The thing to look for in the skies this weekend, Dear Reader, is a triangle composed of Mercury, Venus and the crescent moon. Pretty, no? It was no use looking here this morning, glo'm of day and all that. Maybe tomorrow, just before dawn (around 7-7:30am). This is part of the Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Moon pre-dawn line-up I told you about the other week. Now all we need are the clear skies!
I did the usual Friday bake yesterday afternoon: - Mostly Mushroom Pizza Surprise (bits of chili), Colourful Coleslaw, rolls and the Lemon Olive Oil cake from Pinch of Yum. The cake took halfway to forever to cook, overflowed like molten lava from the cake tin as it cooked - but I was ready for that and, noting that the tin was very full I'd put it on a baking sheet. So I don't have to clean the oven. w00t!
The slices of warm cake we had last night tasted pretty good, but Lindsay (at Pinch of Yum) reckons it tastes even better from the fridge. We'll see about that come tea-time. I reckon I could reduce the amount of sugar with no reduction in flavour, what with most American recipes being too sweet to start with. Maybe a tad more ginger. We'll see about that too.
Baking you own is a great way of getting cakes, etc at reasonable prices. Plus you know exactly what goes into them. In fact making your own food, rather than eating bought in ready meals, is not only cheaper but healthier. If you have a market near you then you can get fruit and veg at much better prices than at a supermarket and without all the packaging. Using the local market also helps keep you in touch with what is seasonal, hence fewer air miles for your food.
Of course, if you have access to some land you can grow your own fruit and veg. This, apparently, isn't cheaper than buying, but it is fresher, seasonal and you get the added exercise from weeding, digging, planting, pruning and all the other growing-related things you need to do, thus saving on gym membership. Gardening is good for your health - mental and physical. Besides which, cultivated ground absorbs (and keeps) rain so much more efficiently than even gravel over a weed surpressing membrane.
Actually you can grow some of your own even if you don't have access to land. Salad leaves and herbs can be grown on a sunny windowsill. These (herbs and salad leaves, not sunny windowsills) tend to be on the expensive side from a supermarket, specially if you get them in plastic packages. You can grow tomatoes on a sunny windowsill - if it's big enough to take a largish pot, and chilies will grow in pots too. In fact there is a surprising amount of fruit and vegetables which can be grown in gro-bags or largish pots. And I can buy compost from the milkman!
Further money-saving tips, or access to sites therewith, here. Saving money is relatively easy, once you get your head around planning and a few other ideas. Save enough and you might be able to dine out. Though if you've been cooking everything yourself you might have to look around for a restaurant which cooks as well as you do. Cos there's no point eating out and paying for something you could cook better, and cheaper, yourself, Dear Reader, is there?
And Finally - how did the Sea Lion appear in a restaurant? No, Dear Reader, not on the menu! Apparently San Diego, along with other parts of coastal South California, has been having very low and very high tides and Sea Lion pups are looking for somewhere high and warm to haul out for the night. Here we just get whales beaching!
A long, long, time ago I learned French at school. No, Dear Reader, not from Moliére himself. I am please to report that I can still, sort of, get by when reading. French 'as she is spoke' is another matter. It depends a lot on how fast the speaker speaks, and their accent.
When I was learning Madame, or Mademoiselle, would tell us how much value the French put on Getting It Right - genders, participles, getting everything to 'agree', accents. So French 'as she is written-in-blogs' came as a bit of a surprise to me - the relaxed attitude the writers took to their language, as well as the fact that I actually understood most of it!
Writing of accents, it would appear that the guardians of the French language, the Académie Français, have decided to revise the language. Or at least revise French 'as she is written', these changes first approved by the Académie in 1990. Out goes the circumflex accent (^) and a number of word spellings have been changed. Some words from Franglais, the French/English mash-up nos professeurs told us was so denigrated by French speakers, have been formally adopted into the language (the actual French language, not Franglais). Hence now le week-end is, as le weekend, an 'accepted' and 'acceptable' word - even though I suspect there has been a proper French term in existence all along.
Apparently many French people have been up in arms about these changes. Hmmm, maybe these were the French people Mme et Mdle told us about? You get them in every language. You may have gathered, Dear Reader, that I am a bit of such an one for the English language!
