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Last week was kinda grim, all the aftermath from the shooting in Sousse.  All those bodies being 'brought home' by the RAF.  Various people saying they'd never visit Tunisia, one of the most peaceful of the Arab countries, again.  Other people declaring that they were going to Tunisia, to Sousse even, because the Tunisians in the area were mostly Really Nice people and needed the income generated by tourism.  Also that if people were to stop going then the terrorists would have won, and we.  Aren't.  Having.  That!

  There were other awful incidents too, as Islamic extremist after Islamic extremist apparently tried to outdo the devastation and carnage the previous one had caused.  So now some are becoming anti-Muslim, while others continue to say that "Islam is a religion of peace" - it is only the extremists, who are unrepresentative of the whole.  I don't know.  I do know I'm not going to become anti-Islam on principle.  I also know that not all Muslims are 'peaceful'; and that's before we get anywhere near the Islamic treatment of women!

  At least some of the problem in Iraq, where ISIL is gaining ground, is that western nations (mainly the US and Britain) went in and removed Saddam Hussein, a dictator who'd kept a very firm grip on things*.  Naturally enough he'd eliminated all possible threats, consequently there was no-one suitable to lead the country once he and his cronies had been removed - there was a power vacuum.  It's at least partly our fault there is such a mess there at present, even if we told our elected representatives that they were not sending the troops in in our names!

  How some can perpetrate such evil acts is always a problem.  How can some people do such terrible things? Jonathan Freedland had a very relevant article in The Guardian (newspaper).  In his reckoning evil deeds are done because evil is within all of us - and we shouldn't be afraid to call evil evil.

  'The problem of evil' has long exercised minds, ie: if there is a God, and He is Good, how can He allow evil to happen (the Holocaust; other Genocides - Rwanda**, Burundi, Bosnia etc; suicide bombers)?  But such evils do happen, ergo God cannot be Good, or if He is He can't be All Powerful.

  Actually He can and He is.  Evil things happen because evil is in the world.  Evil is present in each person, though some people do more obviously 'evil' deeds than others.

  God does care.  He has already done something about it - Jesus.  The baby of Christmas became the dying man/God of Good Friday and the Risen Lord defeating evil of Easter Sunday.

  The real "problem of evil" is not that it exists, and exists in all of us, it's that a remedy exists but we choose not to do anything about it.

  Y'all have a good day now!

   *I'm not saying Saddam Hussein was a good man or leader.  Just that he Iraq very firmly under his control - with all that entailed.

  **Read it.  It's powerful.  And, unfortunately, true.
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Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music:
St Matthew Passion - Bach
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We've been drinking this quite a bit this past week.  What with it being so warm outside at times it's been too hot for ordinary coffee.
I thought I'd record the 'recipe' here.


I large cup - we have several cold drinks 'cups' which were handed out with meals by McDonalds years back.  Capacity 500ml


Ice-cube tray - fill it up the previous day so that the ice cubes are well frozen when you need them!

Ceramic mug and microwave, or kettle for boiling water

Ingredients - to make 500ml iced coffee

1t instant coffee

1t decaffeinated instant coffee

Water - small amount to boil, the rest chilled

Or 400 - 450ml real coffee, cooled


Ice cubes - I use 8 per 500ml because that's how many the ice-cube tray holds

Sugar - to taste


Put a small amount of water in the ceramic mug - about one quarter full.  Boil it in the microwave oven, or use boiling water from the kettle.

*Dissolve the instant coffee (both kinds) in the boiling water.  Add sugar to taste, just remember too much is bad for you and will rot your teeth!

Fill the mug up with chilled water (from the fridge).

Put the ice cubes into your cup, pour over the coffee mixture from the mug.  Add another half to three-quarters of a mug of chilled water.

Add milk to taste.  If you prefer black coffee omit this stage.

Add straw if you like.  Allow to stand a short while, stir and drink slowly.  Enjoy!

*If you are using real coffee you will need enough coffee to almost fill your cup - allow room for the ice cubes and the milk.  Heat a little of the coffee to dissolve the sugar.  Top up with the rest of the cold coffee - that way you don't have to wait ages for it to cool or waste ice.
Current Location:
as usual, with iced coffee
Current Mood:
creative creative
Current Music:
Titanic - James Horner (for the ice)
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I frogged the left front of Petal back almost back to the cast on edge, then started to knit it as the Right front, which was going fine until I noticed a possible mistake at one point four or so rows back.  Trouble is it involves a couple of ssk's and k2togs, so I don't think a quick run down and pick up again with the ol' crochet hook is going to cut it this time.  I put it away in disgust.  It is not in hiatus, merely awaiting a time when I am feeling more with and, possibly, not trying to watch TV at the same time.  Generally I know the pattern so well now that even when I've made a mistake in a previous row I can fix it.

