Friday, 28 April 2017

Literally ....

Graham is a very straight forward kind of chap. He doesn't do subtlety.
    This means that over the years I have eventually learnt that it is no good giving him hints about what I would like, as these are inevitably ignored.
     So if I say something like 'It is a shame there are no chocolates in the house.' all I will get is an agreement. What I need to do is write in big letters on the shopping list 'CHOCOLATES'. That sort of hint gets Graham's attention and may well produce a result.
     Unless he gets distracted by beer, of course. Or loses the shopping list. Or forgets to look at it.
     We have been together now thirty-eight years, so you would think I would know and remember that he is also very literal minded. So I have to be careful how I phrase things too.
    This morning I forgot. Which is why we now have carrots scattering the back lawn.
     This morning Graham decided that the carrots in the bottom of the fridge were past their best and was going to bin them. But I like to try and compost stuff like that, so I said:
    'Rather than putting them in the bin, can you chuck them on the back garden?'
     Now what I had imagined would happen is that Graham would take the carrots and go out into the back garden, beyond the fire pit and behind the comfrey, where there is a wild and nettley bit of garden, where grass clippings etc get emptied.
     What I did not expect was for Graham to stand at the back door and literally throw the carrots out into the back garden, in a 'whee!' moment of exuberance.
     They do look quite pretty against the green

     And I have just realised why they are still there.
    When I saw them scattered over the lawn, I explained to Graham what I had expected him to do with them. And he said 'Oh!'
    What I should then have said is 'So will you go pick them up and put them in the nettley bit?'
    I forgot the instruction bit.

     Eventually, between the two of us, the carrots will get removed from the lawn and put on the compost heap. And peace will be restored.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Hazzards of Car Ownership

Some years ago now, our son. Mike, bought himself a new (second hand) car.
     This car was so new that it had a Manual with it.
     A Manual which told you what each of the buttons did. We were all impressed.
     Until we came to read the Manual, and it appeared that everything to do with the car had the potential to result in serious injury or DEATH!
     For example: 'These are the buttons which raise and lower your windows. Doing this while the vehicle is in motion could distract the driver, causing an accident, which could result in serious injury or DEATH!
     'Here is your radio and CD player: inserting a CD or selecting a channel on the radio while the vehicle is in motion could distract the drivers' attention, causing an accident which could result in serious injury or DEATH!'
     It didn't have a tailgate or that would definitely have had very serious safety useage notes - no doubt opening or closing the tailgate while the vehicle was in motion could result in serious injury or DEATH!

     A couple of years ago, Graham managed to hit himself on the forehead while closing our tailgate.
     We were in Sainsbury's car park and he had just loaded the shopping into the back of the car.
     I was already in the drivers seat and when I heard the tailgate slam shut, and glanced in the mirror to see no signs of Graham, I assumed he had rushed off to return the trolley - he has the turn of speed of a young gazelle at times.
     What I didn't realise was that he had hit himself and fallen to the ground behind the car that I was now reversing out of the parking space.
     Happily I reverse slowly and stopped dead when there was a frantic thump on the back of the car.
     I got out to find Graham bleeding magnificently from his self-inflicted head wound and being helped up by two French gentlemen.
     When we got home I saw on the tail gate there was a bloody hand print, which looked like there had been a gruesome murder and I'd obviously been transporting the body!
     Graham still has a scar on his forehead from that encounter. A permanent reminder to be careful how you shut the tail gate.

     So, last week, he did it again ....
     This time I was looking in my mirror, so I saw him go down like a pole-axed ox as he hit himself on the head with the car door. So I didn't reverse over him. As a loving and caring wife, I also managed not to laugh.
     Also this time, as he had managed to hit himself right on top of the head, there was no blood!

     I think maybe I need to write him a check list to use when shutting the tailgate:
1)    Stand well back
2)    Make sure that no part of your body, particularly the head, is beneath the tailgate.
3)    Close the door slowly until it is past ALL body parts
4)    Push the door closed from the outside

Tuesday, 14 February 2017


You remember Graham was looking a bellows?
     Well, with our son's help, bellows were selected and ordered online (together with a metronome - no he is not musical, unless you count the trump-et involuntary - and stamp hinges (the one birthday present I have specifically asked for.))

   But when the bellows arrived today, they were not bellows as I was imagining.You know, two wooden paddles joined by leather/plastic and a pokey end where the air gets blown out. No, this is an altogether more 'boys toy' kind of bellows.l Well actually, technically, they aren't bellows at all. They are, or it is, a 'barbecue fan'. In matt black plastic and looking very like a 1920's gangster's Tommy Gun. You hold it in one hand and the other turns a handle as quickly as you can manage which blows out a constant stream of air.
     None of this blow air out, suck air, dust, smoke and ashes in!
     This wonder of modern technology was also under £3! Making it incredibly good value for money - and effectively silencing my thoughts on expense (they were actually cheaper than my stamp hinges!).

