Tuesday, 10 August 2021

The Joys of Phone Ownership

 A week or two back it was our wedding anniversary and Mike's birthday. So we decided to go out 'en famile' and have a meal out at a local pub.
    Mike and Cherise picked the Fox and Coney at South Cave, which was a good place for a decent meal before lockdown. We, me and Graham, haven't been out for a meal since before lockdown, so this was to be our first meal out for over two years, so, to be honest, we weren't sure what the protocol would be.
    Anyway, to cut a long story short: we couldn't find out how to get into the pub carpark, and, not having a mobile phone, had no way to tell Mike and Cherise that we were in the village, but couldn't get to them.
    After hanging about for over half an hour, in the hopes that we would see them either arriving, or Mike would pop out of the pub and see us parked up the road, we gave up and went home. We rang Mike as soon as we got in and told him what was what, and he told us when he visited next that they had had a very nice meal.
    Graham and I had a free and frank discussion and decided that it probably was about time we gave in and bought a mobile phone, for such emergencies and if the car broke down etc. Also as our digital camera had also recently given up the ghost (which is why I have been unable to show you my Mandala crochet projects), the phone would also act as a camera too.
    So Mike came last Sunday and between him and me and various bits of bank paperwork, we ordered a mobile phone which we were told would arrive the next day. At the same time Mike ordered a nice case for me to keep the phone safe.
    The next day the phone case arrived, but no sign of the phone.
    At around five pm I had a phone call, supposedly from the company who were supposed to be supplying the phone, who told me, 'Sorry, you can't have the deal, or the phone you signed up for, but we can offer you a worse one at £10 more.' - 'Oh and can you give me your credit card details now....'
    I replied that: I was unhappy about the new deal, and uncomfortable with giving out my card details to someone I did not know.

    I rang Mike to let him know the state of play, and as I was telling him he said 'F**k that! I'll come round tomorrow and we'll have another go, with a different company!'

    Anyway suffice it to say that today Mike and me have spent the morning in Curry's, with a very nice and helpful young man who has sorted me out with basically the same phone and a cheaper deal than I was being offered on Sunday.

    It would seem that the problem was my credit history. I have bought most things over the last 30 odd years through the business, or with cash and I suspect if I had bought this phone through the business account there would have been no difficulty. But I decided that we should buy it using our personal account, which we are only just starting to use, as it now has a regular income of Grahams pension.

    So, tomorrow Mike will be back to try and teach this old dog the new tricks of using a mobile phone - I suspect I will have to take copious notes! 


Thursday, 22 July 2021

Death and Life

     Very often things don't happen as you expect.
    We all hope that things will run along smoothly without too many hiccups. But sometimes life just goes 'HERE YOU ARE!' and you get a whole load of stuff in your face all at once.
    Earlier this year Bridie had a bout of illness, not eating, panting, heart pounding. We were really worried. Then we realised she was having a panic attack because she had nibbled at one of her feet until it bled, and surprise surprise, it was hurting!
    So she spent the next week or two wearing a sock on the offending foot, got better and we thought no more about it.
    Until she had another episode. Which we also put down to a panic attack - Bridie is a nervous dog, any sudden noises and she will shoot off like a greyhound.
    But we also noticed she was getting slower when walking, and even avoided going out for a walk on a couple of occasions. 
    Anyway the not moving, not going out, and also eating less and having to be tempted to eat .... I think you can see the way this was going.

    In the meantime Tallulah is the life and soul of the party, full of life and curiosity, and at the begining of this week we noticed that she was coming into season.
    I rang Angela, our friend and collie breeder for some advice about the possibility of having a litter from Tallulah, as we had spoken about this a couple of years ago (pre-Covid) when we collected this lively puppy from Angela.
    Angela gave me a master class in 'how to spot if a collie might be ready for mating' - apparently there is a four day window of opportunity and you have to be ready to grab it. Now normally Angela would have Tallulah to stay with her, so that Angela could be ready to seize the moment of greatest opportunity. But as luck would have it Angela had a mother collie and puppies in the house and another in the puppy house, and was also preparing for a dog show this weekend, so I was given detailed instructions in what to look out for and ring Angela when things started to change with Tallulah.

    At the same time, Bridie was getting worse. At first we put it down to the heat, as we have suddenly had a temperature jump of around 10%, and gave Bridie a lukewarm bath, which she seemed to enjoy and perked her up a bit. So much so that she had a couple of slices of chicken breast, but no more.
    We had to face the fact that Bridie was nearing the end of her time on Earth. And finally this morning we made that last trip to the vet with her.

    And at the same time when we got home we realised that Tallulah was showing the signs of the door of puppy opportunity opening.