  So I got out the second dark purple sock and knitted away on that - 1x1 ribbing on the top and plain stocking stitch on the sole.  Simples.  Then I had a look and noticed, about 2" back, that I'd slipped the ribbing over four or five stitches.  Now I could run them down and work them back with a crochet hook, but 2" is quite a long way, it's dark purple yarn and the flaw is on the mid-foot so it'll barely notice, if at all.  Maybe I'll leave it in - like some of the old-time American quilters used to leave a deliberate mistake in their patchwork because only God could make things perfect!

  Readers wishing for a dose of 'cute' could try looking here.  I'd really like to knit one of these Wowligan cardigans, it'd be a welcome break from the current round of hiati/hiatuses.  Trouble is I know no-one of the correct size.  Shame!  The Owl pattern is famous.  Kate Davies has used it on a jumper (for adults), a cardigan (adults again), a jumper for children, and now Wowligan.  Heck, I even used them on a hat I knitted for D some years back.  It can also be found on other people's patterns for mittens and even socks - with beaded eyes (even on the sock feet!)  Sorry, no links, try Google or Ravelry.  I am definitely knitting the socks, but equally definitely won't be beading the feet, if I bead them at all.  I shan't be sewing buttons on either.

  Hmmm, apparently pupils are developing stress-related conditions due to pressure of exams.  What are these poor pupils?  Soft?  Back when I was at school, secondary school anyway, we had exams every year.  Some years they really mattered. At age 16 and 18, then we had two sets of exams in the year - 'Mocks', practice exams (though woe betide you if a member of staff heard you calling them Mocks or Practice.  They were to be treated with as much seriousness as the Real Thing); then the Real Exams (always in the summer.  Most years it was warm, but the school hall was large.  H recalls one year it snowed during an exam.  That's a British summer for you)

  Now they were exams.  No calculators.  No 'open books'.  Hardly any mulitple-guess-choice questions.  Just questions.  You had to know your stuff, remember it and be able to sort out the questions.  Quite what was the question asking?  What did the examiner want you to include in the answer?  If it was asked in one way then they wanted these (say) five points, asked another way they wanted not only the kitchen sink but the water supply company, the sewage disposal company and, sometimes, the entire water cycle as well.  We were advised to avoid those questions!  After all, we only had twenty minutes to half an hour to sort out and write each essay-type answer.  Exams were either two or two and a half hours long generally.

  Science and Maths-type papers had easier questions to answer - the Sciences you either knew the answer or you didn't, the Maths you could work out (once you'd worked out what the question was actually asking you to calculate, always the harder part)  But still no calculators.  We had four-figure log tables, copies kept especially pristine for exam purposes.  Or we could take along slide rules, I think they trusted us not to include crib sheets in the slide rule cases!

  Yes, these exams were a little stressful.  Or a lot stressful to some of us.  But our teachers had taught us not only our subjects but how to answer exam-style questions.  How to assess what questions requiring esssay-type answers were actually expecting you to include.  How to do various calculations and, important this, how to assess which calculations questions were asking for.  For the 'important' exams we practiced for a few weeks answering questions from past papers.  We were fairly well prepared and, on the whole we survived and passed, sometimes well.

  I reckon the trouble these days is SATS.  They happen too often.  Too much importance is placed upon them and upon a school's record of SAT achievement.  It seems that pupils these days are not taught various subjects, and only partly because so many of them don't know how to listen.  They are taught to pass the next SAT.  Teachers spend too much time attempting to control classes, then attempting to get across the answers which the next SAT will be requiring.  That isn't 'education'.

  Yes, I know I said we were taught how to assess exam questions.  That was a very small part of a subjects year or two-year long course.  A few lessons at the end of the teaching year - when we'd been taught the subject.  We knew how to listen, on the whole we enjoyed learning, if we didn't we got on with it anyhow.

  Ok, Dear Reader, I know I'm beginning to sound like those who bang on about how they were beaten every day at school and it never did them any harm.  Made men of them in fact!  We took exams, it didn't harm us, not permanently anyway.  We learned our subjects - heck, I still have (dim) memories of much of what we were actually taught!  This came in useful when S was doing his 'A' Levels in similar subjects to those I'd taken.  I could at least remember the terms he was talking about, if nothing else!

  I think part of the trouble today is that pupils do not learn to listen, how to take in information.  Hardly surprising when you consider that most of them have been taking in information from screens - tv, tablet, phone, often one-to-one since infancy and now they are faced with a teacher talking to them, with the help of a black or white board in a class of twenty-five to thirty, or more.

  Children today are accustomed from an early age to brightly coloured moving visuals which change frequently accompanied by music and often various noises for emphasis - hyperstimulation.  There seems to be very little direct listening to one voice involved (though I haven't checked with CBeebies Storytime recently)  How are teachers supposed to compete?

  What can parents do to help?  Hmmm, regulate the time spent in front of a screen of any kind.  Do not allow tv's, computers or phones in bedrooms (at night when they should be sleeping) - better start leaving your phone at the bedroom door too as an example!  And for goodness sake, READ to your children, from as early an age as possible.  Start them off on picture only books, something like Miffy, from as soon as they can sit on your lap and focus.  Move quickly on to books like Spot the Dog (stories about a dog called Spot, not trying to find the dog!)  Then books with several sentences per page - try Janet and Alan Allberg's Burglar Bill and their other stories.

