended family.

Who's Who...

Who were Aminadab, Ozias, Ezekias, Jechonias, Salathiel and Zorobabel?

The answer lies in Matthew, Chapter 1, verses 2 to 17 -

2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;
4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;
5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;
6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;
7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;
8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;
9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias;
10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;
11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;
13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;
14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud;
15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob;
16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Bible Gateway

I went a bit down the road to Bethlehem yesterday and it occurred to me that others might wish to do so. Consequently I thought I’d point you to a very useful site -

You can use it to search for a keyword or phrase; look at a particular verse or chapter; and see the result in many different versions of the Bible. An excellent site for reference but also for just dipping into the Bible occasionally to see what random thought it brings.

A Christmas Poem

A Christmas poem

Thanks to Eisha for bringing this to my attention through her Blog.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Christmassy things

I was running out of Christmassy things to blog about. I decided to look for a bit of inspiration and came to the conclusion I would go back to basics. I took a look at the original story of the birth of Jesus in the Bible (King James Version since that is the one I was brought up on). It’s a long time since I read it and I was surprised by a few things.

Firstly, the birth of Jesus is only mentioned in two Gospels – those of Matthew and Luke. Secondly the whole story is covered by a handful of verses in each of them.

There is no mention of Mary riding a donkey. There is no suggestion that she arrived the night before she gave birth. There is no mention of a stable. According to Luke, Mary ‘wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn’. By implication a manger would have been in a stable or barn. But when the three wise men arrived Matthew’s gospel reads “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” What house? Herod was not the only one worried when he heard the ‘wise men from the east ‘ saying, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’ All Jerusalem was troubled with him. And where are the mince pies and Christmas tree?

What does all this mean? The answer is simple. The story is old and confused and unreliable. And much of what we consider traditional has absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. But none of that matters in the least. What matters is the magic that the story contains. A magic that has lasted 2,000 years and looks set to enchant for years to come.

Irrespective of the depth of one’s faith – and indeed, whether one has any religious beliefs or is of a different faith - the concept of a season of peace and goodwill is one that we all need.

To Jo

To Jo. From a grateful client. It is good to be appreciated...

Friday 19 December 2008

Christmas Story for people having a bad day:

When four of Santa's elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the Pre-Christmas pressure.

Then Mrs Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where.

Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered.

Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drank all the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.

Just then the doorbell rang, and irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree.

The angel said very cheerfully, 'Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?'

And that's how the tradition began.............

Scandinavian ornaments

These three little wooden tree ornaments are part of a much larger Scandinavian set which I got a few years ago. They are all very sweet but I usually only put a few on each year.

I need a new pound coin

I need a new pound coin. For ages I've been waiting for the 50p piece to complete my shield. (See Mark's Blog). On Friday I got one but I still haven't seen a new pound coin.

The reverse sides of the new coins make a complete picture whilst the pound is free-standing. Anyone who has one(or a few thousand) to spare should send them to....

Thursday 18 December 2008

Christmas lights

This is one of our neighbour’s houses. Every year he goes berserk and puts up all these decorations to make money for Claire House. Claire House opened its doors to children in December 1998 providing a service for children aged 0 - 23 years with life threatening or life limiting conditions and their families from Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and the Isle of Man.

It makes our ‘Merry Christmas' sign look a bit pathetic but it is heartfelt nonetheless.

And there’s always our burglarising Santa to amuse folk.

Christmas Gravy

The Bisto Kids were created in 1919 by cartoonist Wilf Owen, just 11 years after the meat-flavoured gravy powder Bisto came onto the market. I think the adverts that mentioned it ‘browns, seasons and thickens, all in one go’ disappeared a while ago but I may be wrong. I don’t watch much ITV so I don’t know if anyone still goes ‘Ah, Bisto!’ on the television adverts at all. But on Christmas Day – when we have ‘proper’ gravy - I shall point out to whoever is in the room that I have just learned how Bisto got its name. It seems it was an acronym for Browns Seasons Thickens in One.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

An Apology

An apology if my Blog has been slow to load the last couple of days. I went a bit berserk when I put the photos of decorations and dressing the tree on the blog. I shall try to be a bit nore sensible in future!

Family tree decorations

These are our ‘family’ tree decorations. When our first son, David, was born, Jo and I bought him his own Christmas tree decoration. He didn’t live to see his second Christmas but every Christmas since then we have made a special point of putting his decoration on the tree together.

Once Richard was old enough to appreciate it we gave him his own decoration and also chose one for each of us that would be our special ones. The three of us would put ours and David’s on together. Usually at the end of the tree decorating process which Richard used to do with me when he was younger.

Then we have one each for Bryony and Helen, Mum and Dad and GB (who were with us for Christmas each year for many years). Mum and Dad have since died but we continue to put theirs on each year as part of the last few decorations to be added to the tree. GB’s also goes on though he is miles away in New Zealand and is enjoying Christmas in the summer sun. Now that Bryony and Helen have partners they too have their own decorations.

Points of View

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Tree decorations

Some of my favourite tree decorations -

Tomorrow I shall show you our ‘family’ tree decorations and explain why they are special.

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