Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Things that go Pop in the Night!

Actually that is a little misleading
     The TV actually went 'Pop!' in the middle of 'Eight Out of Ten Cats Does Countdown' last night.
     Now yesterday had been a day of buying (or trying to buy) electrical goodies.
     On Sunday the Microwave decided it didn't like having a turntable and became a stationary table instead. Which meant having to open the door every few seconds to manually twizzle round the dish you are trying to heat up. So we decided, first thing Monday morning we would pop out and get a new one.
     We decided to go to ASDA at the end of Hessle Road in Hull as they seemed to have a good selection.
     And seeing as we were going to be on Hessle Road, we had an excursion to Boyes to buy some household bits and bobs: washing up bowl, scrubbing brushes, pyrex tureen, several meters of fabric and a new skirt.
     Then we went to ASDA - this one is a Beast of a store, it is HUGE! Anyway we found the microwave section and tried to decide which would be the best one for us. There it was, sleek, black and shiny - and under £25! Bargain! Buy It!.

     We also needed a new cooker.
     Now we don't have room in our kitchen for a conventional cooker, so for years we have had a table top version. It has an oven and two hot plates on top, but as it plugs into a normal socket, you can't have the oven and both rings on without blowing up the house.
     For a number of years this hasn't been a problem since only one of the rings works anyway. Then the oven door handle fell off last year. And the cooker really needed cleaning and why clean a cooker when you can buy a new one?
     So we thought while we were spending money, let's get a new (table top) cooker too!
     We bought the last one in Curry's, which is also near the end of Hessle Road, so after a lively discussion went there.
     The discussion was 'lively' as the last thing we bought from Curry's was a washer which we paid extra for delivery, then extra to be fitted, and even more extra for the old washer to be taken away.
     The washer was delivered ok, but the delivery chap said he couldn't fit it because there was a drip from the water pipe intake. So it wasn't fitted, and as it wasn't fitted, the old washer wasn't taken away either!
     Happily the nice plumber who came to fix the drip, fitted the new washer for us while he was there, free of charge, but said 'Why didn't he just turn off the water at the stop cock?' which is under the sink, right next to the washer.
     Anyway, after a tour of the store it appears that Curry's no longer stocks table top cookers.
     So that would have to wait.
    But No!
     When I was looking at the website of the people we buy our office paper and envelopes from, Viking, they had a table top cooker with two hot plates in stock!
     From a stationery supplier?
     Well obviously!
     Why didn't I think of that straight away!
     So paper, envelopes and a cooker were ordered.

     Last night we were feeling pretty smug. We have a new larger yet cheaper microwave, plugged in in the kitchen, a new cooker is on the way,   And still have money left over from our budget!
     Then 'Pop!' said the TV and died.
      After checking the wires, and unplugging it and plugging it back in again it is clear that we now have a TV that is of ornamental value only. Actually I should have known as things usually seem to pack up in threes, and we had replaced two electrical bits, so we should have been ready for the third one to go.
     Which is why we were in Sainsbury's at ten to eight this morning buying a new TV.
      And Graham demanded comfort food (noodles) for breakfast.



Thursday, 2 May 2019


I've just been watching an article on the morning TV which was talking about the use of plastic carrier bags. They were saying how the number of plastic bags we use has been reduced by a vast number, but that in the UK we still buy over a billion plastic bags every year. So there was a big discussion about how could we possibly use less of them.
     I sat and listened to this discussion a bit gobsmacked.
     I am 62 years old, not vastly ancient, but when I was a child growing up, there were NO plastic bags. All of our groceries were supplied in paper bags. Every grocer used to have a wad of paper bags hung on a string so they could pull one off and use it at will. You bought apples or potatoes or whatever goods you fancied and the grocer popped them in a paper bag to weigh them and for you to carry home.
     If you had a lot of shopping, it would be put into a paper carrier bag, or your own fabric shopping bag, or a basket. It wasn't difficult to handle, the only time you had trouble was if it was raining and you stood your paper bag in a puddle while you waited for a bus!
     If you use a paper bag you are helping the environment in more than one way:
First you are saving the use of a plastic bag.
Second you are using paper which can be composted or re-cycled.
Third most brown paper bags and boxes are already made of re-cycled paper so you are saving the environment twice over!
     There is nothing difficult about making bags out of paper.
     At Raven the paper we use to wrap the contents of our parcels is often paper bags. The outside paper is recycled brown paper. The paper we use to print our catalogues is from renewable sources - usually wood from farmed trees. We have been doing this all the time we have been in business, that is thirty years, but all of a sudden this has become something the big companies can boast about doing. Incidentally we don't buy bubble wrap either, all the bubble wrap or other packaging we use is stuff we are re-cycling which has been sent to us with goods we have bought.
     Doing stuff to help our planet doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. Sometimes it just needs a little thought.
    We can all make a difference by doing our own little bits.
     You don't need to superglue your chest to the road - in fact that glue is probably really not helping the environment!