  Go to the local library.  You'll can access quite a wide range of books and see which you and your child(ren) like most.  Try finding the books by Anthony Browne, the stories are good, the pictures are wonderfully detailed and repay careful attention.  Remember the books you liked as a small child, the library will have some of them.

  Enjoy reading to your child well before they start school. Spot the Dog is far more interesting than the average school reading scheme.  Some of them might have been designed specifically to put children off reading!  Pretty soon you can graduate to Thomas the Tank Engine - the newer stuff, then the original little books with a page of picture and a page of text.  After that it's on to Real Books - ie: those where the pictures form in your mind as you read, or have read to you, the text.  Try Paddington Bear, it's a lot of text per page but each chapter is a story.  I must admit I stopped reading to S with Paddington Bear.  Reading that much text was, I found, hard work, and by then he was reading for himself.  The actual book was heavy to hold and S was getting a bit big to sit on my lap.

  These days visual story telling is everywhere - films, tv programmes, ads, YouTube, often with amazing special effects.  Plain ol' reading text can seem dull by comparison, not to mention difficult to acquire but persist.  Reading is important, even in this visual age.  After all, you're reading this.

  And if you have been, thank you.  Y'all have a good day now!

  And Finally - Happy Fourth of July, Dear American Reader!
Current Location:
as usual, with iced coffee
Current Mood:
Current Music:
Dance of the Knights, Romeo and Juliet - Prokofiev
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Ok, today is set to be warm again, but, thankfully, not as hot as Wednesday.  Shall I bake a cake for our wedding anniversary?  Cos if I'm going to better to get it done earlier in the day.

  Entirely unrelated - maybe you know the old nursery rhyme Yankee Doodle Dandy.  In case your pre-school education (in the widest possible sense) omitted this, here are the words of the first verse.  Yes, there are others.  No, I don't know what they are.

    Yankee Doodle went to town
    Riding on a pony;
    He stuck a feather in his hat,
    And called it macaroni.

  I think it dates from the time of the American Revolution and is supposed to suggest that then new Americans were unsophisticated and thought that wearing a feather made them fashionable.  What you also need to know, Dear Reader, is that the aforementioned 'Macaroni' was a member of a society of eighteenth century men who wore very fancy/smart clothes.  It is believed that said young men, and it would be young (or wishing to appear young) men were well travelled.  They had been on the Grand Tour, hence they knew about macaroni and other then foreign foods.  Further information may be found here.

  Which reminds me, when I was a girl, and it doesn't bear thinking about how long ago that was*, we knew about macaroni.  It was served as a milk pudding, an alternative to rice pudding.  Then one day Dad had charge of the cooking and made us macaroni cheese.  Spaghetti came in tins, in tomato sauce.  It was said to grow on trees, in Switzerland, by Richard Dimbleby, on Panorama, on the BBC**!

  Of course these days we all know about pasta and can name at least five different varieties, even if we can't quite spell them (neither can the SpellChecker!)  What is more, we know that they are for savoury dishes, and are often our favourite 'go to' when hungry and wanting a meal in a hurry.

  Entirely unrelated - I just happened to be reading this, on pencil sharpeners and it reminded me, I must sharpen my pencil in the front room.  It's been pointless, literally, for what seems like forever.  I do knitting pattern planning and row counting with a biro, that at least works.   We have pencil sharpeners.  We have had pencil sharpeners since the children left home, so I can't be blaming them for not being able to find such an appliance.  You know how it is when you have children, Dear Reader.  Things have a tendency to 'walk', or even run.  You know that things have their places - after all, you decided where they were***.  You put them back in their places.  You tell the children (Little Dears, Bigger Dears, Teenage Deers)  You keep telling the children where the places for various things are.  You occasionally happen across things out of place and return them.  You sometimes have to go on raids of their bedrooms to regain things, something not to be undertaken lightly with teenagers.

  The children left home around ten years ago.  They visit occasionally, but not for long enough for things like pencil sharpeners to go walkabout.   Which still doesn't explain why the pink pencil sharpener which came with the desk tidy (note that, TIDY) we keep by the computer isn't in it.  Hmmm, where did I keep other pencil sharpeners?  Maybe I should wait until H comes home and borrow his?

  BTW - do you remember those 'turn the handle' pencil sharpeners?  The teachers at our Primary school had them on their desks.  If we wanted to sharpen our school pencils we could ask to use them.  The temptation was to carry on turning the handle.  I think some of us had very short pencils!  I gather you can get electric versions of the same thing.  Imagine how many pencils-worth of inadvisably monitored sharpening you could get through with one of them!

  And Finally - I've been knitting a front for the Petal cardigan all week.  Mainly because it has been shrinking one side and growing the other!  OK so the 'shrinking' side was the side where I was decreasing at twelve row intervals, but the pattern was decreasing at a much faster rate.  I'm not sure how it happens, it didn't happen on the back, which had the same rate of decrease at both sides.  I've frogged a couple of times at least, once back to where the widening on the front edge occurred, once back further when I noticed I'd gotten the pattern wrong****.  Maybe I should give up and knit the other front.  At least I'd have a straight edge to be working the knit rows from, that might help.  Whatever happens Petal is not going into hiatus, I have Grace, the cotton cardigan; Curry, a sock with a different heel; and my Eclipse socks there already.