     Graham is now downstairs, happily blowing at the fire with his bellows gun.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Iceberg Shortage!

On the breakfast news today, the lead story appeared to be that there is a shortage of iceberg lettuces.
     Now either there was very little happening in the news today, or this is a clever marketing ploy. Somehow I suspect the latter:
     'How can we get the customers to buy lettuces in the depths of Winter, when it is freezing outside and blowing a gale? I know! We'll say there is a shortage of iceberg lettuces! People are always daft enough to panic and bulk buy if we say: 'Don't Panic! If we all buy sensibly, there will be enough iceberg lettuces to go around!' Oh and to make sure people understand there is a shortage, we will ration the lettuces. Customers can have no more than three iceberg lettuces.'
     Now, I don't know about you, but if I were to buy ONE iceberg lettuce it would last me a week, or maybe two, or at least until it starts to dissolve into green goo in the salad box of the fridge - probably three weeks is my estimate.
     I cannot see any circumstances where I would ever feel the need to buy THREE iceberg lettuces.
     'Aha!', says the spokesperson from the salad vegetable growers association, 'But it takes seventeen weeks to grow a lettuce. So even if we plant more lettuces now, it will be seventeen weeks until we can harvest them.'
     Well, frankly, I think I can wait seventeen weeks until I can buy an iceberg lettuce - that would make it the middle of May. 'Cast ne'er a clout till May be out', oh well, better give it a few more weeks to be sure.
     To be honest I think it is more than seventeen weeks since I bought my last iceberg lettuce. And so far, it being February and the coldest part of the Winter and all, I really do not have the urge to swap warm soups and stews, chips and fish finger butties for the delights of salad, no matter how high it is piled with iceberg lettuce.
     So if anyone is worried that they may be running short of iceberg lettuce, you can tell them wherever you shop, that Chris said you can have hers.

Sunday, 29 January 2017


Today Graham is not happy with me.
     The reason is that he has decided he wants to buy a pair of bellows to encourage the fire to burn more quickly.
    And the reason he is not happy with me is because I have vetoed the idea.
     My argument is that we have been lighting the fire for well over thirty years without the aid of bellows, so why do we need them now?
     And I suspect Graham's argument is: 'But I want to play with some bellows!'
     I know that if we buy some bellows, they will be used once then stashed by the fireplace and never used again. But is this a good enough argument to say 'No.'? Would I be better off allowing the bellows to be bought? Graham would be happy, I wouldn't have to endure the hurt silences and it wouldn't actually be that expensive a purchase.
     He might be right - it might be a good idea - not having any experience of bellows, I could be wrong. It is certainly a less scary prospect than some of his methods of 'encouraging' the fire to burn - parafin, barbeque lighting fluid. It would be worth it to avoid those.

     Graham has taken the dog out for a walk.
     By the time he gets back I will have talked myself round to the idea that having a pair of bellows is a Good Idea - or at least an 'OK' one.
     So, looks like we shall be buying bellows after all.

p.s. Graham is now happily choosing bellows
       and a metronome.....

Thursday, 19 January 2017

St Agnes Eve Spells

St Agnes Eve is one of the traditional nights of the year for performing love divination spells, to find out who your future spouse may be.
     Most of these were designed for girls or young women to use, but most can be adapted for a man to try.
     The first is a Scottish spell which instructs that you should go out to a ploughed field at midnight and take a handful of grain with you. Cast it about, as if you are sowing the field and say:
Agnes sweet, Agnes fair,
Hither, hither now repair,
Bonny Agnes let me see,
The lad who is to marry me.

A chap could simply say 'The one who is to marry me.' or 'the lass'. The spirit of your future spouse should then be seen following after you, as if mowing the grain - or you might dream about them.

The next spell says that you should 'take a row of pins', this goes back to when pins were sold stuck into rows in paper. I would suggest making your own row of pins in a paper, and for this purpose 13 pins would be a good number - or 21 as the 21st is St Agnes' saint day.
     So, take a row of pins, and as you take a pin from the paper say a Pater Noster (Our Father) and stick the pin in your sleeve. Continue doing this, one prayer for each pin, until you have transferred all the pins from the paper to your sleeve, then go to bed without saying anything else and you will dream of your spouse.

Take a sprig of rosemary, and a sprig of thyme, sprinkle each with a few drops of water (the older versions of this spell say this should be a few drops of your own urine) and put one in each shoe. Put the shoes by your bed and say:
St Agnes, that's to lovers kind,
Come, ease the troubles of my mind.
I pray this night in dreams to see
The one who'll love and marry me.

Some say that you should fast all day (or from midday, or miss your evening meal). And make sure that no-one kisses you today, not even a child. Or at supper time hard boil an egg, take out the yolk and fill the void with salt. Eat the egg just before you go to bed and your future spouse will appear in your dreams offering you a drink of water.

