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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rumpelstiltskin


We've been beginning to see what needs changing in the house as we get used to living here.  The kitchen needs more space for preparing food, and John suggested it needs an island for the middle of the room.  It is short on countertop space, and I have already thought it needed more space for catering for five people.

We've been past Rumpelstiltskin on the high street in Market Rasen a number of times while I drooled over the furniture in there.  It's lovely, and I linger every time I pass the shop.  John was thinking about one of the consoles in the window for the kitchen, but as soon as we entered the shop I realised that the ones in the window are rather lower than they appear, as they are on a little platform.

I immediately saw something that would be absolutely perfect.  It's a butcher's block table, which can be ordered in any Farrow and Ball colour.

The shop always looks empty of customers and a bit lonely, but the proprietor told us that there has been an explosion of interest in the things they make since they took the shop, and delivery times had extended accordingly. 



If I can afford it, once everything is sorted out, I'd like to have bookshelves from the shop - I had discounted them because they have mouldings at the top and a plinth at the bottom and so I didn't think they would be suitable for a grouping of bookshelves, but it was explained that you can butt a number of the shelving units up against each other and then have a moulding and plinth which fit around them all... so I shall start to calculate how to configure them, if I can afford them. 

The house is starting to feel more like mine.  Initially I felt as though I were squatting in someone else's holiday home, but having started to buy things I have chosen, like the blinds for the kitchen, and the lamp for my room, it's starting to be more mine... and our stored possessions arriving will make it even better.

Settling in

Sunnyside farm shop
It's been ten days since we moved to Market Rasen, and we've been so busy, busy, busy I have hardly had any time for blogging.  I bought the house with all the contents, although I hadn't quite realised how extensive those contents would be.  We've had a lot of things to clear, boxes and boxes of cardboard, old string, cables, crates and old paint pots.  The back garden still looks like someone has been fly-tipping the contents of an old factory, but John is making trips to the tip every day and it is gradually going down.  The tip people are rather suspicious that he is dumping old commercial waste on them, but he really, honestly, is not!

Life in a small town is very different from life on the outskirts of London.  For a start, nearly all the shops in town close at 3.30pm.  Not on an early closing day - every day.  Many specialist shops only open a few days a week... I'm assuming their opening hours expand during the summer.  I may be wrong about that!

People know each other, and trust each other far more than you find in a big town in Greater London.  We ordered a bed from Rasen bed supplies, and needed to wait a few days for the base to come from the stockist.  Tom was fed up with sleeping on the floor and not feeling very well, and so I went to ask if I could buy the mattress in advance of the base.  Not only did the company deliver it in about ten minutes flat, they refused to let me pay for it until the base had come.

When the base DID arrive, they not only delivered but also assembled the bed!  Ali decided he wanted some weird shaped bed from an online retailer... but that arrived in pieces and was just delivered to the threshold.  The service from Rasen Bed Supplies couldn't have been better.  And the mattresses and beds we bought from them are very comfortable.


Yesterday John and I went to the Sunnyside Up farm, for breakfast, which is just between Market Rasen and Tealby.  I can certainly recommend their bacon or sausage rolls, and the restaurant is light and airy, with comfortable sofas for lounging on if you wish.  After breakfast we wondered around the shop, exclaiming at all the lovely foodie items on offer.  There is a meat counter and cheese counter, vegetable shop, and shop full of local delicacies and chutneys and jams, as well as high-quality items from other areas. 

We bought one of the shop's steak pies, which are home-made on the farm, and some leeks and potatoes from the vegetable shop - as well as a clutch of chutneys and marmalade for the store cupboard.

In the car park, it being Friday, there was a fish van from Grimsby - but it's recommended that you get there early in order to get the best range of fish and shellfish.

The farm restaurant is lovely and I have no hesitation in recommending it.  The brick built barn buildings look as though they may be dark, from the outside, but it is actually light and airy and the staff are welcoming and friendly.

The Sunnyside Up farm shop is open for longer than shops in Market Rasen, 9-5pm Tuesday to Saturday and 10-4 on Sundays.  It's closed on Mondays. 

The restaurant does a wider range of breakfasts during the summer season, but is open for pots of tea and bacon and sausage rolls and a wide range of other food during the day.  My son heartily recommends their soup!

You can find more on their website here, including how to get there.  Head out of Market Rasen on the Tealby road is the basic instruction!

I liked the sign on the way out, which warns about free-range children and chickens... both of those *should* be free-range!



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My own front door



I haven't blogged at all for weeks, unless long posts on Facebook count. Our goods and chattels were packed and put into storage on November 21, we sold our house on November 22, and we spent two weeks in a wonderful holiday cottage in Tealby. The only drawback of the cottage was that we had poor mobile reception and no real internet, although I can see that might have been an advantage for some people. Then on December 5, we had to pack up and leave the cottage and wait to hear when we had completed on the purchase of Sycamore house.

We went for breakfast at the really wonderful Sunnyside Farm shop, in the highest winds I have experienced for some while. The trees were whipping around us as we drove there, and there was a lot of tree debris, including whole branches, scattered about. After bacon and sausage rolls at Sunnyside, we went to Jim's Barn, where I bought some Annie Sloan paints and talked to Sarah Lamballe, who is active in the Mr Big organisation in Market Rasen. She encouraged us to go along to the Christmas fair on Friday and Saturday.

Unfortunately, Tom and I had begun to suffer a bit from the horrible coldy bug that Ali had had earlier in the week. Neither of us was feeling very much like doing anything other than snuggling up in bed. As we drove into Market Rasen at 12.20, I asked John how long he thought it would take to complete... and a few minutes later my solicitor rang and told me we had completed. We rather expected to drive up to the house and take possession, but I was anxious not to infect the sellers with our bugs as they were about to make very long air journeys, and so we agreed to go away again for a while, and come back at 2pm.

And so... that was five days ago. We have been clearing, sorting, reorganizing and getting used to the house. The front door wasn't usually used by the prvious owners, and we soon discovered why: the front door lock wasn't working properly. John has fixed a new lock, which works much better. I have some photographs but I am too tired to put them up tonight.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Just Dance!

Amazing video of a young man dancing, in his bedroom it seems, but the arrangement of the furniture and the positioning of the camera make it seem pretty slick.  The music and the dancing together just make me want to dance... and I'm not alone it seems, reading the comments.


Saturday, November 02, 2013

What the Greco-Romano-Cretan Hell? (Atlantis review)

Porky, Perky and Pythagoras...what?
I don't often watch television.  Mostly I catch odd snippets of the soaps other people in the house watch, and the odd ten minutes of Strictly Come Dancing or Great British Bake Off.  None of these are things I would choose to watch voluntarily.

However, from time to time I need to do something a bit brainless, like sewing or threading beads, and then I like to find something entertaining or interesting to watch or listen to while I work.  This evening I chose the BBC's relatively new series Atlantis, thinking that as the series was several episodes in, I would have a number of hours of entertainment if I liked it. 

I emphatically don't like it.  It reminded me very, very strongly of Merlin, and I didn't need the Guardian's tv critic to tell me that the same fell hand that created the Medi-Dark ages-renaissance Hell that was the Merlin tosh, had been at the ancient world this time.