  Right, off to keep the minute silence for the victims of the Tunisian shooting last Friday.  Y'all have a good day now!

      *It wasn't as long ago as the Macaronis, nor the American Revolution, in case you were wondering, Dear Reader.  Though I do remember the bi-centenary of said Revolution.

    **No, I don't remember watching the original.  We didn't have a TV at home until after Sis was born.  She is younger than me.

   ***For years we kept the peg bag in the larder.  H thought this odd, I thought it was somewhere to keep the pegbag out of the way when we weren't using it.  Now the peg bag tends to 'live' in the basket we use for taking the washing to and from the line.  That, the basket, 'lives' either on top of the washing machine or, when the machine is in use, on top of the grill of the gas cooker.  The number of holes which got melted in baskets temporarily put there when D wanted to make toast!  I don't know, I suppose it might have been cos she was shorter so didn't notice them there.   Query - how do you not notice a large, fairly brightly coloured, plastic washing basket when it's on top of the grill.  At least, how do you not notice it until the smell of melting plastic pervades your consciousness?  Teenagers!  You gotta love 'em!

  ****The yarn is still turning my fingers blue!
Current Location:
as usual, with ice
Current Mood:
calm calm
Current Music:
Contemplazione - Catalani
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Aujour d'hui il pleut.  A great relief after yesterday - which was the Hottest July Day Evva!  Being near the sea it wasn't quite that hot here, just too hot to be comfortable.  w00t for the other fan.  When everything dropped still and far too warm yesterday evening it came as a great relief, as did large cups of iced coffee.  Hmmm, maybe I should be accumulating ice cubes against the days when it will be main warm again.  The promised thunder storms missed us entirely.  Or we slept through them.

  News reports yesterday mentioned that trains were going slower than usual because of the danger of rails buckling.  Time was when rails were made in finite lenghts (50'?) and were laid with small gaps between each length.  These gaps allowed the rails to expand on hot days without affecting the passage of trains.  They were also responsible for the famous "diddly-de, diddly-dum" sound which used to accompany train travel.

  These days rails are laid in continuous strips.  They are tensioned so that they will not expand until the ambient temperature reaches above 27°C.  Unfortunately this happens even in an English summer, most years now actually.  So train tracks, where in full sun the rails can get to 20°C above the ambient, are in danger of expanding too far and thus buckling.  I suppose Network Rail, who are responsible for the permanent way, are looking into the matter, and possibly taking advice from railway companies in Really Hot Places.  We can only hope.  The option of trains travelling slower on very warm days  . . .  Maybe train travel in future will be to the once familiar "diddly-de, diddly-dum".

  There now, our alma mater is fifty years old!  Yes, I know we have universities in this country which claim to be up to seven or eight hundred years old.  Do not knock it, the ol' AM regularly gets rated in the top five or ten universities for both student experience and research.  Despite being give five million pounds by a successful graduate, they're still after us for money.  I don't know, time was when the government actually seemed to value universities and had a go at funding them, even back in the dark and strike-bound seventies.  But then, in those days even Conservative governments seemed to value a few things besides the bottom line!

  I keep mentioning the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, 30th June - pictured here.  Apparently the near full moon rose as the two planets were beginning to set.  What you might also notice is four tiny dots around Jupiter (the apparently smaller planet), they're four of Jupiter's moons and they're visible by binoculars or small telescope, clahds permitting of course.  They're starting to 'move apart' now but are still close - if you can get to see the western sky after sunset at all.  We've had clahds in between the past few nights.  Good thing I got a look Monday evening!  And yes, they did fit behind my little pinky finger even then.

  A quick tip for Readers wishing to photograph things other than the moon and conjuncting planets - if there are obvious horizontals or verticals in your viewfinder, make them horizontal or vertical in your photos.  The pictures I've seen with 'leaning' buildings*, telegraph poles etc . . .  And water in bodies - ponds, lakes, the sea at the horizon, is most definitely flat.  The holiday pictures I've seen where the sea horizon looks as if that resort would be a great place to water-ski!

  Dear Reader you may have heard the expression, "If you can't say something nice, say nothing."  Possibly from your mother.  I think it's even more important these days when people are so snarky.  If they say something to you it's most likely to be couched in 'witty' sarcastic terms.  Possibly you reply in the same way.  It may be fashionable, Dear Reader, but it isn't nice, it often isn't caring and it really isn't clever.  So if you're looking for a nice, fair and caring way to speak to people try this - Compliment Club rules.  Just one warning, so you'll be prepared for it, some people are so unused to having people say genuinely nice things to them that they may well make cutting or flippant comments in return, or start wondering what you want from them.  Try not to let it get to you.  Keep up the good words and eventually even they will see you actually mean them!

