Friday, 13 May 2022

The Joy of a Letter

 A couple of months back, just after my birthday actually, I received a parcel of a couple of books.

    A friend of ours (originally a customer, but now friend too) had sent me them, as she knew that I study and collect folklore, particularly connected to flowers, plants and trees.

    She didn't know it had been my birthday, but I noticed on the enclosed paperwork, that she had ordered the books on the date of my birthday.

    I was really surprised and delighted to receive the unexpected and thoughtful gift, so obviously I wanted to thank her. However I knew that she had been going through a time of particularly bad health, linked to an ongoing medical condition, and was therefore in and out of hospital. So rather than try and catch her on the phone, I decided to send her a card, with a 'Thank you' message inside, which I duly did, and thought no more of it.

    Then yesterday the lady rang up and the first thing she said was how nice it had been to receive my 'thank you' letter. 'It was so nice,' she said, 'That I read it over and over again!'

    I, of course, said that she was welcome and felt very touched that my simple note had meant so much to her.

    When I thought about it afterwards though, I realised how letter writing and sending notes, had become far less common than it was only a few years ago.

    Although Graham and I do write regularly to several friends and also send out a Newsletter to all our current customers whenever we send out a Mail Shot. I also try to make sure that anyone who puts a note in with their order will also get a little hand written note in reply.

    But perhaps we are becoming the exception rather than the rule.

    I thought about how nice it is to receive a letter, note or card. Anything, to be honest, which is a bit of personal contact through the post, rather than the normal bills or adverts. And also how nice it is to be able to re-read a note or letter, and keep a really good one to be savoured several times. We always put cards that we receive up on the mantlepiece, so they can be seen and also give us a warm glow when we look at them.

    Judging from our friend's reaction, it made me think that I ought to make the effort to drop a note to more people.

    I know we may feel in constant contact with people through social media, but there is nothing like opening an envelope and handling a letter or card. An email card just doesn't have the same effect - to be honest a written note and a card whether bought or home made, looks like a bit more thought and effort has gone into it.

    It doesn't cost a lot, but it does feel nice to receive one and know that someone, somewhere has taken the time and trouble to think of us.



Monday, 11 April 2022

To Everything There is a Season

 And is had come to that time in a certain lady dog's life when she was in season.

    Tallulah was (we hoped) ready for mating (again)! So we were going to visit Angela at Wicani Collies to see if this time we might end up having some puppies.

    Of course this kind of thing always happens at the wrong time.

    Angela was really busy as her current litter of puppies was just at the point of being ready to leave for their new homes, so Angela had visitors arriving all week to collect their special puppies and take them off on their new adventures, but she made time for us to visit twice, to be sure that Tallulah was well and truly mated.

    We visited first on Thursday, then went back on Saturday afternoon for the second mating.

    Graham had told out butcher that we were visiting our collie breeder friend and the butcher had immediately gone to his freezer and presented Graham with a sack of bones, 'Oh' said Graham a bit surprised by the quantity, 'I was just hoping for a carrier bag or two.' 

    'I haven't finished yet ...' said the butcher vanishing out freezerwards again.

    So we went to Angela's this time with a sack and a half of good butcher's bones.

    Angela had warned us that she might have a visitor from Northern Ireland picking up a puppy, so we weren't that surprised to be greeted with a kitchen heaving with activity when we got there.

    As we opened the door a puppy tried to escape and had to be gently propelled backwards. We made it inside to find two puppies, their mum, Angela, the visitor, us and Tallulah (on a lead) all milling about. Keith greeted us from behind the door into the next room (staying out of the bedlam while he could, I think.)

    As soon as possible, Angela, Graham and Tallulah vanished outside for the mating, but Angela was soon back as she had brought Sigil, Tallulah's boyfriend, for me to see. Sigil is absolutely beautiful (well, all Angela's dogs are beautiful!). He is a dark sable colour, with a lovely, friendly personality. He came for a cuddle and a kiss, then off he went with Angela to go and do his duty.

    When Angela had gone, and there were just me, Keith the dogs and the visitor, in my head (as I didn't know her name) the visitor immediately became 'Talky Woman'.

    She needed no help to make conversation, well it wasn't exactly conversation, as you only had a chance to get a word in when she paused for breath - Keith tried a few times, as did I. But Talky Woman needed no help filling in any silence either talking to herself, to her phone or to her puppy (a pretty little tricolour girl).

    Talky Woman went on for some time. It appeared that she was hoping to say 'Goodbye.' to Angela before she left, but whatever was going on in the mating area, was going on a looooong time.