Whatever. Everyone is going to end up speaking English (or American) anyway. *Runs away and hides*
Avez-vous un beau jour maintenant!
*An exercise often adopted to teach French prepositions, eg: La plume de ma tante est sur la table.
I emailed my MP the other day on Climate Change and the need to do something real about preventing it. Or at least slowing it.
Yesterday I recieved a reply. Ok so my email was one of those started by change.org, but I'd 'personalised' it. Rising sea levels tend to concentrate your mind when you live on an island where the highest point is a local railway bridge (16' above, currently.) Or maybe the top of a vertical car park or tower block. Particularly when the sea wall has been breached due to all the storms we've been having (and, possibly, lack of maintenance in these days of cutbacks.)
I supposed our MP personalised the reply, but claiming that the present government is committed to using the renewable-energy-generating potential of the country is a bit of a stretch. No sooner had David Cameron returned from the Paris summit than he was cutting the subsidies given to 'green energy' generating companies, British companies which build windmills (the electrical generating kind, not the flour mill kind) and cutting subsidies for people putting up their own solar panels. He was even cutting back on the production of wind farms. As for investing in 'green energy'-production research!
Then within a fortnight he was issuing licences to frack, including in areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty like the South Downs Park!
Now I know the government has to try to balance the interests of various groups - like the oil industry (particularly the British part), or the industries involved in the internal combustion engine (I suppose there are one or two such companies still in Britain). But to return from such a Climate Change summit, having promised all sorts, and then to cut 'green energy' subsidies and actual production and to encourage more oil and gas production . . . Joined up thinking? I think not.
So I've emailed our MP to that effect. I look forward to seeing the reply. I do not look forward to counting the platitudes. Again.
Meanwhile have this, Dear Reader - a video about Climate Change, written by Michael Morpurgo and starring Jeremy Irons and Maxine Peak. I'd have embedded it but it's complicated. Still, you're internet savvy, you can click on the link!
We may not have any grandchildren, but it doesn't stop me wanting to hand on a cleaner world to other people's grandchildren.
Y'all have a good, and climate friendly, day now!
I finished H's Chicane last night. At least, I think I've finished it, zip insertion and all. H tried it on, commented on the softness, then promptly set about rolling the sleeve cuffs. Aaaarrrggh! I told him that if he really does need to roll the cuffs I'll re-knit the lower sleeves shorter! We'll see tonight cos I've just snaffled the other jumper and put it in the (hand) wash.
Meanwhile it is sunny here again, and cool-ish. I shall be making the most of this because tomorrow is forecast to be Glo'm of Day With Added Precipitation, again. Besides which, I'll have to nip round to the shop as I need more milk!
I mentioned Storm Henry yesterday. Down here it gave us Really Strong Winds, which played with the washing. Up north, particularly in the Highlands and Islands there were Strong Wind Warnings. In fact the winds were so strong approaching the Isle of Mull that they blew a couple of waterfalls back up. I realise that wasn't the most elegant way to end a sentence, or the clearest. Go view the video, Dear Reader.
Meanwhile across the pond the good ol' US of A is going through all the hullabaloo that is the selection of candidates for the Presidential elections next year. What was encouraging was that the Grand Old Party voters of Iowa decided (just) not to back Donald Trump. Seriously, Dear American Reader, Donald Trump?
The man comes across as a seriously rich idiot. Someone who, while he may be 'so rich he can't be bought', has opinions based on goodness knows what, not observation of the facts anyway! There are no parts of cities in the UK where the police are afraid to go because they are Muslim enclaves. Ok, so Trump seems to be popular with some voters. Voters who think he, 'Says it like it is.' Yes. Well. Srsly, Dear American Reader, there are better candidates.
Why am I blogging about this, living as I do in the UK? America is a major world power, if not the major world power. What it does, its policies, and particularly who leads the country, all affect the rest of the world in some way or another. For the past two terms (ten years?) the US has been lead by an intelligent, caring man.
Now the options could include an opinionated, apparently ignorant plutocrat with a silly comb-over. One hopes it won't come to that. Then one remembers that 'W' made it to PotUS*. Aaaarrrggh!
Y'all have a good day now!
*Does the (Grand Old) Republican party specialise in putting forward eejits as candidates? Are the majority of those who vote Republican also eejits? And if PotUS is an eejit, who is really running the country? World's largest democracy???