The world, it seems to me, is divided into those creators/writers/artists who care about authenticity, getting their period right, and making sure that if they ransack history or myth for a bit of an idea, they try very, very hard to make the period details right.  That's not what this is.

The second group feel free to raid anything that might be slightly relevant and shoe-horn it into the story, no matter how mangled it may become.  Thus, the Arthurian court of Merlin had all sorts of anachronisms, like tomatoes and glass windows, because this was a magic world in which there were dragons and spells, and in a world like that all effort at realism, trying to give a sense of period and place the story in time, is a waste.  According to the creators.

I have been at virtual brainstorming meetings that follow the same lines.  A general theme of ancienty, with some Greek myths thrown in?  Let's have Atlantis!  And Pythagoras!  Mix it up!  No one knows - no one cares!  And make Hercules completely different!  And two headed dragons?  Everyone loves dragons, they're the kittens of the magical mythical world!

Thing is, the dialogue and the plot  - like that of Merlin - is at Janet and John level.  No six year old who has met his or her targets for reading would have a problem with the script.  They have blockbuster music, and think that some spooky sounding crescendoes will substitute for real tension in script or plot.  They wander through the storyline with no feeling for pace or characterization. I hate the misuse of the phrase "Dumbing Us Down" because what John Taylor Gatto wrote about was the dumbing down effect of having to stretch to interest yourself in something that you weren't interested in, and how much it affects your intellect when you aren't allowed even to think your own thoughts or do your own thing.

He didn't use the phrase in the way it is always used, to indicate that things have been simplified so much that they are understanding to stupid people.  But this is what this is.  It's dross of the lowest order.  It insults the general public and assumes that they will lap it up because it looks ok and has dragons in it.

I love the BBC and would stand on the barricades to defend my beloved radio stations.  But our licence money has funded this drivel.  And I, for one, want my money back.  I have been fooled twice into thinking that a series from these idiots must be worthwhile because of the presence of brilliant actors like John Hurt, Richard Wilson and now Juliet Stevenson.  But, boy, I hope they were paid a lot of money to put their names to it.  Because their presence is no indication of quality.  It hums... it's really, really terrible.  It's had money thrown at it, but it cannot be redeemed by money - it needs good scriptwriters, people who care about placing their work in space and time, and less disneyfication.

I cannot believe that some broadsheet newspapers gave it a good review.  Or that the BBC commissioned it. 

 

Friday, November 01, 2013

Plus size Clothing Find

Grizas - beautiful crinkle tunic
I've been feeling increasingly depressed about the clothing options open to me via Evans locally, the only Plus Size shop in Uxbridge. They seem to have a picture of their customer as trendy twenty-something - something I find hard to believe, what with the ageing demographic in this country, and the fact that people's waistlines tend to increase with age.

Their clothes are often made in man-made fibres, young styles, with short sleeves or sleevless, and I find that many of their tops and skirts are too short. While I don't want to look as though I have fallen out of "Little House on the Prairie" or the 19th century, on the other hand I find I care about fashion less and less, and things that suit me and my size more and more. I don't want to wear stuff that clings to every bump and lump on my body. I don't want to wear polyester. And I certainly don't want sleeveless dresses and tops. Especially not in summer, when one is forced to wear a cardigan or cover up.

It's been a revelation to discover Grizas, a European company which produces clothing for plus size people that I love. My only problem with the clothing is the price: £145 for a top, £179 for a jacket is a lot more than I would usually pay for clothing. But their stuff is *so* beautiful. I am thinking that maybe one beautiful Grizas item every six months is better than half a dozen horrible things I don't like from Evans.

Their website includes the collection for Spring/Summer 2014, and I love the fact that the very first item is something I have tried to nag Evans into supply for a few years - a long dress, in natural fabric, with SLEEVES. It really shouldn't be that difficult to do this. Perhaps I can get them interested in making woolly tights next....

Grizas - Spring Summer 2014 collection

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Passion for change

I woke up this morning, made my mother breakfast in bed and a cup of coffee, and then visited the Guardian website, where I read an article which started my blood boiling about parenting. The comments stream was turned off, so I tweeted the Guardian to ask them to turn it on, and made a comment and visited Facebook to catch up with the stream there, thinking how different this was to my life ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty years ago. How lucky I am.

On FB, George Barnett posted a link to the YouTube video below, of Jeremy Paxman interviewing Russell Brand. Brand is amazing - passionate, articulate and coherent - and he wipes the floor with Jeremy Paxman in a way that Paxman usually does to others. It's a sight to see.



We do need a revolution. The things I see happening around me are wrong, and it's time to stand up and say so. People with disabilities denied benefits, people who miss appointments they didn't know about denied payments, people with special needs children forced to go to work. It needs to change, and it needs to change now.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lincolnshire bound

There's been a storm and torrential rain here.  The road was running with so much water, and is clogged with so many leaves, that I thought it was going to be necessary to swim to Chipperfield, which is where we are having lunch today.

I've been running through towns like it's going out of fashion, from Lowestoft in the east to Hastings in the south, through Long Sutton to north Lincolnshire.  I'm feeling superstitious about jinxing my house sale and house purchase, and feeling like I'm hanging on by my fingernails... waiting to exchange on the sale.

It's a weird thing, not knowing where you are going to be in a few weeks' time... not knowing how things will get from here to there, and what a new life on the edge of the Lincolnshire wolds will look like, day to day.

I feel excited about a completely new start elsewhere, anxious about my ability to forge new friendships and make a new life for myself and my children in a completely new town.  I worry about my mother... she's got used to having me around, I think it will be a big change for her. 

The leaves are falling, especially from the horse chestnut trees across the road, which are suffering from the virus which has attacked the chestnut trees here.  It's beginning to look very autumnal, and I have no idea what winter is going to bring for me this year.  Will I move before Christmas? 

I'm packing and repacking, trying to thin out the vast number of books... but then thinning out the books just as I buy a house which has the prospect of being able to house them seems like a false economy.  It will all depend on the timing and whether I have to put my stuff in storage between selling and buying.  I just don't know.

It seems like maybe I've been matched in heaven with my seller... they are emigrating to New Zealand and don't want to take their furniture... I don't have any furniture.  I'm hoping to go meet them in the next couple of weeks.

So... we're off to Chipperfield for a family lunch to celebrate the forthcoming 80th birthday of my uncle Ian.  Looking forward to seeing some family members who don't often get together, thinking of which I had better disconnect myself and get dressed!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Barefoot in the park...garden...street

Watched a very interesting film about grounding - the practice of making a connecting to the earth by walking barefoot, lying on the earth or using grounding equipment to ensure that you are grounded.  It has been proven to have a large number of health benefits, and the stories in the film are very touching.

Dr Mercola has been talking about the benefits of grounding for a long time now, and in fact features in the film in one or two places.  I tried a little grounding myself earlier today, although it was a bit damp and cold, it wasn't anywhere near as cold as Alaska in the wintertime, which features in the film.  I couldn't help thinking there must be a better design of roof to avoid having to dig yourself out... but then I've never lived there and don't know what the challenges are.