    This was a mating of epic proportions.

    Poor Keith kept desperately saying, 'I'm sure Angela won't be long.' and gazing hopefully out of the kitchen window.

    Oh then mother dog decided to be noisily sick. This is the way wolves feed their weaned puppies, and she felt her weaned babies needed dinner.

    Keith looked at me, as he knows I can't do sick - I would just join in - but I was carefully examining a photo collage of lots of lovely Wicani collies on the wall away from the sick. Keith was trying to keep the puppies away from the sick, while looking for something to clean it up with, until mum dog got fed up and decided to re-eat it herself.

    Those photos were really good, so many lovely dogs, none of which are here, la la la la la, I sang in my head.

    Keith fastened mum dog into the puppy cage, to try and avoid a re-run of the sick scenario, and said 'I'll just see what's going on.' and made a break for the freedom of the outdoors.

    Talky woman seemed to dry up without a full audience and started playing with her phone, while the little tricolour girl played with my fingers.

    Keith came back with instructions that the carrier bag on the table was full of the paperwork and puppy accoutrements that Talky Woman needed and Talky Woman announced that wherever she had left her husband it was now snowing, so maybe she ought to get off and pick him up.

    It was around then that Angela, Graham and Tallulah came back, and Talky Woman and her puppy,  eventually went so she could get back to wherever she had to catch the ferry to Northern Ireland from.

    Keith said afterwards that often the husbands don't like to be involved in any of the doggy stuff and especially any mating, they will go off for a walk or stay in the car, or in this case be dropped off miles away to wait in the snow!

    We promised Angela that any questions or worries we had, we were to ring her - so I suspect she may well regret that as this is a brand new adventure for us all - before we went off to the car.

    Then Graham quickly ran back just to ask how long a dog is pregnant for. Angela told us it is around 60 days, but her dogs are often a few days early.

    So I have counted the weeks on the calendar, and a possible due date is marked in.

    

    

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Why Do We Change the Clocks?

 On the 27th of March this year we put our clocks forward one hour for British Summer Time (BST).

    We don't question this, we just do it. But I started to wonder: why do we do it? Is there an advantage to getting up an hour earlier and having a longer light evening?

    I know we are told it is because you can do more stuff in the evening. But you haven't lengthened the day, there are still the same amounts of daylight available whether it runs from 6 am to 8 pm, or 5 am to 7 pm.

    Our ancestors didn't change their clocks - they didn't have any clocks to start with. They got up when it was light and went to bed when it was dark. So what o'clock you called it wouldn't make any difference.

    So it is pretty obvious that putting the clocks forward in Spring and back again in Autumn must be a fairly recent thing. Oh and incidentally, why do we have the clocks forward longer than back? As we put the clocks forward in March, logically they should go back in September, but no! we have to wait until the last Sunday in October!

    Personally I love the longer nights. I can't wait for the clocks to go back in October, because that means the magical nights are back, and Samhain is upon us!

    So I had a look on the internet and what I found really surprised me.

    It was in 1916, only just over 100 years ago, that Germany changed their clocks during the first World War, in order 'to save energy'. Europe and the UK followed this within weeks. WHY!?

    This means that until 1916 Britain ran continually on Greenwich Mean Time, and obviously had no problems doing so.

    Actually changing the time by an hour only gives an 'advantage' for a very brief time and only in certain latitudes. Go further North and in Summer the sun never sets (this is very much the case in Scotland - not that much further North) where the Simmer Dim gives twilight nights during the Summer. And go towards the Equator and there is very little difference between day lengths in Summer and Winter, so no point in changing the clocks.

    I remember when I was at school we stuck to BST for a couple of years as an experiment, but the Government found that there was little if any advantage to this. 

    Also these days we often live 24 hour lives, so BST really is irrelevant.

    Personally I blame Ben Franklin.

    In 1784 Benjamin Franklin was staying in Paris and was fed up with the way the Parisians took ages to get going in the morning. So he wrote a joke to a friend about changing the clocks to try and get the Parisians up a bit earlier, and suggested this should be enforced by ringing church bells and setting off cannons in the streets.

    Saddly it seemed someone took his suggestion seriously!



Friday, 4 March 2022

Witches and Gamers

 There are two subjects which always make me prick up my ears when they crop up in the media and they are Witches and Witchcraft and computer gaming and gamers.

    And the main reason is because both subjects are dear to my heart, and both seem to be treated like pariahs. Very often the casual references to 'Witches' seems to be as a pejorative term, usually of a woman - 'Oh, she's a right witch!' which seems to be both a humorous and acceptable comment.