It was windy yesterday. The sheet blew off the top (windiest part) of the line, twice. The other sheet, somewhat in the 'lee' of the house, merely wrapped itself around the line and had to be unwrapped, twice. But they both dried and were back on the bed for the night, which was what mattered. Then I sorted through the coats on the coat hooks, binned a couple of (very) elderly waterproofs and washed a couple of jackets which were still good. Must remember to wash my jacket, which is pale blue and showing no end of dirt in places. Hmmm.
Having battened down and pegged out my washing yesterday (insufficiently securely as it turned out) against storm Gertrude, we are now experiencing/battening down against storm Henry. That makes eight named storms so far this winter (since the beginning of December), plus the tale end of storm Jonas from the States! I was wondering if Climate Change was resulting in more storms this winter, but H tells me that the Met Office have changed the rules about naming storms.
Apparently they have lowered their criteria. Whereas before storms would have had to be Really Serious, they now have to be Serious, or something like that. Sorry, Dear Reader, I don't know the actual details. The upshot of all this jiggery-pokery is that we are getting more storms that fall into the 'Can Be Named' category. I do know that this winter has been unseasonably warm and horribly wet, possibly the Wettest Evva! It hasn't actually been the stormiest.
Finally - all that wind has blown the grey murk away, the sun is shining. So the pale blue jacket is in for a serious wash - so that it looks pale blue all over, rather than grubby. I also washed some gloves and hats yesterday, including a chullo-style hat I'd knitted from what I thought was a fluffy but mainly acrylic yarn. This has felted. Yes, Dear Reader, I know you need pure wool yarn to felt effectively, but the result is very similar. Ah well, should I ever have a grandchild . . .
Meanwhile have a thought for a struggling musician - how to cover the rent! Too true to be properly funny?
Y'all have a good day now!
"Thou'rt never so unkind as man's ingratitude - Shakespeare
It is still unseasonably warm for the time of year, and windy. The forecast is for dry but overcast all day. So, yes Dear Reader, I'm doing washing again. As I mentioned before, there are only the two of us. Whence comes all this washing?
Meanwhile, even though it is 'warm' (11°C, should be more like 5°C) I have still found it necessary to have the fire on low. The Gas Service Man (usually Ben) can start with the front room fire when he comes. It all started off with us having the gas appliances - two fires, one cooker, one water heater - serviced in September/October, ie: before we'd start using them in the late autumn/early winter. That was back in the days when we got winters!
Then the date of servicing slipped and now they're being serviced in the late winter/early spring. Still, Ben is a good and consciencious lad, the Service company is local and reasonably priced, so we don't mind too much. Ben was at primary school with S and I knew his mother. Small world!
I took a good look around the garden on Saturday while I was pegging out. I don't know what's happened to the snowdrops, even their leaves appear absent in the tangle of bright green which appears to be grape hyacinth leaves. At least, there's one grape hyacinth (muscari) bloom appearing amid the tangle. A little further along there is also a mauve crocus. There are crocuses and tulips coming up in one old trough and a narcissus with a single (yellow) flower bud and a couple of blue anemones in another. This is a bit 'jammed together', not in space but in time. Usually we'd have snowdrops in late January/early February, then crocuses, then narcissi and anemones and maybe finish off with some tulips in May.
All this is besides the Winter Jasmine, which is coming to the end of its blooming and is set to be cut back when it's finally finished. The rampageous honeysuckle still has a few blooms and continues to put forth new shoots in the mild weather. That is set for a major chop fairly soonish too. I want some of the areas it is now covering to plant other things.
Meanwhile I have finished knitting H's Chicane, it is blocked, almost dried and awaiting the zip. Just think, he could be wearing it tomorrow, which might be a good thing as I reckon it's time the Spring Green Lion had a wash. It's also a good thing that he's feeling the cold (even though it isn't) so he'll be wearing the jumper.
So I'm currently searching for a new project. Now there's a fair isle pattern slipover for S, there's another dk cardigan for me - I have the yarn for both. I have the pattern for the slipover, but I already have a 'complicated' pattern on the needles, a pair of Selbu stranded mittens, from Anniken Allis, which I'm knitting in odds and ends of sock yarn - of which I have plenty.