    So I rang Angela to tell her of Bridie's passing, and Tallulah's readiness (we think).

    So this time it really is one door closing and another one opening and spirits passing in both directions.

    Life and death, death and life, two sides of the same coin.

    Of course we are mourning Bridie, how could we not?

    But really the cycle of life death and re-birth could hardly have been pointed out to us more graphically.


Wicani White Lace and Promises - Bridie

Monday, 12 July 2021

 Why is it that I don't notice a typo, or a missing price until after I have finished printing the Newsletter or catalogue out?
    No, let's be accurate here: until well after all the catalogues have been printed and sent out to customers.
    I found a good one in the latest 'Even More Gemstones' list when I was writing a lyrical introduction to the beautiful gemstone crescent moons we have just got in: 'There is nothing like being outside at night and seeing the beautiful Moon sailing across the sky. Sometimes we may only catch glimpses as she pees out between clouds ...'
    Yep that should have read 'peeps out'.
    Sigh. Oh well I suppose it wouldn't be a proper Raven catalogue if it was perfect.

    In the Newsletter I have put a collection of Summer Spells, including the following:

A Spell for Happiness

    For this spell gather five small objects that symbolise happiness to you. A sea shell for happy days at the beach, a flower from your garden, a little tassel of coloured wool perhaps, a pretty gem stone, an old paint brush, a coin, a photo of a loved one. Whatever to you symbolises happiness.
    Light a candle and arrange your five objects around the candle, not close enough to come to harm, then say:
    Each of these objects brings a smile
    And gladdens my sad heart
    These memories of happy pasts
    All will play a part
    Bring happiness once more to me
    Bring joy and jolly company
    As I ask now, so mote it be!

    Keep all of these objects in a special treasure box. Find a tiny notebook and write in it why you have chosen each object. Whenever you come across something else which brings you a happy memory, write that down in your book, and if you can, add the object or perhaps a picture of it, to your special treasure box.
    When you are feeling low, look in your box and handle its treasures, think about the happiness they symbolise. Soon you will find your box is stuffed with happiness, so much so that happiness begins to flow out of you, making you smile more.
    I wish you happiness too.


Monday, 21 June 2021

Gathering Fern Seed

     The magical fern seed, which grants invisibility, can only be gathered at midnight on Midsummer's Eve.

    All evening the preparations have been going on.

    There was a ritual meal of only white foods: white bread, a chicken breast, white cheese newly made and a single glass of water drawn from the sacred well.

    Then the bathing, by the light of expensive beeswax candles, the curtains closely drawn against the overlooking of others and so that the thoughts could be concentrated on the magical task ahead.

    Chamomile flowers were infused in the water to banish all evil and enhance the psychic powers, especially the gift of clear seeing which will be needed to spot the magical energies radiated by the plant.

    As midnight neared, it was time to robe, enveloping the body in the special black garment, topped with a hood, so that the wearer can glide like a shadow across the fields and through the wood. One shadow amongst many.

    On the dresser is a stack of seven pewter plates.

    According to the grimoires you maybe need one, maybe seven, so in order that the preparations will not be in vain, seven pewter plates it shall be.

    The night lengthens, all is still in the homes round about, all the residents safely asleep. Except in the cottage where the preparations have been made.

    The door opens and the hooded figure, quiet as a ghost, slips into the night, moving swiftly, silently and with purpose.

    The moon is full, casting bright silver light and black shadows. The figure keeps to the shadows wherever possible, flitting along the country lane and over a stile into the woodlands beyond.

    There is pauses, beneath the gently whispering trees, listening to the sounds of the night. There are no sounds of other footsteps, not even any bird or animal sounds, just the night breeze, gently caressing the canopy of leaves allowing splashes of moonlight to sprinkle here and there.

    The figure moves deeper into the woods.

    There is a place where ferns grow, spread amongst the undergrowth, but tonight of all nights, one will show itself. The figure is certain of this. All the preparations were followed with care, tonight is the best chance for this magical operation to succeed.

    Suddenly ahead there is a faint, blue glow. The robed figure halts, feeling the excitement, the anticipation growing. Ahead is where the ferns are growing, tonight may be the night when this magical purpose is fulfilled.

    The footsteps quicken while still moving as silently as possible, through the small patches of moonlight, focused always on the blue glow ahead. And there, where the shadows are deepest, the elusive fern plant reveals its magic. Growing from this leafy plant, on a slender, almost invisible stem, is a glowing, transparent blue flower.

    A flower not of this world.

    In this world, ferns do not flower.

    But a plant echoing the realm of the Fairy Folk. For this night only, for this moment only, the fern is in flower.