The film is free to access for the next few days, but I hope anyone who can afford it and is impressed by the film will buy it for themselves.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lost in Hastings

I travelled to Hastings to see some houses yesterday.  We arrived at Hastings station with our shiny plus bus passes in our hands, expecting to be able to use them to get us around Hastings and St Leonards for the viewings.  I had addresses and instructions for each of the houses, and knew how to get to them from the nearest stations.

We took a brief look outside in the bus station, but couldn't find any useful information on the boards by the bus stops.  Unlike virtually any bus system I have ever used, Hastings buses - essentially Stagecoach - don't appear to want you to know where the buses go.  

I looked for information around Hastings station.  There were no leaflets, and no timetables or information, except for a strange chart showing a list of places with bus numbers - a really weird cross reference system.  I was looking for Ore and so dutifully copied down the numbers of the buses: 20, 20A, 22, 22A, 28, 347, 100 etc....

I asked at the information desk in the ticket office of the station if there was any information available for the buses and was told I "might find some at the tourist information office" in the town.

I just couldn't believe that people arriving in Hastings, a tourist town, could be left without *any* information about the buses, and so I searched for information again, thinking there must be some *somewhere*.  Outside Hastings train station is a set of stands, labelled with a letter of the alphabet.  Next to each is what looks like a timetable, but unlike every bus system I have ever used, instead of showing a list of the places visited somewhere on the sign, this had a list of times with a bus number on it, and no information about where the bus might go except for its ultimate destination.

I'm an intelligent, resourceful woman.  I approached a bus driver of a 20 and asked for his advice.  He was perfectly amiable, but told me that his bus was going in the opposite direction (very difficult to know for someone strange to the area) and told me to look out for a 22.  I already had that information from the sign inside the station, and so waited for a 22.  The bus driver denied that his bus was going anywhere near Ore station, and suggested a 21.   The 21 doesn't go near Ore station, and wasn't on the list of buses that do.  We gave up at this point.

I'm amazed that the town hasn't fixed this problem.  The town isn't easy to get around on foot, as we discovered, as it has very steep hills and is spread over a wide area.  I was half an hour late for a viewing because we walked from Ore station (which should be renamed "Not in Ore Station") and found the simple journey I had taken down from Google was in fact a touch uphill route march.

We took taxis from then on.  The very wonderful Sunny taxis took us, giving invaluable information about the area and a very good value and friendly service.  When we go back, we'll use them again.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Which way is up?

I'm waiting for my house sale to get to the exchange of contracts stage, barely daring to look at properties but at the same time afraid that if I don't put every spare hour into it I shall never find anything in my price range.

I'm looking anywhere up to two hours out of London, including Hastings, Diss, Grantham, Northampton, Dorset, Bristol and Bath.  I'm hoovering up any information I can find about all those places.  I've always wanted to live by the sea, and so Hastings and St Leonards is currently the place I favour, although I have read a lot of mixed reviews about the place.

It's weird, I'm having a lot of dreams about being on buses and trains and not knowing where I am going, about houses with one way stairs and rooms that shrink, scared that prices will suddenly leap up and prevent me from buying where I was to be able to buy.

I have three grown children and a girlfriend to take with me (my son's!  not mine, lol!), and the responsibility of finding somewhere for my estranged husband in the same area.  I'm hoping that the change will be a positive one for all of us, and so I fear making a mistake, choosing the wrong place, and having to pick up the pieces if I do.  Then I get excited and realize how lucky, lucky, lucky I am to still be in a position where I can think about buying a house at all.

Not knowing where I will be in a couple of months is scary, but maybe I needed a kick.  And I'll take the sea and the sound of seagulls over the tarmac and the sound of police cars, any day of the week.

unMonastery

Here's an interesting thing: the UnMonastery. The idea is that they take a place with special needs for particular sorts of technology, and then pay a group of individuals to come in and dedicate their time to fulfilling those needs. The project is time limited to February 2014 to May 2014, and projects can run for two to four months within that period.   The current call is for unMonastery Matera, in Italy.

They aren't offering very much money - upto 350 euros for travel and 400 euros a month subsistence allowance, but this seems like a very interesting opportunity if you have the skills they are looking for and want to take an opportunity to travel to Italy.  See the full background here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Missing from history

I had never heard of Alice Guy-Blache, until I saw this film, which was made to accompany a kickstarter fundraiser. Pamela Green and Jarik Van Sluijs want to raise money to tell the story of Alice Guy-Blache and to find and preserve her films before they are lost to posterity.

Alice Guy-Blache must have been quite something. She made one of the first narrative films, using the then new technology, and she was also a pioneer of synchronization of sound to film. She started her own studio in the US, where there were signs exhorting the actors to "be natural". She made the first film with an all African-American cast. She made over a thousand films, but believed at her death that only three survived.  So far, Green and Van Sluijs have rediscovered over a hundred.  There may be many more, decaying in film archives around the world.

She seems to have been amazing woman, but the most astonishing thing is that people have never heard of her - even those involved in film or who have studied film history. The kickstarter campaign only has a couple of days to go, but it is $20,000 short of its target. If you can support it, please do. If you can't, please share the link in the hope that people you know may be able to support it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pinterest

I adore Pinterest.  For me, it's a combination of scrapbooking, collecting, window-shopping, escapism, wishlist, interests.  It allows me to hoard without hoarding, collect without spending.  As one of the funny lines on my quote board says... while Facebook makes me hate people I know, Pinterest makes me like people I have never met.

Today when I clicked on the profile of someone who had pinned one of my pins, I found a whole new world in a set of interesting boards.  I shall explore them and pin the ones I like the best.  Perhaps I should start a "my new house" board... except I don't want other people seeing the places I have found which combine four bedrooms, nice area, close to station and within an hour or an hour and a half of London.


 

Exile-on-Sea

The beach at Lowestoft
There has been a good bit of coverage on the level of deprivation in a number of coastal towns following the publication of the "Turning the Tide" report from the Centre for Social Justice a few weeks ago.  The Guardian published an article yesterday on the above average deprivation suffered by these towns.

Having recently visited Clacton-on-Sea, which was one of the towns mentioned in that report, I am very surprised that the one influence identified by local people as the most important is missing from that report:  the transfer of hundreds of people on benefits from inner London and other places where housing is expensive, following the changes to housing benefit.

I can see that towns on the coast are in a double-bind.  They have been the recipients of many people who were evicted from their homes when housing benefit changed.  They are suffering the effects on an influx of a lot of people without visible means of support except state benefits, who are a drain on the local economy.  However, they need visitors to keep coming in the summer to make their traditional income, and therefore they cannot shout too loudly about the social problem which has been transported to their town.  In any case, pointing an accusing finger at those unfortunate enough to have been displaced by the changes in housing benefit, is not an easy thing to do without being accused of being automatically prejudiced, by associating those who are unlucky enough to be unemployed with those who are involved in criminal behaviour.