  And Finally, it having been Canada Day yesterday, greetings to Canadian Readers (and apologies) - How do you stop bacon curling in the frying pan?  Take away their brooms.  Y'all have a good day now!

  *Mind you, if you're trying to photograph the inside of St David's Cathedral in Wales don't bother, there are differences of opinion as to what constitutes 'vertical' between the outer walls and inner sets of pillars!
Current Location:
as usual, with ice
Current Mood:
cheerful cheerful
Current Music:
In Paradisum - Faure
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Tried to get online yesterday.  Got a screen saying something to the effect of "You are not connected.  You need to sort this.  You need to be a more privileged user."  The last sentence with, had I been feeling somewhat paranoid, overtones of "Nya!" and an extended tongue!  H had a good investigate, even went up to the chapel to try accessing the internet there.  No internet.  Today we have internet again.  No explanation.  What was our 'service' provider up to?  Admittedly it was the first such incident in a good few years but . . .

  Did you see the Venus/Jupiter closest conjunction last night, Dear Reader?  I had a look - clahds, all the way.  Fortunately I'd looked Monday night and they were really close.  That was around 10pm.  Around 11pm H showed me the almost-full moon in the southern sky with Saturn just to the right of it.  Had we had steady binoculars or a telescope we might have been able to see the rings - as 'handles' on either side of the orb, like Gallileo did back in the day!   Weather permitting I'll try looking again tonight.

  While on weather, Monday was warm, yesterday was warmer.  Today is forecast to be the warmest day in nine years.  Thursday thunder storms are forecast and subsequently cooler weather.  w00t!  H is suffering today's heat with the encouragement that it will be cooler afterwards.  Tonight is supposed to be warm (20°C) and humid.  We shall have to turn the fan up!

  Apparently George IV had an apposite observation on the English summer, "Three sunny days and a thunderstorm."  It clouded over really thickly yesterday evening (which is why we couldn't go star or planet gazing)  Then there was a brief scattering of raindrops, two flashes of lightniing, two claps of thunder and that was it.  I dare say tonight's thunder might be a little more impressive!

  Last night, there being no internet, we ended up watching some of the programmes I'd recorded.  An episode of the Clangers (the one with the cloud), and several episodes of Dr Who: Planet of the Spiders (the one where Jon Pertwee eventually morphs into Tom Baker - saw it BITD).  This served to emphasize that Dr Who: TOS was better than NS.  Better plots, better scripts, more cast, the scenery on this one looked pretty solid, and they even had the funds for a boat/hovercraft chase up a very tidal river - high muddy banks, the Severn?  The only quibble I'd have with the Horror channel is that they do not broadcast all the episodes.  I'm not sure they're broadcasting in chronological order either.  Ah well, that's what happens forty years on I suppose.

  Phew!  I turned the tap on to find nothing.  Tried the hot tap.  Nothing!  Poured myself chilled water from a 1.75l bottle we keep, refilled from the tap, in the fridge and wondered how long that might last on 'the hottest day in a decade'.  Took a sip, then tried the tap again.  Coughing noises and, w00t!, water!

  Hmmm, water.  I was just reading the Coxless Crew | Pacific Ocean Row 2015 blog and noticed they mentioned having rowed over 2000nm.  'nm' I thought.  Nanometres?  I have a background in Biological Sciences.  A nanometre is a factor of 1,000,000 times shorter than 1mm.  A nanometer is a device for measuring female grandparents!  Anyhew, I considered this then thought, 'Nautical Miles, silly!'  Which actually makes sense.  Go check the blog, Dear Reader, four young women are attempting to row across the Pacific Ocean.  They started in California and are now more than half way to Hawaii.  Rather them than me.

  What is it with this browser?  I just tried to access S's Twitter account and got the ol' spinning beachball.  Then it quit on me.  I duly reported the event to Apple.  Usually it waits until I have three or four windows open and am trying to access an online newspaper or something.  I know, we've had this particular issue of the browser for a good few years, specs it's well on its way to being obsolete.  I know I can access some blogs but only get great expanses of white screen where there should be pictures.  Another blog went this way today.  Darn, Isolda often has some interesting knitting to post or useful hints and tips and I expect the sheep mugs are amusing.  Do not ask me to comment further, H is the computer expert around here.  I just know how to access what I want to get, usually.

  Good grief, is it July already?  Just turned the calendar - hummingbird hawk moth feeding on red valerian.  We first saw a hummingbird hawk moth while on holiday on the Isle of Wight.  It was feeding on a buddleja looking for all the world like an actual hummingbird.  We looked at it carefully, memorising the details, then went to Newport library and raided the Insect section - which provided identification.  We subsequently saw another such moth in our back yard a week or so later!

  Another butterfly/moth/buddleja related memory is the time we visited something just outside Brading.  There was a huge, sprawling buddleja bush beside the lane up to the place.  It was covered in flowers and consequently smothered in bees and butterflies (and probably a good few other flying insects as well, though we didn't notice a hbhm).  When a car passed the insects rose in a great cloud and scattered, to return when it was perceived 'safe'.  Happy days!