    Quickly the figure takes the bag from its shoulder and takes out the stack of pewter plates, and with hands slightly trembling with effort, anticipation and excitement, holds the plates beneath the flower.

    How long will they have to wait?

    Not long, as all this must be done within the midnight hour.

    The flower fades and shrivels and grows a more faintly glowing blue pod, a pod filled with seeds. And even as the figure watches, the pod splits open and in a puff of glowing dust, the Fairy seed are sprinkled and fade.

    It seemed that some fell on the plates that were held beneath the now vanished flower. The glow is gone, the fern returns to its mortal state.

    Has the operation been a success?

    With slightly trembling hands, the figure carefully tips nothing from the top plate into a red silk pouch they have brought for this purpose. Each plate is treated in the same way, each plate of nothingness is tipped into the silk bag, until the final, seventh plate is also emptied of its invisible catch into the silk pouch. The pouch is closed tightly and it and the plates repacked into the bag. The figure rises and takes a last look around.

    The moonlight still peeps through the leaves, but the glow is gone from the fern grove, and so to home, slipping into the cottage silently and carefully packing the bag into the dresser, then winding up the stairs to bed.

    In the morning the early sunrise makes it impossible to sleep further, plus the habit of early rising is ingrained.

    Was last night a dream? Or did the fern really flower in the woods?

    The dresser is opened and the silk pouch quickly found. Carefully the drawstring is opened and cautiously a finger and thumb take a pinch of nothing from the pouch, which they sprinkle over their head.

    And in the mirror above the dresser, they see.


Tuesday, 1 June 2021

I Crocheted a Raven!

 Whatever possessed me?

    Well, actually it was another request from a customer.

    'I know how you like these little challenges,'says he 'So could you crochet me a raven?'

    In the background, Graham was hissing at me, 'Say no! Tell him we are too busy!'

    As I quite fancied having a go at crocheting a raven, I agreed to do it.

    That was a mistake.

    This was perhaps the fiddliest item I have ever crocheted. I did find a recipe for a little bird on the internet, but when I tried it out, I didn't like the proportions I ended up with. They were more for a cartoon chick type of bird, with a large head and triangular shaped body. So I put that on one side and started again.

    But the main problems with this project was that I was crocheting with a small hook (3mm which is small for me) and I'd decided to use up some thinner than usual wool, and it was all done in single crochet, black on black.

    There was no contrast, so following the stitches was very hard work for me. I couldn't go fast, because I was having to make it up as I went along.

    When I had finally finished the main head and body shape. I then had to figure out how to make the legs and feet, as I wanted the bird to be able to stand. I had a bit of garden wire, so I cut four lengths of it so that I would have four claws, then the four wires were twined together to make the legs and the joining bit opened out inside the body and stuffed around, to try and make sure the legs would stay in place.

    The tail was made as part of the body, but then I had to make an oval piece to go underneath and between the legs as it didn't look right just pulling the edges together together. Once the body was all together, I covered the legs and claws by wrapping black wool around them and fastening by holding the ends of the wool with the bent over ends of the claws - I'd already scratched myself with the wires and I didn't want anyone else doing that - and a strategic bob or two of glue.

    The pointed beak was a separate piece, as are the wings, and for the eyes I used two haematite beads.

    The finished raven stands about 15cm tall (6") - and don't anyone ask me to make another one, because it is not going to happen!

    I took the raven outside and stood it on the edge of the bird bath to take a photo.

It was at this point that I noticed our peony bud had, at long last, opened!

    All of April we have had a very large bud on the peony. We only planted the peony last autumn, so I wasn't sure whether it would flower this year - peonies can be notorious for not flowering, or for developing buds which do not open.
    I had had a look on the internet and it seemed the buds might not open for all sorts of reasons:
Your peony might be planted too deeply - well we knew this wasn't the case because we'd checked that last autumn (and Graham had actually dug the root up and re-planted it with a growth bud sticking out of the ground), some folks said you need to plant it near an ants nest as the ants eat the waxy substance which seals the bud closed. Some folks said you should pour warm water over the bud - presumably to try and melt this same waxy stuff.
    Others simply said it needed lots and lots of warm sun to make it open - and this April has been cold, grey and wet. I think we had one day of sunshine near the beginning of the month and that was it!
    But over the Bank Holiday weekend we have had sunshine, and the same again today, with some good warmth and that seems to have finally triggered the bud to open.

    And it was worth the wait!

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Eurovision 2021

 Last night the Eurovision Song Contest returned in triumph1

    This is a wonderfully eccentric and eclectic programme, which I have watched every year since childhood and there is much to love about it. It is wacky and over the top in just about every way you can think of.