The trouble is, the devil makes work for idle hands... and they can be very, very idle when transported to a bedsit or bed and breakfast room in a resort which is completely foreign to them.  Children leaving care are another group who have been transported to these towns, because housing benefit is too low to allow them to continue living where they have been.

The people I spoke to when I visited last week were quite clear that the increasing deprivation in the town is the direct result of this migration.  It is obvious that councils were desperately searching for unused capacity for the many people made homeless by the change in the law, who mostly came from London authorities, and they found that spare capacity in the bedsits and bed and breakfasts around our coast.  Those people are wary of being quoted, for fearing of being accused of damaging the town's reputation among holidaymakers.

It is plainly obvious that if you take a whole lot of people who have lived their whole lives in London and then transport them to a seaside town, there will be a social consequence - for the people and for the towns.  Clacton, Margate, Great Yarmouth, have all been in receipt of large numbers of people.  I observe that crime levels in Lowestoft, part of the remarkably crime-free county of Suffolk, are at levels way above those found in my current home town of Uxbridge. In greater London.  That's curious, and a new change. 

I am less clear why this circumstance isn't better known, or better reported.  The advent of gang warfare in the previously sleepy town of Great Yarmouth, the high level of crime, the high level of deprivation... I think there is more here than just the tendency of the English to migrate voluntarily to the coast on retirement. Local people know there is.


Privacy

EFF Creative commons graphic
Maybe it's because I'm an unschooler, that I look upon the PRISM programme (and the treatment of David Miranda), rather differently from your average citizen.  I get the feeling that the archetypal "man on the Clapham omnibus" who stands in for ordinary people in court cases, has the feeling that the snooping on his emails is no big deal.  For many people, law-abiding and not involved in any activity of interest to the security services, will have thought "Good Luck!" when it was revealed that the US government and UK government may have been screening and reading their emails.

Most people who mainly use their email to keep in contact with friends and family, to share knitting patterns or swap hilarious jokes, will have shrugged and thought, "Who cares if they read those?"  They don't have any sense of danger in the idea of someone looking at their emails.  They aren't a freedom fighter in a country opposed to US intervention, or a terrorist.  What do they have to fear?

I care, and not just because I think it is dangerous when an agency working on behalf of a country takes upon itself powers which are covertly obtained and not sanctioned explicitly by the people, or their government, which may be used for the bad, against innocent people who have no connection with terrorism, or actions against the state.

I am a law-abiding person.  I try to be open, honest, truthful, and I try to act in ways which are consistent with my beliefs and values.  However, being an unschooler has opened my eyes to the ways in which the state may act if you do not conform to the behaviour which they consider acceptable.  For years after I withdrew my children from school, I was involved in a correspondence with the authorities over the education of my children.  The various Education Acts are completely clear that it is the parents' responsibility to educate their children, and it is absolutely their choice to decide what type of education to inflict on them too.

You probably have no interest in home education or unschooling:  it's a minority pursuit in the UK.  However, on the basis that although most people will not be home educators, they may be willing to stand up for my rights in law to do it, I presume that you may be interested to know that in the course of my home education I was lied to, misled, and generally came to have a very low opinion of the authorities who would, it seemed, stoop to anything in order to try to manipulate me into doing what they wanted.

They told me I was compelled to have an inspection visit because the then Hillingdon LEA was allowed to "vary the law" in this matter.  I wasn't, and they weren't, but by the time I established that, it was too late.   They told me I had to provide them with samples of work. (Again, no I wasn't.)  They told me that they could send in social services if they weren't satisfied.  (Well, they could, but not legally, if they had no concerns about the welfare of my children.  It was a stick to beat me with, however.)

I was lucky; I speak with an RP/BBC accent, I am articulate, I was living in my own home, and I am self-educated, I was (eventually, and with help from others) confident in my rights to do what I was doing, all things which worked in my favour when dealing with officials.  I have supported people who were none of those things, and although their home education of their children didn't look a whole lot different from mine, their level of difficulty in persuading the authorities that this was the case was very much harder.

In the course of my time as an unschooler, I ran a helpline for parents who wanted information about home education (which mostly received calls from parents with children were being very badly bullied at school); I co-ordinated a response to the government on the proposed changes to the law on home education, and I wrote a speech for my MP.  At times, I felt very exposed.  At times I grew very tired of the task of asserting my rights. I am profoundly grateful that my children are now above the age of compulsory education and I therefore do not have to engage with the authorities unless I wish to do so.   I think it is possible that some of my communications, especially those with other home educators about the changes to the law, might well have been of interest to local government, and the idea that they might not have been secure or private alarms me.

It isn't that I am an anarchist or ever suggested anything which should alarm the government.  I'm a Quaker, I believe in peaceful protest, I would never advocate anything which interferes with the security or safety of this country.  But being a Quaker, I think it should be possible to challenge anything which one believes to be wrong, or a social injustice, or an abuse of power.  That alone can make you a person of interest to authorities, even in a democracy like ours.  How much more likely is it that you might become interesting if you happen to have an ethnic origin from a country of interest too?

Government has laid down rules for the access of our private communications by police and authorities, and I would expect that they should have to get a court order in order to access my private communications.  That's what they are required to do by law.  If they have found some backdoor way of accessing my communications which is totally against the spirit of the law in this country, I do not expect them to say "Yippee!" and use it.  It is quite clear that parliament has not sanctioned the things which the security services have been doing, and quite clear that it should either be mandated by parliament, or should stop.  My view is that it should stop.

I do not think that stating that, or being involved in revealing the truth to the world, or being related to someone involved in that, should warrant detention and questioning by the authorities.  Did any of them seriously believe that David Miranda was a threat to us as a terrorist?  I don't think so.  Then the anti-terrorist laws were completely inappropriate to his case.

If you have never brushed the authorities up the wrong way, and confronted them, it's hard to believe how vulnerable an ordinary person can be made to feel by officials who exaggerate their powers.  Joined-up government has led to few improvements in services (for example the various departments of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, who have the strongest customer-led case for dealing with clients as one body, still expect you to know that their tax affairs and tax credits are entirely separate departments, dealing with you completely separately) but it has led to health and education departments "sharing" with social services departments, to the detriment of our privacy.

Despite their apparent inaction when circumstances seem to cry out for action, social services departments are remarkably active when it seems that someone on their patch has had the audacity to withdraw their children for home education, and their powers are great.  If they have the slightest concern for the welfare of a child, they are empowered to enter the home and take the child into protective care, and that's right and proper.  Unfortunately, they often seem to consider a home educator a threat when there isn't the least suspicion that they are, indeed, abusing their children, and yet seem very slow to act even when neighbours, teachers and relatives have expressed concerns.  Several cases where extreme concern was expressed about children who were falsely claimed to be home educated, where the authorities still did not protect the children concerned have come up over the last five years.

Conversely, a number of families in the UK have gone on the run from the authorities, who seem to have considered the very act of home education to be a threat to the state and the children concerned.  Without any evidence of abuse, the simple act of taking responsibility for their children's education has led to increasing intervention in the lives of several families, who have then decided that their only protection from unwarranted action is to flee their county, or the country.  And I understand why.

