Thursday, 23 May 2019

Virtue signalling is all about words, not deeds.

Sarah Vine's article on International Women's Day 2016 came as somewhat of a surprise. I don't normally read The Mail, but it was the only newspaper available that day. I found myself agreeing with most of what was written, beginning with

"The main reason I hate IWD is because I am not stupid enough to think that such a shallow outpouring of faux solidarity will, for one single second, improve the lives of women genuinely suffering around the world. It is simply an exercise in self-congratulation for a pampered, preachy and increasingly peevish sisterhood that has lost its way and is fast losing sympathy with even its staunchest supporters."

One of the great malaises of our age is virtue signalling. This is finding ways of letting the world know how good and compassionate you are - without actually doing anything to help anyone. Instead of volunteering at your local church, or signing up for shifts at your neighbourhood animal care centre (i.e getting your hands dirty), you wear a wristband indicating your support for some fashionable cause, or sign an online petition, or tweet something.

The extent to which some social media (I'm looking at you, Facebook and Twitter) is full of people sharing 'support' for world events and 'special days', has become more than irritating. I've long held the opinion that people re-tweet and share to signal their solidarity with various causes because they have lost sight of what supporting fellow human beings (and other living creatures) is all about.

My Dad believed that charity begins at home. By that, he didn't just mean the family home, or giving money to charities. From Roman times up until recently, "charity" was a state of mind, a mentality of kindness and benevolence.)

After he retired, Dad worked as a volunteer in his local residents' association office, helping the 'old folk' get things done on the estate, be it a broken window, a failed  boiler, tax or pension problems or other matters.  He continued in this role until chronic illness kept him housebound a couple of years before he died. A labour supporter and former trade union rep, he'd put into practice what he'd preached throughout his life.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Goodbye old Girl

A chapter closes.

Today, we took our farewell of our boat. She was moved from Blackthorne Marina, on the River Nene, to Whilton Marina, on the Grand Union Canal. We bought her in 1994 and had many adventures, during which she kept us safe.

What would have taken us at least five days, took only two and a half. We'd hired a professional boat mover ( ex-Royal Engineer, Denis ) who picked her up the day Earl's Barton lock 're-opened after nearly six month's closure, and steamed into Whilton, less than three days later.

It didn't take Blackthorne Marina long to put another boat on our old mooring. We delivered Denis back to the marina to collect his car, and spotted this shorter narrow boat in our old spot.

It was a beautiful day - one on which it would have been good to be out on the water. The River Nene beckoned.

Earlier in the day, we'd arrived at Whilton a little frazzled. The Sat Nav didn't recognise the new roads along which we were driving. We spent the last 20 minutes of our journey being re-calculated and sent on some very strawberry shortcuts.

We arrived, at last, and there, in front of us, was Levant, looking good after four years of neglect.

I took Alf to say 'adieu and 'bon courage'. Just as we approached the pontoon, a mother and her herd of ducklings launched themselves down the slipway. Alf couldn't resist a little lunge. He'd missed breakfast and quite fancied a few snack - sized chicks.

After dropping Denis at Blackthorne Marina, we had lunch at Ringstead's Mill Tea Rooms, overlooking the mill pond.

It reminded us of days long gone, when we dined aboard.

Oh for some more days, out on the water,  simply messing about in boats. Alas, those days are behind us.

Today was extremely sad.

Friday, 1 March 2019

And they said it wouldn't work

A WIP for St David's Day

The odds were stacked against us. We were both penniless students and I was still a teenager. We had nowhere to live, in fact, we were living in student accommodation in different cities. But the taxman was offering a rebate of the previous year's tax if we married before the 1st April. So, we married on 20th February 1970.

Apart from 2010, which was special, we don't mark the February  date. Rather, we celebrate the date we became a couple, almost one year earlier, on March 1st, 1969.

It amazes me just how much has happened since then, how much we've changed and yet how some things never change. We've had good times and bad, but I never once regretted the decision to put the relationship on a legal footing.

It was the end of the 'Swinging 60s' and they said 'all you need is love'. Add to that a lot of hard work, good luck, and making the most of opportunities offered, and here we are, 51 years later, still working on proving the naysayers wrong.

Monday, 18 February 2019

2019 Update - Alfie

Steep learning curve with our newest family member. He's a full-time job. 

15 December
Alfie graduated with honours from Dogs Trust Dog School this morning.

Alfie at Dog School graduation. Instagram video clip.

24th December

Merry Christmas from Alf via Playdays Country Boarding for Cats & Dogs

7th January
Took Alfie to The Field at Woof 'n' Wag Dog Training . After being put firmly in his place by one of the regulars (border collie), for an over - excited greeting, Alfie had a great time playing chase with new furry friends in a secure environment.

9th January

Took Alf to The Field Woof 'n' Wag Dog Training at lunchtime, today. He had a great time off - lead. I suspect he 's done some agility before, so will look at doing some work with him here.

14 January

Took Alf to The Field, again this morning Woof 'n' Wag Dog Training. He had a wonderful time. MWNN played 'auntie' to the dogs who wanted a cuddle instead of a walk in a muddy field. Alf showed his ability at agility.