  Remember Make Poverty History?  Back before the turn of the century various charities got together to 'encourage' the Rich countries to actually do something for the poorest - like cutting the crippling interest charged on loans the World Bank had made to poor countries.  That happened, the poor countries had more money to spend on their people.  Some of them actually did spend it on them and things improved for many.

  In 2000 Millennium Development Goals were set - things to be achieved by certain dates in the first quarter of this century - increasing the number of girls in education (primary education, let alone secondary education); cutting the number of malnourished children; improving ante and peri-natal care for expectant mothers and their children; increasing access to clean, safe, local supplies of water; etc, etc.

  Some of the MDGs are being achieved, though slower than agreed.  Things are improving for more people, more children are surviving.  There is still a long way to go.  Look at all those migrants desperately trying to get into Europe so that they can have a 'better life'.  It's not just that they want to come here and live the life of Riley on benefit handouts (which the government is busy clawing back and cutting back).  It's that they're fleeing areas where there is no paying work, or, worse, war.  Too many countries in eg: Africa are embroiled in civil wars, either inter-tribal, or fighting against Islamic extremist groups - think Boko Haran in NIgeria.

  It's all very well building wells, clinics, schools, toilets, better houses etc.  One visit by a war and you have to start over again.  Mind you, sometimes it's a visit by major flooding, as in Malawi this year.  Either way the things people had are gone and they have to start again.  Gah!

  Now we in Europe are trying to emerge from recession.  Some more successfully than others, look at Greece!

  Hah!  Today it's as hot as Greece. Time for an iced coffee, methinks, and maybe the downstairs fan.  Y'all have a good day now!
Current Location:
as usual, with added ice
Current Mood:
hot hot
Current Music:
Too Darned Hot - We're Having a Heatwave!
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Aaaah!  The Summer has arrived.  I've windows open downstairs today - that's a whole other post, or may end up in this one, we'll see.  Apparently the forecast is for hot weather (into the low 30s °C) brought up from France and Spain by a depression out in the Atlantic.  Personally I can do without it being too hot and H definitely flags.  So we've stocked up on crisps and other salty foodstuffs and we're knocking back water, preferaby from the fridge.  We'll live.  If it all gets too much there is the downstairs fan, or we can sit at the computer, that's usually a cooler place.

  One thing about it all, this is an English summer, the hot cannot last for too long (please), there will be thunder storms, there will be clouds.  There will be cooler times.  What there will also be over the next two weeks is wall-to-wall tennis.  Yes, Dear Reader, it is Wimbledon fortnight.  Aaaarrrggh!  The BBC's four channels (and the red button) will be filled with tennis matches, people talking about tennis, people comparing modern players with players from the past, past players commenting on tennis matches and modern tennis players . . .  Not to mention overpriced strawberries and cream!

  The Good Thing is that it is only a fortnight.  I've recorded various programmes of interest to watch when there is nothing available but tennis.  I shall continue knitting.  I've finished the back of Petal, fortunately the blue washes off my fingers.  Just a couple of fronts to do, then to sew it all together.  Hmmm, I prefer knitwear with as little 'finishing' as possible, that's why I knit socks toe up, only two ends to sew in and they're good to wear.

  One of the 'difficulties' of living in the middle of a city is that in warm weather all that tarmac, brickwork and concrete absorb the sun's heat during the day then slowly release it overnight, a bit like large storage radiators.  Thus even if we do have windows open the air immediately outside is still very warm.  w00t for the fans!  Another difficulty is that our house is flat-front-to-pavement, no front garden.  Being on the corner it is also flat-side-to-pavement too.  Round here houses were built long before cars were invented - 1870s onwards.  Consequently modern people have nowhere off road to park their cars - don't even have a front garden/forecourt they can concrete over to use as a parking place.  People have to park in the streets.

  Of course these days many households have more than one car, consequently one car can be parked outside the house, the other has to fit in where it can - which often isn't anywhere near the owner's house.  Whatever.  All these cars have alarms, which are duly set when the owner parks.  Some of them are set so sensitively that someone walking down the next street will set them off (I exaggerate, but not by much, it's usually a passing diesel engined vehicle).  The car alarm screams, no one related to the car seems to hear it.  And those of us near said screaming car who now have our windows open curse the car owner and consider sticking a letter under that car's windscreen wiper asking them to desensitise their wretched alarm.  Except that the act of putting something under the car windscreen wiper would set it screaming it again!  Aaaarrrggh!

  Still, one thing with it being warmer, the skies should be clear - good for viewing the ever closer conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the western sky around sunset.  Closest conjunction tomorrown night, then they'll start 'moving apart' again.

  And Finally - did you hear about the Japanese cat which was made 'station master' and brought an unprofitable line back from the brink of shut-down.  She died recently, but there is another cat 'in training'.  Srsly, Dear Reader, I wonder if Network Rail, or one of the train running companies has maybe thought of this?