So when I hear that the government has used the US facility for screening all our communications, I don't simply shrug my shoulders and think that if they want to trawl through the piles of aunt Jessica's jam recipes, they're welcome.  I shudder and write to my MP.  When I hear that they have detained a journalist's partner using the terror laws as their tool to do so, I write to my MP.  I suggest we all should make our feelings clear to our representatives, and if they don't change it, change them. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Freedom

I wrote a letter to my MP this morning, something I generally do a few times a month when I get angry about something the government is doing or not doing.  This morning it was the abuse of the power of schedule 7 of the Terrorist Act 2000, which was used to detain David Miranda, definitely not a terrorist, but a person of interest to the intelligence community as his partner is Glenn Greenwald (who has been interviewing the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden).

I'm alarmed by the fact that so many people accept that the government "needs" to be able to detain anyone they fancy, invade their privacy, raid their laptops and phones, on the basis that they might be involved in terrorism.  They had no such suspicion with David Miranda - at no stage did they think he was a terrorist or involved in terrorism.  But they held him under those law big fat anyway.

My MP, John Randall
I can see that neither the US nor the UK governments will enjoy the revelation that they have been trampling over the rights of their citizens to privacy, subverting the rules which say they need a warrant to read email or messages, and bullying companies into co-operating.  However, they seem to have lost sight of the sort of ethics that we expect them to have, the sort of ethics they *pretend* to have, where they do obtain a search warrant before charging into someone's private life.

The changes that have come since 9/11 have mostly been an intrusion and inconvenience for perfectly law-abiding citizens.  It seems to me to be common sense that it would pay the authorities to be chasing the actual terrorists, instead of trying to corral huge amounts of information about all of us.

It seems to me that we are sliding inexorably into a state where we aren't surprised that advertisers, government and nearly everyone else has access to the contents of our email, telephone messages and internet history.  It's a dangerous and slippery slope that ends with the state having more power than is good for it, and our freedoms evaporating one by one.  Protest now, before protest becomes categorized as a terrorist act.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Show me the way to go home....

We're selling the house... hopefully have sold the house, as we are waiting for our solicitor and their solicitor to arrange the exchange of contracts.  I'm just packing up boxes and trying to work out what possessions are worth storing and which should be donated to the charity shop - and which I can't do without even in the interim.

I am blessed and feel very lucky that I will have the money to buy a house, just not where I have lived for the past forty years.  Having ties to places I can't afford to live, I have no ties to the places I can potentially live, which makes quite a wide area based on Zoopla's property heat map.

I'm looking at Clacton-on-sea and Walton on the Naze, at Lowestoft and King's Lynn.  I'm not going to be in a position to make any offers until we have exchanged contracts and know the completion date on the sale, so I am a bit nervous about going on a trip next week to see what these places are like.

Not knowing where home will be, not knowing how long we will be in transit, or how long my possessions will be in storage, is tricky. I'm working on a list for the removal men, so that they can make an estimate of the cost.

I'd love to live by the sea.  I've always yearned for the sound of waves and the ability to walk along the beach at sunrise or sunset.  For this reason I am more inclined toward Lowestoft, Clacton and Walton.  But then the transport links are pretty bad for my son who hs a girlfriend in Sheffield of all places. 

I'm having to suspend knowing where home will be, and try to feel excited about the changes and how my life will be different. It's quite an odd feeling, not knowing where I will spend Christmas.


Don't call us...

Fantastic retro phone icon by RitchieBrett (CC attribution 3.0)
My mother changed her name relatively recently.  After decades of using her ex-husband's name for everything she decided to revert to her maiden name.  She changed it on everything except on annoying catalogue company (don't ask me why she singled them out for special attention).

Consequently, we know more or less instantly when we receive scam phone calls from people claiming that her credit cards have been used, her computer is sending out emergency signals and her pension bonus is still to be paid.  They use her old name and not her new one.

She seems to have got onto some scammers mailing list of vulnerable people who might make good targets.  Not that she IS vulnerable, or a good target.  As ladies in the autumn of their years go, she's actually pretty up-to-date and aware.  She uses a computer, understands how to email and search, knows when someone is angling for her details.

I've been living with her for almost three years, and it's made me quite angry that charities in particular seem to harass her with calls.  They phone her to say they're running a raffle and can they send her some tickets?  Then they phone up every other day to find out if she's sold them and sent them the money.  On numerous occasions she has sent them money having sold no tickets at all, just to get the calls to stop.  RNIB are particularly bad in this respect, and I have given several callers a flea in their ear about the exploitative nature of the repeated calls to elderly people who are guilted into making payments they can't afford.  I fear that's a rant for another day.

We get a lot of automated calls giving information about PPI, pensions, loft insulation etc.  There's no way to tell off an automated call, although I do get annoyed enough to contact the Information Commissioner's Office to report them from time to time.  As they seem to come from a different number every time, I can see it is tricksy for the authorities to keep track.

Despite being registered with the Telephone Preference service, we still get a large number of marketing calls.  It becomes quite easy to sort the scammers from the reputable companies; once you say you are registered, reputable companies apologize and ring off.

The ones which really have my blood boiling are the criminal sort I have received half a dozen times on my mother's behalf.  One has someone apparently reporting that her cards have been stolen and are being used in a shop in London.  As they give the wrong surname, I know this cannot be the case.  It's a clever con, that I have read about, where the person reporting it to you doesn't attempt to take your details but offers a crime number.  They tell you to phone another number, or tell you they'll transfer you to a police station, or any number of alternatives which lead to them eventually trying to get personal details.

I strung one of these along for a considerable time, extracting name, place etc from him, but  he cut me off rather than give me a telephone number.  And of course, he phoned from a network where it isn't possible to retrieve numbers.

This morning we had one from someone who represented a company called Evantechs, apparently in Hanover Street, London.  They were calling to alert me to the fact that my mother's computer was sending out emergency messages.  They also rang off when asked for a phone number... it's an infallible test, they are never alert enough to spoof a phone number at short notice.

Thing is, I would have expected the powers-that-be to have got a handle on these companies by now.  Surely it can't be beyond the wit of man to ensure that any company or organization which makes hundreds of phone calls to consumers, should have an identifiable number, or not be allowed to use the networks?

The rise of automated phone calls, scamming phone calls and marketing phone calls is one of the problems of our time, and we need to get it under control, somehow.  I have come across several elderly people who have been taken in by bona fide companies or charities and committed to things they would really rather not have committed to.  Many others have fallen for the clever telephone scams which lead you to a premium rate phone number.  That's without dealing with the criminal gangs who use telephone scams to extract people's numbers and accounts from them.  Something needs to be done.

If you can't obtain a number, it can't be reported.  That's why I think *anyone* making a large volume of calls should be required to register a proper number somewhere that can be tied to their activity. Charging down the stairs to answer the phone for an urgent message for my mother is one thing.  Nearly breaking my neck in order to find an automated call on the line, or someone trying to get me to give them remote access to the computer is quite another.




Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Schooling vs Unschooling

There's a lot of negative coverage of Facebook and Twitter at the moment, but I must say that I have found the support groups on Facebook to be amongst the liveliest and most supportive on the web.  I am a member of the alternate day fasting group which supports people using intermittent fasting, the 5:2 diet and fast-5 as well as ADF.  They aren't judgemental or picky about who is allowed to join.  It's a great group.