16 January

Some pics of Alf, taken at yesterday's Playday Country Boarding for Cats & Dogs. I asked the Supervisor if Alf ever had a nap. She said 'no', but he has time out and rests. He chose to share his bed with a rather sweet whippet.

21 January

Alf met three Salukis, as well as his usual chums, this morning at Woof 'n' Wag Dog Training . He really enjoyed playing with them. He also tried out over the hay bales.

28 January

Finally - had a game of "fetch the ball " in The Field Woof 'n' Wag Dog TrainingAt least ten minutes continuous retrieve, drop, sit, while ignoring all distractions. It s a first !

29 January

A very big thank you to Rosebuds cafe, Hitchin. for the warm welcome you gave Alfie and me on this bitterly cold morning. Alfie says "thanks for the chicken ". We Love Hitchin.

31 January

A brisk walk with the big dogs, in The Field Woof 'n' Wag Dog Training this morning. One poor boy was in the " time - out " kennel.

6th February

Alf is really getting the hang of this fetch - the - ball lark. at Woof 'n' Wag Dog Training this afternoon.

12 February

Took Alf to Woof 'n' Wag Dog Training 's Field this morning. He had a great time and was very polite to all the new playmates he met, even the anxious French Bulldog . He seems very fond of greyhounds, probably because they are as fast as he is. He was keen to help with the construction work that was going on, and play with the remains of a tennis ball retrieved from the Pointer.

The weather was mild and bright. I glimpsed Kevin the Buzzard over the tall trees, but he didn't come close enough to get a photo.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Two sickies in the house

Thank goodness for Ocado deliveries.

Last week it was Dave in the onion van - wonder who it will be tomorrow?

Could do with an Ocado version of dog-player.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Valentine's Day flowers

and cards are still with us, seven days later.

Unfortunately, so is the chesty virus that came calling at the same time.

Now MWNN has fallen foul of the lurgy, it's thank goodness for our new cleaner, and an Ocado order that arrives tomorrow morning.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Hitchin Remembers

Thank you to JP Asher for the following report in today's Comet 24

Hundreds turned out on Saturday for a celebration of crafts in Hitchin – featuring a display of knitted poppies honouring the town’s fallen First World War heroes.

Some of the Hitchin Stitchin' members who contributed poppies to the Remembrance Sunday display at Festiwool (L-R) Philippa Gregory, Patricia Harris, Pam Coxon, Alicia Hammond and Hillary Ide. Picture: Mia Beskeen

The display at Festiwool, held this year at The Priory School, comprised 99 poppies, each representing one of the 99 Hitchin troopers killed in 1917.

The Hitchin Stitchin' Remembrance Day display of 99 red poppies at Festiwool. Picture: Mia Beskeen
The exhibit was particularly apt as the festival for lovers of textile art, sewing, knitting and crochet was held on Armistice Day.

Patricia Harris, one of the Hitchin Stitchin’ team behind the display, told the Comet: “We have a museum that hasn’t been open for four years, so people haven’t had a chance to pay their respects – and 1917 is the year of Passchendaele.We decided to make poppies for them, and, because this was on Armistice Day, we made it into a display.”

Festiwool chief Philippa Gregory said the new venue at the school had been a great success, with 850 people in – and that she hoped it would be even bigger next year.

Saturday, 4 November 2017


A Capella. No instruments, just the voice of Midge Ure and the amazing talent of Sons of Pitches

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Summer is back

although nature seems to be in Autumn already.

Blackberries @Stanwick Lakes

The blackberries are almost all gone. This speckled wood butterfly is feasting on the last of the ripe berries.

Elderberries @Stanwick Lakes

The elderberries are ripe and ready for picking

We had a day on the boat today. It needed cleaning and clearing of many spiders' webs. When we went on board, MWNN noticed there was no power; neither mains nor battery power was working. After a bit of help from a neighbouring boater, we managed to get the mains power working, but the batteries were absolutely flat.

While MWNN commenced with the vacuum, I took Ron for walk number 2, along Stanwick Lakes cycle track.

The track runs between the woodland that separate the lakes and runs alongside the river Nene.

We passed a lone fisherman on the fishing lake opposite the lake in which the boat is moored.

We watched boaters enjoying the side branch of the river, between Watts Marine moorings and Blackthorne Marina,

and noisy paddleboarders (and their dogs) on the other side of the bridge Ron and I were crossing.

I'd expected more people on the cycle track, but it was no busier than other times of the year when the weather is fine.

There was a group of cyclists, a couple of runners, some walkers, and a pair of horse-riders.

Unusually, I was the sole dog-walker on the track.

We about-turned after the bridge, and returned to a clean boat in time for lunch. Then it was nap time before tea and home. The battery maintenance box was still flashing red (and green by the end of the day). We return tomorrow to check the status of the batteries.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Some things which were lost and some things which were found

MWNN and I are slowly getting the 'stuff' which was displaced re-integrated (or dumped, given to charity, swapped) into its correct storage space.

Some things, which we thought were gone, have re-apeared (eg filters for the kettle), and duplicates (six sets of earphones for various electronic devices and two picnic sets).