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

The Green Man

This is an extract from an article on Beltane from the latest issue of the Raven Newsletter:

     This is the time of year when flowers and trees burst into life. It is no wonder that the Saxons named the month of May Thrimilch, which means Three Milk, in other words the pastures are so lush, rich and verdant that cows could be milked three times a day, instead of the usual twice a day.
     The Green Man is the symbol of this green fertility. He is the spirit in the trees, the rising of the sap, the filling of the forest.
     Beltane is one of the times of traditional folk festivals, which includes dancing around a flower be-decked Maypole, and the appearance of the magical Morris Men. The Morris Men dance out evil and dance in good. They are often accompanied by strange creatures from both christian and Pagan myths. There is St George and the Dragon - St George's Day 23rd April has acquired many traditions originally associated with Beltane - there is the Green Man or the Fuzzy Man, who can be hidden in a costume of greenery, or covered in prickly burdock burrs. And in some places there are the strange mares, the horses which may be a horses skull on a pole, which lunges and snaps as it passes by. Or it may be a strange, drum shaped creature which swoops and swirls through the crowd. These are creatures of our native Dreamtime, the mare of nightmares, the steed of the Lord of the Dead, Arawn who may be the King of the Fairies, or Lord of the Underworld.

     At Beltane the doors between the worlds grows thin because this is one of those occasions when worlds and times collide.
     What is dream, what is nightmare, what is Fairy what is spirit, what is ghost? What is night, what is day, what is now, what is then, what is yet to come?
      These are the magical cracks between the worlds, these are the places where Witches live and work, this is a time when magic is nigh

     Happy Beltane !

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Seasons Turning

Every season there is something to look forward to. And we look forward to these things because they are transient.
     They come and they pass and we won't see them again until the Wheel of the Year has made a full turn again.
     In the Spring we look forward to the new leaves appearing on the trees. I watch our hawthorn through the kitchen window and suddenly there are little beads of green, like emerald jewels appearing along its branches. They swell, almost as you watch them, and burst, popping out the tiny spikes of bright green leaves.
     Every day there are new flowers appearing in the garden. Or the new leaves of plants which will flower in the summer.
     It really is a miracle the way the barren, bare, brown earth becomes covered with leaves of wild garlic, primroses, foxgloves, alkanet and comfrey.

     At the same time the days are lengthening, the nights growing shorter. This is dramatically apparent when we change the clocks at the end of March, and the evenings are suddenly even brighter and longer.
     There is no wonder that Spring is the season of youthful Goddesses and Gods. They return from the dead, they emerge from the Earth, they are re-born and grow with the plants and the light.
     This is the time of the Maiden and those spirits which care for all young creatures. Dummuzi or Tammuz is the young shepherd who returns in Spring to the loving arms of Inanna. Attis, the young bull, returns to Kybele.
     Even the Queen of the Underworld, Persephone, puts away her crown and returns to her mother Demeter, and becomes again the Spring Goddess, Kore.
     These returns are all times of joy, and made even more joyful simply because of their transience.
     Time will pass, the plants will flower and mature. The trees leaves will change from the bright yellow-green of Spring to the darker green of the mature woods.
     The young gods will grow older, mature, become bored of their older lovers and seek new loves amongst the fresh, sweet young humans, and sow again the seeds of their own Autumnal destruction.
     But for now we shall forget the future, forget what is to come, and instead celebrate the return of Life to the Earth.
     Plant some plants, sprinkle some seeds. Make a bird table or put up some nesting boxes. Make your garden a place to welcome Life and it will also breathe new life into you.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Double Glazing (Part Deux)