The unschooling group is a bit less supportive and a bit more judgemental.  I think the major problem with that group is that it includes a lot of schooling home educators who mistakenly think that home education is equivalent to unschooling.  It isn't. That leads to some pretty heated debates in the group.

Home educators may be unschoolers, but I know quite a lot who teach their children to a curriculum who could not be described as unschoolers.  If you try to teach your children then you are probably not an unschooler.  The difficulty for parents who try to teach is that you are necessarily limited by your knowledge and facility with the subject, and you may be sure that any gaps in your knowledge or lack of confidence will transmit to the child.

The whole point of unschooling is that once
you put the child's curiosity and interest at the heart of the enterprise you are no longer limited by your ability to teach them, but by their ability to ask questions and understand the answers. When you make their interest the driving factor instead of your own knowledge then you put them in charge of the journey - then your job is to facilitate the search for answers, NOT to have all the answers.

If this seems like the same thing to you, you haven't understood the difference.  There is an extreme difference in the dynamics of the relationship, which means that your child's interests are pulling them in the direction they need to go, instead of the parent pushing them there.


The best way I have ever heard it described, is that schooling is the filling of a bucket, while unschooling is the lighting of a fire.



A way with words

I’ve been thinking about my writing history over the past few days, in connection with a job application, and concluded that my mother can be credited with my vocabulary and some of my facility with words – but not for the usual reasons. It isn’t that I have inherited verbal dexterity or was taught a good vocabulary, but rather that a dictionary and good reference work were essential tools in my childhood and teenage years.

She is a Mrs Malaprop, always handy with the wrong word in the wrong place, or often a word that sounds similar but has an entirely different meaning from the one intended. It isn’t something that crept up on her with age either – in her teens she memorably asked for a John Thomas when entertained to dinner, instead of the Jack Daniels she’d meant to request.

Only this morning she told me to “mea culpa” when what she’d intended was carpe diem. It’s that sort of thing which made me very keen to consult a dictionary more or less whenever she said anything unfamiliar, to double check that any phrase she referred to meant what she thought it did. Thus she recently asked my nephews if they had been fraggled (fraped). I do wish I’d had the foresight to record the many examples of this over the past decades.

This facility for getting things a little wrong doesn’t just encompass words but also gestures. One day, driving to work she was cut up by someone who clearly didn’t know where they were going. She intended to make the US sign for “up yours” which involves poking up the middle finger, but instead used her index finger – I’m not sure what the recipient will have thought she was trying to say.

To her horror, the man she had gesticulated to, followed her into the office car park. She quickly scuttled into the office and was concerned when she realised he was following her in. She had a sudden realization that the man she had just encountered might be a visitor to one of the senior managers she worked for and discovered, just in time to dive under her desk, that he was indeed the VIP from head office who was arriving to see her boss. Stuff like that happens to her all the time. The people in the office passed her a paper bag with eye holes cut out. Only my mother would have seriously considered wearing it….

My friends envy my relationship with my mother, and she is indeed a loving and selfless mother who has helped me enormously in so many ways. But should you ever have cause to rely on her for an arrangement, do bear in mind that she will generally get names, places, dates and times wrapped around her neck, and do not take at face value anything she says. This is a woman who suffered from asthma most of her life and was still spelling it athsma at 65. Not because of typos. Deliberately.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Stunned

I found out last Wednesday that my husband hasn't paid the mortgage for a year, all the while assuring me he had.  I know that I am responsible for this too, and should have been checking up on him.

I was numb Wednesday and Thursday, weepy on Friday, tired yesterday.  Today I'm going to see him with my sister to find out if there are any more things I ought to know about, before I talk to the man from the mortgage company on Monday.

I don't know whether I can save us from having the house repossessed, it may be too late.  I will have to take over everything to do with the finances on the house and organize accordingly.

I've been having a bit of an "It's a wonderful life" moment though.  My friend Jane is coming to be with me for the interview on Monday, my son has given me his savings and offered to allow his salary to be taken into account, my friend and SL partner E is helping me financially, the doctors I work with have been very kind, and my mother is buying my food and helping too.  My sister, with whom I haven't always seen eye-to-eye is coming with me to see my husband and has offered to get an estate agent round to value the house and tell me if it is worth spending money (if I can get hold of any!) to do it up.  I'm lucky to have three gorgeous children, a family and friends who care for me.

My mother keeps asking if I am OK, and I suppose really I am, it's just still something I can't quite process in my head.  But after nearly losing my son in 2005, material things going wrong have been less important to me, simply because the most important thing to me is that my children are healthy and happy.  I don't want to lose the investment we have in the house though.

At present it looks likely that any money I have will be going to the mortgage company to pay the arrears, which should have been about £8000 but have inflated to £18,000 on a £100,000 mortgage. I don't know if I can negotiate that back down again.

I know now I should have insisted on taking control of everything, but I was already paying everything else, and I never thought that he'd do this again.  He promised faithfully he wouldn't.  And I believed him, which was a stupid thing to do without evidence.  Anyway... it has distracted and held my attention since Wednesday and I don't think I will be able to do anything else but think about it until the meeting is over.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Lucy Pringle Crop Circle Photography


I've known the name of Lucy Pringle for years.  Her beautiful pictures of the Crop Circles around southern England have been something I have admired and been fascinated by.  She put out an appeal for funding last year, because the cost of hiring helicopters to be able to take photographs from the air is very expensive, and rising.

This year I suggested she might like to try an Indiegogo project to see if she can raise money to help her with the cost of flying, running the photographic library and doing research.  She is particularly interested in the fact that some Parkinson's disease sufferers report temporary relief from their symptoms in crop circles.

Whether you think the crop circles are a purely man made phenomenon, or maybe that some have mysterious origins, they are beautiful things, and I think it is important that they should be recorded.   They have certainly become something that attracts people to the areas of Wiltshire and Hampshire where they mostly occur.

So the campaign to raise money is on Indiegogo and her beautiful photographs can be found on her website here.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Return Domenic Johansson

Please sign the petition currently on Change.org, to return Domenic Johansson to his parents. He was snatched from them while on a plane hoping to leave the country.

I have followed the case for years and cannot understand why a government has the right to remove a child from a loving family where he was not in danger of anything other than growing an open mind. You can find more details about the case here, and there is a mailing list and opportunity to donate to the family there too. Please reblog, repost, FB and twitter. We can get Domenic back to his parents!

Disambiguating George Barnett

I've been watching George Barnett (born 1993) as he progresses from favourite of the home education community to public property through the medium of the internet.  It was obvious to me that he has amazing talent from the moment I first saw the video for Silent Sound.

He released Sierra Planes in 2010 and then 17 Days in 2012 and I thought they were both amazing, but what was even more amazing was that he was producing these records on his own, playing nearly all the instruments, providing vocals and backing vocals and doing the production and often video recording, himself.