    Let me tell you here and now, this is not acceptable, and would not be seen as such if you were to substitute the word 'witch' for any other religion or race.

    You cannot make these remarks casually these days without being seen as prejudiced in your outlook - but apparently the memo about this also being the case for Witches, hasn't got passed around yet.

    And so to computer games and gamers. This is another subject where casual prejudice still seems to be the norm, and yet the vast majority of people in the UK use a mobile phone - yes, this is a form of computer - and use computers in their work and at school, college and university.

    They will happily spend hours playing with a mobile phone, or at their desk doing work, or homework. Yet the time you spend computer gaming is somehow seen as 'wasted' time.

    When we were stuffing envelopes for our latest mail shot we had the radio on and a woman was be-moaning the fact that her teenage son preferred to play computer games, than go outside and ride his bike etc. She then said that he was restricted to 90mins computer gaming at the weekend - and she wondered why the kid didn't want to give up any of his precious gaming minutes to do something else?!

    How many minutes is Eastenders on the TV during the week? How many minutes do people 'waste' watching news reports when surely once a day is more than enough?

    When I told Graham about the remarks, he said 'It might be a generational thing.' Implying that the parents didn't understand computer games as the youngsters did.

    I gave him a look.

    I will soon be 65 (on the 17th of March if anyone is interested ) and Graham is older, and we both regularly play computer games.

    In fact we have been playing computer games for years. At first on the old Sinclair Spectrums, with games that came on audio tapes and took upwards of 15 minutes to donwnload.

    Our son, a civil engineer, plays computer games with his mates.

    Our daughter-in-law, a business woman, plays computer games with her mates.

    They also do lots of other things, as do me and Graham, but computer gaming is something we all do for relaxation, for fun and to keep up with mates who we may or may not see at other times.

    The computer gaming industry is one of the largest industries in the world. It is bigger than the film/movie industry.

    It generates more revenue for the UK than any other industry including tourism.

    In fact Dundee is the biggest computer gaming area in the world. Bigger than silicon valley in the USA. There they produce some of the top computer games in the world and companies there are full of bright, intelligent people playing, devising, creating, making and selling computer games.

    It has been found that playing computer games keeps your reflexes sharp. Working out puzzles keeps your brain active and learning anything new including computer games, will also stimulate your brain to keep making new connections.

    And also many computer games include a social aspect. People are encouraged to work co-operatively, to work through special areas in groups, or to join communities where they can find others to talk to and play with.

    Graham and I work from home, and like many other home workers a whole week can pass when we see nobody. 

    But we can go online at any time of the day or night and play World of Warcraft and there is always somebody there to talk to.

    I would suggest for anyone who is feeling isolated or lonely, or who wants to visit worlds of the imagination and have their own imagination stimulated - get a computer, get online and go gaming!

    Lok'tar ogar! As we say.



Saturday, 22 January 2022

Happy New Year!

 Well I have had a busy time crocheting stuff for various friends and relatives for Christmas, and I must admit I have loved every minute!

    The only down side was that I couldn't share pictures of what I had been up to, in case the recipients saw something they would later get as a pressy.

    So for a start, I found a lovely pattern for a HUGE flower*, which I decided was ideal to make into a cushion cover. And I used the same colours to make a flat back to the cover. I loved making it so much that I made LOADS of different colour ways, and tried to pick ones I hoped the recipient would like. 

    For example I made one for our friend Angela, who breeds Wicani Collies and I picked colours which are all found in her lovely dogs. Including a sparkling white which reminded me of Bridie's beautiful shining mane/neck ruff.



These pictures show the fronts and backs of just some of the cushion covers I made. Of course they were all sent out with a nice plump cushion inside.


This is an octopus hat I made for Cherise, Mike's wife. It was very complicated as I had a picture from the internet and just a few hints and tips to go on. So I decided the only way to do it was to have a go.

    Happily Cherise is really pleased with it.

    Then a couple of weeks before christmas I asked our grandson if he would like me to make him a bedspread. He said yes and drew me a picture of what he wanted and told me the colours he wanted too. Then asked if it would be ready for christmas ... I had to tell him no it wouldn't.

    However I wanted him to have it as soon after christmas as possible, so my christmas 'holiday' was spent mainly crocheting squares. 


As you can see from the finished article, I used the circle to square pattern, as that is nice and easy, but can give a good variety of colour variations. I got the bedspread finished on New Year's Eve, so it was ready to give Eden as a New Year gift.


*HUGE Flower can be found at Bianca's Crochet Palace, Crochet Flower 3D Granny Square