Last Wednesday night we had a phone call to confirm that on Thursday 'the men' were coming!
     'What time?' I asked
     'Eight a.m.'
     We were (of course) up extra early on Thursday morning so we could move things away from the windows, check that EVERYTHING had been removed, take down curtains and dismantle Graham's gaming computer which is in front of one of the windows - this meant unplugging various wires (will we remember what plugs into where?)
     At eight a.m. nothing happened.
     Nothing continued to happen until nearly nine a.m. when two vans turned up and I was asked to move my car so they could park in front of the house.
     MANY men got out of the two vans and began to unload MANY windows and two doors.
     'You are having all windows changed.' said a lad with a clipboard.
     'Not as far as we know,' I said, 'Only the big windows and not the back door.'
     'Which windows are you starting with?' I asked
     'All of them.' he replied and went away.
     Graham took the dogs out for a walk while EVERYTHING commenced.
     There were men all over the house, upstairs and down, and I was astonished to find that their first job was smashing our existing windows to remove the glass. I'd sort of imagined that they would run glass cutters around the frames and lift out the glass in panes, but no it was hammers, big gloves and pincers. And it seemed that, yes, it was all of them at once!
     By the time Graham and the dogs returned I was sitting in a very breezy living room, with openings to either side - well at least I was getting plenty of fresh air.
     Once all the windows and doors were off, the openings were checked, slight adjustments made to the ready-made frames and these seemed to be quickly slipped into place and secured with very long brass screws to the walls. There was much galloping up and down stairs, hammering, banging, sawing and drilling, but soon they were on to the finishing touches. The windows were cleaned inside and out, sealant squirted around the frames and smoothed into place,and all grit and dust cleaned from the window sills.
     Just before they left we were instructed how to use the new locks, which Graham has mastered but I can't get the hang of.
     We also found that yes, ALL the windows have been changed and both doors.
      But the back door has a large dog flap and a large glass panel in it. Unfortunately the glass is frosted, so negates the whole point of why we wanted a glass panel - so we could see out into the back garden and watch the dogs and wildlife. But at least the dogs are catered for.
      They were all done by 2.30ish so only five and half hours of disruption. As soon as they'd gone Graham got the vacuum cleaner out and went round the whole house - it was amazing how much tiny glass 'sand' and pieces he picked up.
       The fire draws ok and the dogs are getting used to their new door.
       The fitted doors look nice, they are both black wood effect, and I'm sure the house is far more insulated, which we are told will make it warmer in the winter.
      It just looks a bit too swish and posh to be our home. We are no longer rustic and a bit country shabby.
       I am sure we will soon get used to it - and a few coloured glass bottles in the windows will help matters enormously!

     Incidentally, when I had taken this photo, I found that I could not close the new front door, so we shall be seeing at least one of the workmen again before too long!

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Double Glazing (part 1)

After living in our (rented) home for thirty odd years, with single glazing, no central heating and one coal fire in the living room, our landlords have decided that we are to have double glazing fitted.
     They did ask us if we had any objection, which was nice of them, but as they are spending the money and it is their house we didn't think it would be right to object to it. Besides which we are told that it might make the house a bit warmer - and we could certainly do with that in the Winter!
     The first chap who came to look at the house for the new glazing, before Christmas, told us it was up to us which windows and doors were replaced, which surprised us, but sounded good.
     Our main concern has always been that we like our back door. It overlooks the back garden and has a large pane of clear glass in the top half, so you have a good view out, so we can watch the wildlife and also the dogs. Also we have a large dog-flap in the bottom part so that the dogs can come and go as they please, and you don't have to be up and down constantly letting them in and out.
     About a fortnight ago we had a second visitation, this time from a chap who needed to be inside to measure the windows and door(s) for the final fitting.
     Now this chap did not like us, our dogs or our decor (distinctly 'witchy') or the coloured bottles we have in the windows.

The only thing he actually said to me and to Graham, twice each, was that EVERYTHING needed to be taken out of the windows. EVERYTHING, do you understand? EVERYTHING.
     So we got the impression that the windows needed to be empty, but he was such an unpleasant chap, we didn't feel able to ask any questions or mention what we actually wanted eg to retain the back door.
     The only thing I got out of him that it would be around a fortnight until the actually fitting of the windows.
     But we had concerns after watching him measure EVERYTHING that what we wanted was not going to enter any of his equations.
     We told our son about the meeting and as his job is a building construction manager, he pointed out that as we have an open fire we need trickle vents in the windows and the phone junction box in the front window can't be moved by us, so he got in touch with the landlord's agents and spoke to them. They again confirmed (and also confirmed with the landlord) that if we don't want a back door fitting, we don't have to have one.
    So the window fitters are due on Thursday - so will we get to keep the back door? Will they have a hissy fit about the front window with the phone stuff?
    Will Bridie run away from home? will we be able to keep Tallulah from jumping all over them in a happy manner?
    Will the bottles make a triumphant return to the windows?

     Watch this space ...