Of course, a few weeks ago, his cover of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" has brought him a lot of attention.  Once it reached a million views on YouTube it was obvious that the world had woken up a bit to his work - although the best of his own work is several times better than the covers, and the covers are amazing.  The total number of views this morning is 3,391,431.  I realize I have used AMAZING four times already in this post.  Watch the videos and then try to avoid calling them amazing many times over.  They are stunning, incredible, fantastic, wonderful...amazing.

I feared that there might well be some confusion, once people started to try to find information for him, because there is another George Barnett, also a drummer and musician, also English, also tall and also handsome, who is a model.  So I set up a wikipedia entry for George here.  It's been vandalized a few times already, which is really annoying.

Nevertheless, blogs and papers online continue to mix up George Barnett born 1993, singer, songwriter and producer and George Barnett born 1988, model and musician.  The Wall Street Journal mixed them up in their round up of Daft Punk covers, and has so far refused to unscramble them, referring to George's cover of "Get Lucky" in an article which references the other George Barnett's modelling career.  People (including me) have mentioned in the comments that they have made a mistake, but that hasn't changed the article, which is propagating around the web.

It's often said that you only realise how inaccurate papers are when you come across a story you know something about.  The mistaken mixing of George Barnetts has spread to Google, which is displaying one of George Barnett born 1993's photographs with the personal details of the other George Barnett.  I've reported it, but as the information seems to be collected by some sort of automated robot, I'm not sure how easy it will be to disambiguate the two George Barnetts for that.


The BBC website seemed to refer to George Barnett born 1993's appearances on the local radio showcase and other appearances, but then linked to the other George Barnett's details.  They've fixed that though!  I'm proud that the BBC at least does respond to information when they mix up their George Barnett's.

I'm not sure how to help disambiguate the two George Barnetts any more than I already have, and I'm surprised by how irritating I find it when a website gets it wrong... goodness knows how the man destined to be the "other" George Barnett feels about it.

I'm going to finish by embedding "Where the Devil Sleeps"...just because I can.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Money talks

The yahoo coverage of the Tornado in Oklahoma includes the following passage:

"Meanwhile, it has emerged that the two schools which were hit had not been reinforced with tornado shelters, though hundreds in  Oklahoma had received extra protection.

"Albert Ashwood, director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said it is up to each jurisdiction to set priorities for which schools get funding for safe rooms.
"But he said a shelter would not necessarily have saved more lives at Plaza Towers, especially against a tornado that was on the most powerful type, an EF5 twister, with winds of at least 200mph.

"When you talk about any kind of safety measures ... it's a mitigating measure, it's not an absolute," he said.  "There's not a guarantee that everyone will be totally safe."

It is clear that no one can guarantee that a safety measure will keep everyone totally safe.  But a school with a safe room is likely to be safer than a school without one.  It seems incredible to me that in the richest country in the world, children's lives are valued so cheaply.  People's lives.  That quotation is the sound of money talking.

There is something wrong in a world where school boards and emergency management weigh up the cost of those sort of protective measures and decides they aren't worth the cost.  There is money for all sorts of stuff in America, why not safe rooms for all schools in Tornado alley - particularly if climate change is going to mean more extreme weathere events for the future?

I was discussing Quaker philosophy with a friend the other day, and expressed surprise that so many people seem to have the impression that Quakers are saints or people who are inhumanly good.  The only thing required to be a Quaker is that 1) you should believe what you believe and 2) try to live by what you believe.  Does that seem so hard?

I think we get into trouble when people expound views and beliefs that are complicated by money and by politics and by their idea of what someone in their position should say or believe.  If instead they managed to make contact with their true inner selves and expound what they actually believe, I do think that the world would be a better place.  A much better place. 

The world could be such a wonderful place... instead of wars and oppression, freedom and health.  Instead of men making decisions about the cost of safety procedures, making decisions that reflect the fact that human life is precious, and worth celebrating, protecting, caring for.  I truly believe that most people agree with that sentiment.  If more public servants and elected representatives around the world reflected that, the world would indeed be a better place.

I know that measures may fail, things happen and no one can stop them.  But at least we should be able to say that we did all we can.  This isn't the case here.  I hope that changes and the schools in this area of the US get their safe rooms for the future.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Grrr...someone is wrong on the internet...again!

George Barnett reached two million plays on youtube yesterday with his cover of Get Lucky.  I'm really glad that he is getting some recognition for his wonderful work, and hoping that people explore further and find his original work too.

I've been keeping an unofficial eye on the things posted about him.  Partly because I considered it likely that people might confuse him with another George Barnett, who is also a drummer and musician but mainly a model.  I set up a wikipedia page for him, to try to disambiguate (I do like that word) the two George Barnetts, although it was difficult to find good original sources for a lot of the facts, and the person at wikipedia who allowed the posting said that my write up read like an advertisement, although I tried very hard not to make it read like that.

I was proved right about potential confusion when Wall Street Journal mixed up George Barnett, model, with George Barnett, amazing singer songwriter and cover artist.  Several people, including me, commented about their mistake, which they don't seem to have fixed.  Well, I suppose I didn't expect them to, really.  Papers hardly ever fix the mistakes in their outpourings unless forced to by a lawyer.

Then George was featured in a blog on My Frisky which said his videos on YouTube were all covers.  Of course they aren't.  As far as I know, only three are covers, and the other 19 are his very original work.  I posted a comment which has been in a moderation queue since yesterday... and no correction has been made to the story - or the title.

So.  You read it here first.  The George Barnett who made the splendiferous cover of Daft Punk's Get Lucky was born in 1993.  He is the George Barnett listed here.  This is his official website.

He isn't a model, he doesn't just do covers, and his Facebook fan page for liking is here.

His original work is on his youtube channel and available on spotify,  Check it out.  I think it's better than any of his covers - and they are exceptionally good.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Technological Wonder


I was born in 1958.  Yeah, I'm that old.  I can remember watching television as a child on a very small black and white television... and that television was only broadcast for a few hours a day.  I can remember the excitement of watching it in colour for the first time.

I remember being given a cassette tape recorder for Christmas and waiting with it beside my radio in order to record the Persuaders theme on it... which I then played endlessly.  I didn't mind that the radio DJ spoke over the first part and the end of it.  Well maybe I did, but I ignored it.

Those were days in which I would hear a glimpse of a new track and then listen avidly to the radio to see if I could catch it again.  Even if I knew a portion of the words I couldn't find any information about it until I caught a DJ - probably on Radio 1 - playing it again, to tell me the band name...and even then the best I could do was to watch out for an article in a magazine, or an appearance on Top of the Pops.

The telephone in those days was in the main living room attached by cords to the wall and itself.  If I wanted to make a phone call, or receive one, I had to go to the telephone and do it in front of my family.  The television in those days was in the main living room and belonged to everyone.  If I wanted to watch a particular television programme, I had to either establish my right to the television or negotiate with everyone else.

I had cameras... but the film was expensive and required more money to develop the film.  At the end of the processing, sometimes weeks or months later, I would find out what was on the film.  Sometimes that was a wondrous thing... more often than not it was a disappointment to find that I had set the aperture or exposure wrong, had camera shake or not enough light and had fuzzy or underexposed pictures.