I'd also earmarked her Teal Dream cardigan pattern, but that was issued in last month's edition of Knit magazine, so I'm wondering whether she'll release it soon on Ravelry or I'll have to either go search for a back copy of the magazine, or maybe find another cardigan pattern all together. I enjoyed knitting My Favorite Color for Mum, so I could easily adapt it for me, I suppose. I already have the yarn, the swatch is knitted, washed, dried, measured and everything. Hmmm.
Then I thought I could maybe knit a rose on one of the fronts, intarsia. I'm sure I had a pattern for an intarsia rose, but can I find it? Can I find another such pattern? Hmmm, maybe texture is the way to go?
Gosh it's windy out there! Warm too. Still, if it refrains from precipitating things will dry, providing they don't get wrapped around the clothesline too much!
Right, Ben has worked his magic, the gas appliances are set for another year. Time to go chase the dust.
Y'all have a good day now!
*For The Working Man To Do - chorus line from The Gas Man Cometh, a comic song often performed by Flanders and Swann
There is a famine in parts of Ethiopia which looks to be building up to the scale of the 1984 and 1988 famines. Remember Band Aid and Live Aid, Dear Reader? Well, it's getting to be like that. 84,000 people in Fentale are suffering serious food shortages and more than 20,000 animals have died. Water supplies and pasture have been hit badly.
Why? Climate change. Since June 2015, Ethiopia has been affected by its worst drought in 30-50 years. Erratic rains and El Nino have resulted in two failed harvests. 10 million Ethiopians now require food assistance. That number is expected to rise to 15 millions in the next few months.
The Ethiopian government and various aid agencies are already involved providing food assistance, emergency rations and other necessities. If you haven't given, possibly because you haven't heard/seen an appeal, Dear Reader, now is the time.
Meanwhile storm Gertrude has generally caused havoc in parts North (which is most of the country). Here it merely rained for twelve to twenty-four hours solid. The ground is soggy (& round here the ground's paved) but there is a breeze and it isn't raining. Consequently the washing is out and it's a full line of it this time. There are just the two of us, I did some only Thursday, where's it all coming from? Here's hoping it dries anyway. Hey, look! The sun's come out! For all of which the forecast reckons it'll be 58 - 73% humidity today. Ah well.
I mentioned the pre-dawn line up of planets that is occurring over the end of January and most of February. Here is a photo, taken in Ibiza. H said he saw the moon near Jupiter on a clear morning this week. The rest of the line up was hidden by the 'ahses in between!
* * *Apparently six of the new ships commissioned by the Navy are 'in for routine maintenance' - because their engines keep breaking down! The Navy put out a statement to the effect that the ships had been experiencing some difficulties with their engines but this would be sorted as they came in for their (however many)nautical mile/hours in service checks.
H and I looked at each other and nodded when we heard the News item. We know the scenario. H has to work with it all the time. A thing (aircraft black box/ship's engine) is designed and building starts. Somewhere along the line of testing people realise that it isn't going to work, not like that.
This is where the mistake is made. What should be done is that the designers should be allowed to go back to the drawing board and start again, this time getting it right.
What happens is that manglement says something to the effect of, "We've already invested £/$m in this design. Fix it." So the engineers scratch their heads, get a bit creative, and come up with what in software engineering is called 'a patch'. They bodge it!
In reality it would probably have cost less, and been less hassle to the engineers, if they'd gone back and re-designed and re-developed the whole project. Trouble is that manglement don't see things this way. They've committed money to something. Rather than ditching it, and writing off all that money, they want to stick with the current design and try to get the engineers to get that working - regardless of how inappropriate the design may actually be. Particularly now the design and development staff have had time to think a bit. Often this method works out more expensive than ditching and re-designing, but you can't tell manglement, and they don't seem to learn! There is always money available to 'fix' something, there is never money available to design it properly!
So the Admiralty probably insisted that the current engine design be 'fixed'. It was 'fixed', for a given value of 'fixed-ness'. The engines were fitted to six new ships. The ships were sent out on trials. And the engines kept breaking down - which is a Bad Thing in any ship. In a warship one of the last things you need is to be left engineless in a 'conflict situation'. Or to be caught off a lee shore with no engines. Being caught off a lee shore was one of the most dreaded eventualities of the sailing navy. It so often lead to being wrecked on said lee shore.