    These days it tends to be staged in huge auditoriums with vast numbers in the audience - although this year because of the ongoing Covid pandemic numbers were strictly limited and monitored. Yet it still clings to some of its original rules such as 'only six people can be on the stage at any time' so heaven forfend if your group consists of seven people, someon will have to miss out. However this also limits the number of extras ie dancers, backing singers and other entertainers who can be on stage with the main singer(s).

    Note I said 'other entertainers' because over the years there have been all sorts of extra folk on with the singer, and sometimes you do wonder if they are there to draw attention away from the singer and their truly dreadful song.

    We have seen jugglers, mime artists, fire eaters, a Russian Olympic ice skater on perhaps the smallest ice rink ever, naked bodies - or as naked as they can get away with - wild animals and a whole lot more. 

    There are huge costumes! The Australian (yes, Australia! In the Eurovision Song Contest!) on a long bendy stick comes to mind. This year there was the Russian entry in a vast Russian doll costume. Oh and the entries do also try to go in for 'the biggest' entry in whatever sense they can manage. So this year we had the highest note ever sung in a Eurovision song, and allegedly the longest held note, oh and the biggest prop ever! This was a huge silver 'moon' which hung menacingly over the singer, although I was disappointed that it was simply a ginormous silver ball with none of the crates and features of the Moon's surface.

    The music is often either generic 'Euro-pop' or very niche, appealing only to people from the singer's own country. We have had yodelling and yoiking, and we always used to play 'spot the accordian', but these seem to have finally vanished from the competition.

    This year I absolutely loved the Ukraine entry, 'Shum' by Go A, which is a folk rock style song with a catchy tune and driving beat, which seems to be a celebration of the return of Spring. To me it would be fab circle dance music, or great for shamanic rituals and one I would have on a loop and really annoy other people with.

    It was nice to see that the songs Graham and I both particularly liked all ended up in the top six or so, including Iceland, Switzerland, the Ukraine and Graham's favourite Italy which was a heavy rock song and won!

    The French entry which ended up second, was very French - of the torch singer, Edith Piaf variety. It was staged very simply, with the singer in a spotlight. It was one I could appreciate rather than be fully enthusiastic about, but it was nice to see France near the top of the leader board.

    The voting, as always, was incredibly idiosyncratic and some might say biased and political. Certain countries always vote for each other and, unfortunately for our entry, nobody seems to like the UK, and so (as usual) we ended up with 'Null Points!'

    It doesn't matter whether our song is good or bad - and this years entry was by a prize winning composer - it would appear that we are always going to end up with 'Null Points!', so I hope our chap was prepared for it.

    Overall the competition and performances were brilliant and we thoroughly enjoyed them.

    And, as always, I remember the immortal Sir Terry Wogan who commentated on the competition for many years. Alone in his commentary box with just a bottle of Irish Cream to keep him company, his comments became less politically correct as the evening progressed and the level of the Irish Cream went down. Until his crowning comment one year, on two presenters who, because of their costumes and demeanor, he referred to as 'Dr Death and the Tooth Fairy.' !

    Long live the Eurovision Song Contest!

Saturday, 8 May 2021

We've Been Done - Twice!

 There we go!

    We are now fit to be allowed out with other humans!

    Yes, this morning we went to Brough Medical Centre for our second Covid 19 jab. It was all very well organised, no long queues, not huge numbers in the waiting room, so we could all be well spaced out.

    It was different people from the two ladies we saw previously. This morning it was a nice young chap called Matthew and a male doctor. Matthew was doing the talking and record taking, 'Hello my name is Matthew and this is Doctor ... (missed the name as I was doing a strange thing in a strange place)'

    'Can I have your date of births please?' - Graham and I went in together as per the first jab, but I think this must be to check they have got the right people.

    After the jabs, Matthew made out our vaccination cards, which we can flash at people to prove we are safe to be allowed out, or in, or wherever it is necessary to flash at people, and continued 'If you lose your card, such as putting it through the washer..'

    'Through the washer,' said the doctor, 'That's a bit specific.'

    'Speaking from personal experience,' said Matthew, 'My Debit card has been through the washer.'

    Anyway if you do lose it, (the vaccination card) all the details are on your medical records and you can get a replacement.

    We had been listening to Matthew give the same instructions to several people before us, so when it came to the directions out, Graham jumped in with 'Down the corridor, turn right and out of the Fire Door.' as they were working a one way system.

    As per last time, we sat and waited in the car for ten minutes (of course we did!) then came home.

    Saddly this time it was an early morning appointment so no fish and chips today!