So... I am grateful for so many things that my children, brought up in a digital age, don't even think about.  When I got up this morning, the sunrise was not big but amazing, slashes of orange across a soft white sky.  Being on the 27th floor at the moment, you're separated from nature and the people moving like toys beneath you, but hyper-aware of the changing sky laid out before you.

I grabbed my camera and took a series of shots, able to see with each one the differences between what I could see before me and what I was capturing, and then could could upload it to my computer.  And marvel, not at the photographs, which disappointingly seem to shrink sky phenomena to an unexciting, even trivial, size... but at the ability to simply move from taking an image, to seeing it, to uploading it, in a few minutes.  It still excites and stuns me.

Similarly, when I hear a snatch of a song, can remember a few words and can look it up on Google... finding not just the lyrics, but the band website, the biographies of the band... on to Spotify to listen to the greatest hits, add them to a playlist, etc, I am entranced...grateful...astonished.  I appreciate it, the wonder of it, the amazing facility with which we can gain access to information.  I am constantly amazed that many of my contemporaries (even some related to me) are unable to see what they have with a computer and a broadband connection - a link to the best library, encyclopedia, network that has ever existed. 

So on the one hand I have children who take it all for granted, who do not remember a time when they couldn't take a phone-camera-mp3 player with them whenever they go out, and on the other, people who seem slightly hostile towards the technology, as though it may raid their bank account or suck up all the spare time that they need for watching television or gardening (or whatever they're into). 

And I... I am just transfixed by the possibilities that we have now that our grandparents could only have dreamed of... the ability to speak to people across the world and see them at the same time.  The ability to watch videos of friends and family or strangers and even strangerers on youtube.  The ability to share what we are thinking and feeling with anyone who cares to pass by.  I love it all.

My pictures are disappointing... the slashed fire in the sky when I turned the corner this morning and saw it on the horizon was far more striking in the real world than I captured in the photographs... but my wonder and amazement at being able to take photographs, upload them to my computer, upload one to this website and write a blog post and publish it... that's not disappointing at all. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Fat Lady moaning

Definitely not Evans:  Tropical Sale on Ebay, beautiful Caftans at affordable prices

Although I have lost over two stone with the 5:2 diet I am still a big woman and have plenty more to go.  So I am still in the realm

of plus size clothing.  Today I received a link the new Evans catalogue... and my God, it's horrible stuff.  I feel hot just looking at it... and not in the sexy way... in the sweaty and uncomfortable way.

Time was when Evans was synonymous with crimpelene clothing... for those too young to remember crimpelene it was a man made, thick fabric which didn't crease, and which was especially used for fat lady clothes.  Don't ask me why.  It just was.  Perhaps they thought it was more durable or something, no idea.

The Evans went through a resurgence... better clothing, made for a range of ages, with a lot of natural fabrics in place of the man made. 

But now they seem to have reverted and have taken some very stupid decisions about the clothing they make.  Their dresses have no sleeves or are made of polyester...sometimes both.  They have only a few skirts... I don't know what has happened to the skirts, but they look dull as ditchwater.

Add to that the fact that most of their lingerie and nearly all their boots don't fit most of the people who are supposedly catered for by their shop, and I think you will understand why I find it very frustrating that a shop that has a virtually captive audience in a lot of towns (it being the only shop which offers plus sizes) are still not providing plus size women with what they want.

They are managing to make failure out of something that ought to be easy as pie.  If they were offering me long tops with half sleeves, dresses with half sleeves, nice natural fabrics and affordable prices, I'd be biting their hands off. 

If they added suitable lingerie in sizes and styles that suit the people who are the alleged target audience for the clothes, and shoes too... well all my spare money would be going their way.  As it is, ebay gets it, specifically Tropical Sale.  They have wonderful short and long Caftans in natural fabrics, and I love them. They have sleeves.



Saturday, May 04, 2013

Daft Punk cover by George Barnett

I've been posting about George Barnett for years... and it astonishes me that he hasn't had his big break yet.  I think maybe it's happening for him.  As few days ago he posted a cover of Get Lucky, originally by Daft Punk, on youtube.  This morning it has nearly half a million plays.



I hoping that all the publicity and likes for the cover will get attention for his music, which is amazing, and well produced.

Edited to add: French comments on the YouTube stream indicate that George's cover appeared on French tv this evening (Monday May 7) and he is featured on a LOT of trending and viral tips websites, as well as Gizmodo and News 24.  I hope all these new fans listen to his own stuff too... the rising numbers on the YouTube vids indicate they are exploring his other stuff too!

Rotterdam market



Went out to the Binnenrotte market this morning to get a few things for our dinner this evening, and because it is the most interesting market I've ever been to.  It's a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and so I went out without a coat or jumper... while E was wearing a t-shirt, polo shirt and fleecy hoodie.  He's a cold soul, needs to warm himself on some rocks before he can lose the layers!

The market is very varied... there are junky stalls which have everything from pots and pans to rugs and washing machines... you don't really get the wide variety of goods anywhere but car boot sales in the UK - some stalls are almost like antique shops, others have a lot of toys, christmas ornaments and plastic in them.  They're mixed in with the usual types of clothes and household stalls, like the ones you would see in English markets too, selling phone covers and batteries etc.

  

There are quite a lot of foodie stalls, selling things ready to eat.  We stopped for chips and mayonnaise, which is the traditional Dutch treat, from a van which was doing brisk trade.


There are serious cheese stalls, with a wide variety of Dutch cheese... I do not know why they give the impression to the rest of the world that they only produce Edam and Gouda - there are fantastic, wonderful cheeses in the Netherlands.

  

We bought courgette for the meal tonight, and mango for pudding.

 

At the end of the market street, there are flower beds which have been planted up in the most bizarre way.  The corners of the bed had been filled with pansies, and then there was a sort of wasteland between that and the other corner which had been planted with small lavender plants.  Now, I know the lavender will grow, but it still seems a bit bizarre.


 

There are exotic fruit stalls with papaya and fruits I don't even know the names of, bread stalls, stall with Turkish bread and pastries, a jumble of clothes - some new, some second hand. 

  

At one end there is a flower market which had breathtaking flowers, and *so cheap*.  They had some flowers which were obviously only going to last the weekend - three dozen roses for 5 euros though, armfuls of lovely flowers that would cost £30 or £40 in the UK for seven Euros.



 I resisted until I came to a stall with peonies and ranunculus, and so I bought five pink hyacinths, a bunch of white ranunculus and a bunch of the peonies for 7.5 euros...they'd have been a lot more in the UK.

  

We popped into Marqt, which is the lovely organic supermarket on the corner of the street where the market was, to buy some yoghut and bread.  I snapped a picture of E pulling our purchases home in his box on wheels.


And here are my flowers.  They are a bit small for the vase, which we bought on one of the junk stalls.  E has a vase of just the right size, but it's worth a bit and he declines to have me juggling flowers in it... can't think why.


On the way home I snapped my favourite tree.  There isn't much green in this part of Rotterdam, and I miss it, so have adopted this tree, and I give it a pat when I pass it.