But one important item has failed to materialise.

I recently had a large Lowry print re-framed, because the old frame was broken after falling off the wall in the guest room, for the third time. This reminded me (don't ask, I arrived at it by a very convoluted route)of a Batik I had made after our cruise through the French Ardennes into Belgium in 2000. There it was that we came across the legend of Quatre Fils D'Aymon. The idea of the magnificent horse, Bayard, carrying the four sons of Aymon away from Charlemagne's army fired my imagination. I decided to work an image, not in embroidery (too large a project), but in batik. As we cruised, I kept a notebook of photos, sketches, and information, and made rough designs on which to base the batik.

I made a mock-up in applique, which was used as the template for the batik piece.

I was fairly pleased with the result and had it framed at the local art shop. It hung for a while on MWNN's bedroom wall. Then it was replaced by shelving when MWNN's study was re-converted back into a guest room, and the garage conversion became his new study (2005).

Since 2005, I have not seen the framed batik. There has been plenty of opportunity for finding it as we re-organise the study, conservatory, utility, and larder and remove things from the loft to create more archival storage space. But nary a sign of it.

I may have to print off a small version of the original image (as it was prior to framing) and keep it as a memento.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Progress and set-backs

The trip to Norwich for MWNN's cataract operation was beset with difficulties. The actual op. was very successful, and MWNN is planning a re-run on the other eye soon.

One of the problems we encountered was the location of our accommodation for the four-day trip.

It was very centrally located, right next to the Cathedral, where there was no long-term parking, even with a visitor's permit. To be fair, the nearest multi-story car-park was a mere 3 minutes walk from the house; but the weather wasn't kind - it rained - a lot.

Add to that the regular need to negotiate Norwich's one-way-system to get to the hospital, less than friendly local motorists, and a the Bint on the Sat Nav not being up-to-date with the local restrictions, and stress levels rose every time.

On our arrival, I discovered the local 'park' in which Ron could be exercised. James Stuart Garden was literally round the corner, in the next street.

The path leads from the main entrance gate to a circular walk around the main planting area. Just to the left, is a side gate, hidden in a very ancient yew hedge.

One entering, the scent of bluebells soothes frayed nerves, and the areas left un-mowed are filling with wild flowers.

I told MWNN about this convenient area, which he used later that day, for Ron's final outing.

It's very easy to find because of the beautiful entrance porch.

MWNN ventured further afield later in the week, and found the Cathedral Close.

There's no car parking (except for residents) so the chance of visiting the Cathedral and leaving Ron in the car, were nil.

On the final morning of the trip, I walked Ron to the Cathdral Close, taking the pedestrian route, along Horse Fair Loke, which forms part of the (gated) Riverside Walk.

View from the corner, approaching the Close.

By the morning after the op., MWNN reported that his vision was 20/20. He was told not to drive for a few days, but, after I confessed to having a vertigo attack while waiting for him in the hospital car park, he insisted on driving the following day.

Vertigo was just the tip of the iceberg. I'd been nursing a painful left shoulder for days before the Norwich trip. It was easing off as we travelled to Norwich. By the following day, it had swapped shoulders and the pain grew worse throughout the trip. Breathing in was painful as were certain movements. I put it down to a bad sleeping position and a very soggy bed in the Cathedral Street house.

By the time we arrived home, the pain was quite bad and I felt absoultely shattered. Sleeping was virtually impossible, but I still put it down to a muscle problem and didn't think of taking my blood pressure until Bank Holiday Monday. It was very high. Only a few weeks ago I had thought of asking to taper off the BP medication.

I hate taking medication, specifically long-term for chronic conditions. 

I looked up my old LJ Blog to find the period during which I was diagnosed with high blood pressure (235/113). It was during the long hot summer of 2003. The heat was killing people by the thousands in France, and we were aboard a narrowboat, where temperatures soared to over 40 degrees.

I managed to get an appointment with my GP early on Tuesday morning. The 'muscle' pain, was pleurisy (should have suspected when both lungs were involved), probably the result of the head colds and sinus infections. The BP was high, but falling, and was probably the result of stress and pain over the past few weeks.

Looking back on my entries for August, after we returned from the South of France, it is clear that the heat played a major part in my problem. MWNN was away in Ireland when I had the diagnosis. He flew back early because he was worried about me being on my own.  Add high BP to my chronic chest complaint and it seems wise to stay on the medication indefinitely.

But I don't like it.

I'd like to visit Norwich again, to appreciate what I couldn't during the recent trip.

The area around the Cathedral is ancient, with a history I would like to explore.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

More boats

MWNN, Ron, and I spent a night onboard last week, to escape the clutter of the house and avail of the good weather.

We also managed to reorganise some of the boat's storage spaces and create more worktop space, by relocating the microwave,

The moorings have been extended, with new pontoons installed over by the woods, between the marina and the fishing lake.

It's not a spot in which I'd like to be moored, as the mosquitoes thrive in the 'dead' water beside the bank.

I do, however, envy this boat's outdoor seating space, which  will be shaded once the trees are in leaf.