  Right, off to find some more cold water.  Y'all have a good day now!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
cheerful cheerful
Current Music:
Summer, from The Four Seasons - Vivaldi
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'They' started painting the Spinnaker Tower blue yesterday.  I write 'they' though TV news showed but one man dangling using what looked like a paint roller.  I assume they've some arrangement to have the paint up there with him, the tower is a bit big to have to keep coming down to refil the roller!

  While on the theme of 'blue' - I did quite a bit of knitting last night.  When I looked at my hands all the fingers on my left hand and the index finger and thumb on my right hand had a decidedly blue-ish tinge.  There now, had the yarn been of a greener hue I'd have been set up to garden!  Maybe once Petal is made I'll give it a bit of a wash so that I won't go blue-ish when I first wear it.  Maybe I should try rubbing the swatch I made and see if the colour rubs off with that too?  And there I was thinking swatches were merely to sort out knitting tension, needle size and getting the pattern sorted so that you could knit something correctly.

  Mentioning gardening, the rose is blooming beautifully - one on the way out, two in full bloom, another opening and, I hope, a few more to come.  The rampageous honeysuckle is covered in sweetly scented flowers and is starting to smother the equally sweetly scented lavender.  Hmmm, calls for some pruning, methinks.

  You may or may not know, Dear Reader, but this weekend is the Glastonbury Music Festival, in Somerset.  Various bands and soloists are appearing - including Florence and the Machine, Kanye West and The Who.  Also making an appearance will be the Dalai Lama.  News of this has prompted the  Chinese government to take a very dim view of the whole thing calling the Festival part of 'international scuttling'; whatever that means?  INHO the Chinese government is perfectly capable of 'scuttling*' itself without aid from 'outsiders'.

  Writing of faith leaders, Pope Francis has said that people should take a serious look at their investments and their jobs.  He said that if they own/work for/invest in arms manufacture and call themselves Christians they are hypocrites.  He has a point, if I am somehow involved in arms production - manufacturing the arms, working for arms companies, investing in arms companies (time to check my portfolio?) then I am also in part responsible for the deaths of people and the Commandment is "You shall not kill", Exodus 20:13.  That's why H has always tried to work on civil projects and we have specified investments to not be made in arms manufacture.  Hmmm, wonder where 'our' building society invests our money?  Gives a whole new definition to 'interest'!

  And Finally - a thought.  "The real things haven't changed**.  It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what you have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong."  Laura Ingalls Wilder.

  *I assume that it's 'scuttling' as in what is done to ships to send them to the bottom in double quick time, rather than the kind of scuttling done by beetles?  Or do they mean 'scuttling' as a derivation from the naval 'scuttle-butt' - idle chit chat, the sort of conversations you may have around the office water-cooler?

  **They still haven't.  Despite all the marketing hype.
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music:
Cavatina - Stanley Myers
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You probably know the sort of thing, Dear Reader.  You have just pushed 'send' for an email, and then you realise it's gone to the wrong person.  Or you really shouldn't have said what you did in the way that you did.  But it's gone.  It's flying through Cyber space to it's (possibly incorrect) destination and, should the recipient take it badly, that's that relationship gone.

  Well now Google are developing an 'unsend' feature - which will work for up to thirty seconds after you push 'send'.  I don't know about you, Dear Reader, but I reckon I generally take longer than half a minute to realise that what I have sent has been misdirected or just not a good thing to send.  Ah well, maybe they'll develop a version of 'unsend' which gives you a bit longer.  Here's hoping.

  Meanwhile we'll just have to try to remember to think before we push 'send' - just as we are enjoined to think before we speak.  That's what counting to ten before you blow up in sudden rage is supposed to be about.  It's not so that you can build up a bigger head of steam, or come out with some brilliant phrases.  It's supposed to be so that you can think, however briefly, about whether getting angry is the best response.  It is possible to learn to control your temper (most of the time at least) even if you have red hair!

  Something which cause all sorts of upset recently was the proposed new paint job for our Spinnaker Tower.  Eventually teh Sponsor agreed on a predominately blue and gold job, with the blue paint to be applied in time for it to be dry for the Americas Cup races early next month.  The paint has been ordered, it's just taking longer than expected to get here from Lancashire.

  For Goodness Sake, someone from the Council could catch a train up to Lancashire, collect the paint in person and bring it back.  Though I suppose it would run to several gallons, which might be rather a lot of cans for one person to manage, particularly on the frequently (over)crowded and luggage-place-lite trains which run in this region!

  Still nothing has been mentioned about the Human Rights record of the country of origin of teh Sponsor.  It's amazing what you can get for sufficient money . . .

  And Finally - apparently if you are angry it is more calming to listen to 'angry' music than 'calming' music.  So next time you begin to see red put on Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, or some Meatloaf!

  Y'all have a good, and anger free, day now!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music:
Laudamus Te, from Gloria - Sir Karl Jenkins
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The milkman just delivered our pinta and knocked on the door to warn me as it's set to be another warm day and warm milk isn't a Good Thing.  That was nice of him.  He was earlier than he is most days, maybe he wants to get out in the sun when he's finished his round?