Finally another traditional spell which says that you should knit your right garter about your left leg stocking as you say the following verse:
This knot I make, this knot I knit,
To know the thing, I know not yet,
That I may know, that I may see,
The one who is to marry me,
Where he/she may go, in what array,
And what he/she works at every day.

As we don't wear stockings and garters these days, you could make a Witches Ladder instead. Take some blue ribbon, yarn or cord and tie nine knots in it. Tie one knot at each of the commas in the verse, and the last one at the end.
     Sleep with the cord beneath your pillow, to have an ominous dream!

     Good luck.

Monday, 16 January 2017

On the First Flyer of the Year

I really feel that we are fully back into our work routine now.
     Today we took our first Mail Shot of the year to the Post Office - we call them 'Flyers' as they wing their way through the postal system to our customers.
     No, there wasn't a nostalgic tear in the eye as Graham headed off with carrier bags full of envelopes. But there was a sigh of satisfaction.
     It is lovely finding new things to tempt people with. Things I find fun, interesting or pretty - and always magical. But there is always the slight worry that maybe I am the only one who will find these fun, interesting pretty and/or magical.
     When we first started Raven and we really weren't sure what people would like, we created a little form which said: 'This is all my fault ...... ' for each of us to sign and to take responsibility if we were investing in something which the other thought was distinctly 'iffy'.
     I must admit that I filled in far more of these forms than Graham did. Which I like to think means that I am more adventurous, creative and imaginative than him. But probably means that I am far more likely to go 'Oooooh, Shiney!'
    This time, one of the new items we found are some wonderful black glass bottles, in the shape of a skull. These are ideal for a Special Edition Black Bottle of Mortica - a special spell to contain the energies of an enemy, the spell is supplied with the Black Bottle.

     Now I think these are fab, and so does Graham, so we bought an armful of them.
     But whether anyone else will agree with us, we shall soon find out.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Twelfth Night Traditions

For a start, I have not been able to find out why we celebrate twelve days of christmas. It is all rather speculative.
     The first two significant dates in the life of Jesus are his birthday (which was originally celebrated on at least six different dates, none of which was in December), and the visit to his birthplace by the Three Wise Men, or Three Kings. These dates were fixed as the 25th December - largely to cover up the birthday of Mithras, which was already celebrated on that day - and the 6th of January - known as Epiphany.
     You have to shuffle about with the calendar whether you count the 'Twelve Days' from christmas day, in which case the 12th day of christmas is the 5th of January, the Eve of Epiphany, or from Boxing Day, which makes Epiphany the twelfth day.
     So Twelfth Night can be either the evening of the 5th or the 6th of January.
     There are further complications in that some communities retain the date of christmas as it would be in the old Julian calendar, which makes christmas day either the 6th or 7th of Jan., with Twelfth Night on the 17th, 18th or 19th!
     What we mainly know about Twelfth Night is that it was a time of great celebration, feasting and fun. The tradition of celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Men or Kings is found in many countries. In Spain and France special ring shaped cakes are bakes, stuffed and decorated with preserved fruit. This was carried into Vodu with the festival of Les Rois (the Kings) celebrated on the 6th of January.
     In Britain the Twelfth Night Cake was a rich and fruity affair, which also had little trinkets hidden within it. A bean meant that the finder was the King of the night, a pea was for the Queen. But you might find a silver coin symbolising wealth, or a clove which said you were a villain, or a twig for a fool. These were later moved to the christmas pudding instead.
     Alcoholic punch, or a drink called Lambswool, was another feature of the celebration, and was served in the Wassail Bowl. Wassail is an Anglo Saxon word, a contraction of wax hael, meaning 'grow healthy' or the equivalent of our modern toast 'Good Health!'
     Twelfth Night was also a time when Mummers performed their plays, which usually included the death and resurrection of the hero, symbolising the rebirth of the green world in the Spring. These plays reminded folk that even though it may be dark and cold, Spring will come again.
     It has become the tradition that christmas decorations should be taken down by Twelfth Night, although originally they stayed up until Candlemas - the old Celtic festival of Imbolg - 2nd of February.
Party Games
     There are many games which were played during the Twelfth Night party. Perhaps the best known is Snapdragon, where raisins and other preserved fruit have flaming brandy poured over them, and you take turns to snatch the fruit out of the flames. This is not as painful as it sounds, and looks really pretty by candlelight.
     There were games involving eggs (which symbolise the new life of the sun, reborn at the Solstice) such as throwing an egg and catching it. The two people moving further apart at each successful catch.
     Pass the Slipper was another popular game. All present form a circle, with one in the centre who is blindfolded. Then as music is played, the others pass a slipper one to the next, behind their backs. When the music stops, the one in the middle takes off the blindfold and tries to guess who has the slipper. If they guess right, the one who had the slipper takes their place in the middle and is blindfolded. If there is a large group of revellers, the guesser is allowed three tries.