Tuesday, 12 February 2019


It is amazing how well you can manage with only one working eye.
     A couple of years ago (well make that three) I'd noticed that my left eye was becoming increasingly foggy. At first I put this down to the fact that one of the dogs had jumped up at me and caught me in that eye with its paw, and I thought had damaged the retina. So I thought it might get better on its own.
     By the time I'd realised that it wasn't getting better, but was gradually getting worse, I had also got used to only having one working eye. The devil of it was that my left eye had been the stronger one, so the right eye was not quite so good to start with. But never mind, as long as you have one working eye, it doesn't make a great deal of difference to your life.
     Then in autumn last year I suddenly noticed that the left eye was starting to show signs that it too was starting to go foggy.
      When that happened I realised I was going to have to give in and go to see the doctor.
      Now, the last time I had seen our doctor was approximately 20 years previously.
       I've never liked going to the doctor, and especially as I have always been of the spherical persuasion and as I was growing up, whenever I went to our old family doctor (not the nice chap we currently have), whatever I went for, the doctor could somehow attribute it to my weight.
     'Oh, you've got ear-ache? Would you just get on the scales for me?'
     'Yes that is chickenpox, can you just get on the scales?'
     'Here is some wart ointment - oh and would you just get on the scales for me?'
      So much so that I have been on a permanent diet, or series of diets, since I was about ten years old and was prescribed amphetemines (which did nothing to help incidentally).
     Anyhow, I had avoided going to the doctor, but realised that this time I really would have to give in and go.
     Our current doctor is a lovely chap of Irish extraction who checked my eyes and said 'Yes, you've got cataracts in both eyes so I'll get you referred to the eye hospital in Hull. Don't worry it's really quick and easy. I was going to say that you are a bit young for having cataracts, but I'm younger than you and I had it done a few years back.'
     At the beginning of December last year, Mike (our son) took me to the Eye Hospital for an assessment, where they checked my eyesight and when I got to see the consultant, he read the papers, checked my eyes and said 'Yes you have cataracts in both eyes, I'll put you down for surgery on the left one, with a follow on, on the right.'
     So last week on the 5th of Feb I went to the Eye Hospital for my first surgery. There was a lot of waiting around as all patients were apparently told to turn up at 8 am and then seemingly randomly we all went through the build up towards surgery.
     At first the waiting rooms were packed with people, each patient had an accompanying person - usually to help them get to and from the hospital (we were told we would not be able to drive ourselves home, or go on public transport). So Mike again took me.
     The first process was checking blood pressure and making sure you knew who you were, why you were there and which eye was being done.
    Then we were given a series of eye drops, before which you confirmed who you were, why you were there and which eye was being done.
     Eventually it came to my turn and I was taken to be prepared for the serious anasthetic. The anesthetist and her assistant made sure I was a comfortable as possible and then did stuff to the eye both to numb it and to keep it from moving. They told me I wouldn't see anything during the operation, but as I couldn't see out of the left eye anyway that was no different to usual.
They'd also told me I would be covered with a sheet, with only the eye peeping out of a hole in the sheet - so I'd imagined something like a scene out of a horror or surrealist movie. Actually the sheet is suspended over a frame, so it is like being in a little tent.
     Once they started the op I did see nothing, just the odd glow or shadow or fuzzy coloured lights. There was nothing much to hear either, the surgeon spoke to his team quietly, and there was a noise a bit like a muted but high pitched dental drill. Of course I felt nothing either.
     I'd been told that the surgery itself would take around 10-20 minutes, but it seemed a lot quicker than that. I didn't have time to get bored or anxious, I was soon done and being wheeled out of the operating theatre.
     I was fitted with a plastic shield over the eye and told I could take it off at home after six hours. As the op was done using a local anasthetic, I had been able to have breakfast, and there was no need for any recovery time in hospital afterwards either. So with two bottles of eyedrops and instruction leaflets we were very quickly on our way home.
     The main things I was told was : don't bend down for 24 hours - if something falls on the floor, leave it! And: no heavy lifting for a week.
      It is now a week since my op and within a couple of days the sight in my left eye was as good, if not better than the right eye and it continues to improve.
     But the one thing that has really struck me is how vibrant colours are.
     Because the cataracts are very gradually making the world fuzzy, you don't realise that they are also making colours softer and more muted. I know that seeing contrasts was more difficult - a bucket of coal was just a black something full of black, I couldn't see individual lumps of coal - but to see just how purple, purple is, or how bright turquoise and pink are ....
     Now that is a wonderful thing.