  The swatch dried, I measured it as prescribed - 22 sts and (I think) 32 rows per 10 cm.  w00t!  Got on and cast on for the back, knitted.  There are gradual decreases at both sides so deciding quite where the pattern starts each knit row is a bit of a faff but it seems to be going well so far.  The Drops Cotton Merino feels strange, almost like chenille for all that it's a smooth yarn (and much darker and 'brighter' than the website seems to suggest).  All the same it's knitting up nicely.  Now all I need to do is sort out a way of joining in new balls.  I can do it with sock yarn (four ply) and chunky, two different methods.  Any Reader know how to join in new balls (fairly) invisibly?  Preferably without leaving long ends which need darning in later.

  Venus and Jupiter move ever closer together in the post sunset sky, the once new moon is now a half moon and growing, ie: in its gibbous phase.  Readers interested in astronomy, or just good sky photos, might like to have a butchers at the 2015 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest winners and runners-up picutres.  They're pretty spectacular, as you might imagine.

  While on the subject of new moons and light evenings - Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, started with the current new moon.  Muslims are supposed to go from sunrise to sunset without eating or, and this is the important bit, drinking.

  Now I don't know whether this is true or if it is merely an internet rumour but apparently some Muslims in Scotland are petitioning to have the 'hours of fasting' defined by sunrise and sunset at Mecca.  F'rinstance, in Glasgow sunrise is now around 4.30am (4.33 to be precise) and sunset around 10pm (10.06) which means 17 hours and 34 minutes of fasting.  Whereas in Mecca (Makkah) sunrise today is 5.40am and sunset 7.06pm, 13 hours, 26 minutes of fasting - which seems more than long enough to go without a drink, particularly in an Arabian summer.

  Several thoughts spring to mind on this matter: -

    i) What did Muslims living in Scotland and points well north of Arabia do in the past?  Ramadan must have occurred in summer in high northern latitudes before now.

   ii) Are some modern Scottish Muslims (mSMs) going soft?

  iii) Will the mSMs still apply Mecca sunrise and sunset times when Ramadan occurs during the northern winter?  Because at high northern latitudes the winter day length is hours shorter than it is in Arabia.  You cannot have it both ways, people!

  Readers might like to guess what ISIS might have to say about this sort of thing.  'Death!' leaps to mind, but that seems to be the ISIS attitude to so many things.  Quite why people would want to travel to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS I don't understand, particularly women with small children - as happened a short while back from the UK.

  As I wrote, I'm not sure whether this is true, but . . .

  Meanwhile a man was trampled to death by a herd of cows in Wiltshire.  Apparently two men were walking their dogs in fields and this herd of cows (cattle of some kind anyway, 'cows' is the generic generally used) ran up, knocked them over, trampled them and kept knocking them down as they got up.  One man survived.

  The moral of this story is to be careful when in a field of cattle, particularly if you have a dog with you.  Generally it's not you the cattle are out to get, it's the dog they're objecting to - though this herd seems to have been a particularly 'excitable' breed, with history.  Dog walkers are warned to keep their dogs 'under control' when walking them in the countryside.  For some dogs this means that they stay in earshot, for others it means they stay on a shortish leash - you know your dog.

  Advice often given to dog walkers in the countryside is that if there are cattle in a field look carefully to see whether they have young (calves) with them.  If they do they'll be defensive and more likely to attack perceived 'intruders' - you and your dog.  In cases where cattle do gang up on you the advice is to let the dog go.  The cattle may chase after it, the dog will usually escape easily.  If you hang on to the dog then the cattle may well gang up on both of you.  Of course, if you're crossing a field with sheep in it then you definitely need to have your dog firmly on the leash.

  Farmers who have public footpaths running across their land are entitled to graze cattle in those fields.  They are even allowed to have a bull in those same fields - provided it is with cows.  Some farmers put up warning signs, walkers would probably do well to pay attention.  Dog walkers in such circumstances would do better going another way.  Yes, it's a public footpath, but you still walk it at your own risk.  The farmer has to earn his living and he's operating within the law.  Hmmmm, maybe take your dog for a walk somewhere there isn't livestock for a while?  The farmer will move the herd on when the field has been grazed.

  Apparently there are 2.3 million children in the UK living in poverty, that's 200,000 more than last year.  What is more, many of these children are from families where the parents are in work - ie: not all of the poverty is drug or drink related.

  For Goodness Sake, the UK is a rich country.  How can we have 2.3 million children living in poverty?  Or 3.7 million, depending on whom you ask.  How can we have so many parents in work and yet they are still living in poverty?  Time to do some legislating about zero hours contracts and minimum wage, among other things, methinks, Government.

  And Finally - a Bristolian man whose hobby is building birds out of Lego.  Thomas Poulsom is building a life-sized crane and flamingo for a display at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.  Apparently the WWT centre is having a ten 'creature' menagerie, including a 4foot (1.2m) otter, which will go on show next month.  So there you are, Dear Reader, if you have children, or are a Lego fan, or are into birds in general, hie thee to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, 18th July - 6th September.

  In the meantime, y'all have a good day now!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
thoughtful thoughtful
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