Truly the Admiralty have spoiled all six ships for a ha'p'orth of tar!
Think on, Dear Reader, and have a good day!
Last Saturday H took his shoes to be re-soled. Unfortunately the cobbler just down a block from here has retired. He tried to sell his business as a going concern but failed, which was a great shame as he did a Really Good Job. Consequently we are left to the tender mercies of a 'heel bar' type operation in town.
Tuesday this cobbler phoned H to say his shoes were done, so H went and collected them. The new soles looked marvellous, thick, heavy-duty, very neatly fixed to the old soles - couldn't see the join. Wednesday H wore the shoes to work - quick walk to the station here, quick walk from the station there to the bus station, work. Walking around during the day the wonderful-looking soles started to part company with the rest of the shoes.
Yesterday H took the shoes back to the cobbler - to find that he was 'out for a while'. So he returned them to the girl there and asked that this time they repair the shoes so that the repair would last longer than a few hours. Honestly, with 'repairs' like that it gets cheaper to buy new shoes - specially from the place near here which has been holding a 'Closing Down Sale' for years now. The disadvantage with this is that you have to 'walk new shoes in', which, particularly if you walk a lot, tends to mangle your feet in the process. Come back, Cobbler-on-the-Corner, we need you!
Meanwhile, having survived the tail end of storm Jonas, we are battening down awaiting storm Gertrude. She's already hit Scotland and places north and will be coming south today. It's as well I nipped out yesterday afternoon, when the sky was clear and sunny, for all the wind was getting up. At least the washing dried.
I had a letter to post yeseterday. Coming back I noticed the landlady of a local hostelry looking up into one of the trees growing near her pub. So I stopped and had a look too.
Peering up into the tree (around 20 feet up) we saw three or four little birds poking round the thinner branches. Little birds with dark patches on the face and lighter fronts - tits of some sort, perhaps? Then the landlady said she recognised their calls and could see red cheek patches - Goldfinches! So there we are. We may live in the centre of the second most densely populated city in the UK, but there is still sufficient green space and seed-producing plants to support a small charm of goldfinches. w00t! Quite made my day, it did.
And Finally - some Science jokes. Just a few, Dear Reader. Enjoy.
Let's hope the goldfinches are suitably battened down against Gertrude. Y'all have a good day now!
Portsmouth is an island city. Ok, so it's spread up onto the mainland and up Portsea Hill, but most people live actually on the island. Access to the island is by three main roads - the motorway, the original London Road (originally the one road onto the island) and the Eastern Road.
Lots of people live in Portsmouth and work off the island. Lots of people live off the island and work in Portsmouth. Hmmm, job/house swaps anyone? Portsmouth is a port city, goods come in by sea (like shiploads of bananas) and are shipped out by road. Goods come into the port by road and are shipped out by sea. Goods and people are shipped to and from the Isle of Wight. Goods and people are shipped to and from ports in France. Goods and people are shipped to and from northern Spain.
That's a lot of through traffic, with the emphasis on the traffic. That's a lot of people. Come 'peak hours' it can take a long time to get on or off the island, even via the motorway. Traffic builds up, the roads clog and nothing can get in or out - now there's an argument for taking the train!
I don't know what various Emergency Services are playing at. Ok, I know their funding is being squeezed (read 'cut') and that they are having to reorganise to try and make the (diminishing) money go further, but . . .
Hampshire Fire Services are proposing cutting the number of fire engines kept on Portsea Island from three to one. Which means that if there was a big fire on the island, additional fire engines would have to get through from Cosham, which is off the island. If there was a big fire in one of the tower blocks on the island, additional fire engines would have to get through from Cosham, or further afield. Even if the traffic wasn't too bad at the time, you can see how this would affect response times, Dear Reader. There used to be a fire station in Copnor (northern end of the island, on the island). That was closed (read 'cut') a few years back.
Tuesday the News (local paper) carried the headline "City Could Be Left Without Police Station." Once upon a time, within our memory (ie: the past thirty-five years) there were at least three police stations on the island. Now there is one and Hampshire Police Authority are suggesting closing that and relocating everyone to Havant, which is off the island and twelve to fifteen miles away.
Now I know that cutbacks mean that there are only about three police officers available per shift as things are, which gets a tad difficult during local derby football matches. Portsmouth is the second most densely populated city (after London), some of the population are criminals. It's also a port city (see above) consequently some of those who ship through Portsmouth are criminals.
It can be bad enough at present, someone can call 999, tell them about a crime being committed, and the police (already overstretched) will reply that they'll send someone as and when they become available. Which means that criminals are already getting away with it who might have been caught if there were sufficient police to respond promptly. Quite what would happen if the police had to come all the way in from Havant . . . In the rush hour . . .
I will not call these proposed changes 'Rationalisation'. They are not rational.
Meanwhle is the Chancellor continues to say 'We do not have the money' ergo 'Further cuts must be made.'
We are one of the richest nations in the world - yet we 'do not have the money'?
What was that about how you tell when a politician is lying?
*"Spoiling the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar." A nautical expression meaning false economy.
Should you be able to see the early morning sky, before it starts getting light, towards the south and west for the next month (ti' 20th February), Dear Reader, you will indeed be able to see a line up of five planets: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and (bigger gap) Jupiter. Apparently a five planet line up like this occurs only once in five hundred or so years. So this is a once-in-several-lifetimes opportunity.
But not today. Yesterday the wind blew up all day and by lunchtime the rains had arrived. It's still Glo'm of Day with Precipitation now. Fortunately round here we're fairly well drained. I pity those places, starting to dry out after the last lot, which have been innundated yet again. I pity other places flooded for the first time, like in the New Forest. There is bound to be more rain before spring comes, so it looks as if they'll be flooded a good few more times too.
One thing all this Glo'm of Day makes me regret is not having planted indoor bulbs back last autumn/winter. You know the kind of thing, Dear Reader. Hyacinths (which you can prepare for yourself by leaving them in the fridge for a month or six weeks before planting.) I grow them to flower in January, Christmas has enough going on as it is. There are Paperwhite Narcissi, which have a spicy smell; or even pots of Tête-a-tête Narcissi, though these are often available in shops and garden centres at present. Hmmm, must get to a shop or garden centre which is selling such.
Then there are seeds. We don't have much in the way of growable spaces, but we can do salad leaves, tomatoes, courgettes (which are a waste as H doesn't like them), Runner Beans, French Beans and a few other bits. We've grown the odd pumpkin, and had to be extremely careful where we've put our feet when the vine was wandering around the yard. We've grown herbs too - chives, parsely, rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, of which only the lavender remains. Hmmm, time to hunker down with a seed catalogue, or maybe a plant catalogue, and choose a few. Otherwise the temptation is merely to hunker down, perhaps with a hot chocolate and some knitting!
Or maybe time, when the Precipitation ends, to amble to the Garden Centre and see what they have available in the way of seeds. I know one thing, before anything else can be planted there will need to be a major pruning exercise on the honeysuckle, also on the Winter Jasmine, which has more or less finished flowering for this year. That needs pruning after flowering. The honeysuckle just needs reducing, by maybe 80%! Then maybe I can persuade our milkman to deliver some compost? I knew we should have kept the stuff the Window Cleaner scooped out of our guttering!
Then I fancy some pelargoniums, you know, the sort most people call 'geraniums', for all they're a completely different species. We used to have a rose scented pelargonium once. Insignificant flowers but the leaves were gorgeous. Hmmm, wonder where I can get a cutting of one of them?
The days are definitely drawing out, sunrise is before 8am and sunset around 4:45pm (at these latitudes), even if it looks more like 8:15am and 4:15pm under this Glo'm. The daylight hours are lengthening by three minutes or more per day. Don't knock it, Dear Reader, that's more than twenty minutes per week. By the end of the month (next Sunday), if the sky is clear it'll be light from before 7:45am til nearly five to five pm. Although given the forecast we'd be better making the most of tomorrow (7:47am - 16:48pm, more than 12 1/4 hours) as that will be clear while rain is forecast on and off for Sunday.
Mk, off to ponder a few possible seeds and plants for the yard and maybe, finally, make a start on the trough in the front room windowsill with salad leave seeds I've been considering for a while now. If the rain lets up long enough to fetch it all in!
Y'all have a good day now!