Wednesday 31 December 2008

New Year Felicitations

pic by Stewart Butterfield at Wikimedia Commons

Happy New Year to you, one and all.

I've been looking at new year quotes and was rather taken by this one by American writer and columnist for the Kansas City Star, Bill Vaughn.

"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves."

I can be pessimistic if I'm not careful, but on New Years Eve, I'm definitely an optimist. Which are you?

Monday 29 December 2008

A Haiku Diary

About 18 months ago I started to write a haiku a day. Gradually this turned into a haiku diary, where I try to instil the essence of a memorable part of each day. It’s amazing how it jogs my mind to remember when I read a few from months ago.

I try to do this every day, but often fail. However, I do keep a factual journal inherited from when I was in a business partnership and needed to record what I did with my time. At the end of each month I refer to this so I can go back and fill in the gaps. Some of my blog entries help too.

It gets done each month because I always post my monthly haiku diary in my Writelink blog. The link is to the last one posted for November.

As I look back, I can often recognise the ones I wrote as they happened because they are more poetic and less about the factual things. But even if the words in my haiku are less tangible, I can still relate them to what I did on the day.

December is a very busy month so I have lots of gaps to fill. But below is one I wrote for Boxing Day on the 26th. My last post here was a prose version of that day too, one which I wrote in the evening.

Summer’s leaf curtains
are drawn back to air the views
on our country drive.

Pic is by Raould at Wikimedia Commons

Friday 26 December 2008

Happy Times with a Dark History

Today was a happy day. Our friend Bramble, a tan and white spaniel, came with us to visit a village with a dark history. We took her to see some friends who’ve moved out to Norton St Philip. They used to work in our local pub and now they run their own, so we can drop in whenever we feel up to a 70 mile round trip with one of us driving and therefore not drinking. That of course has to be me, since hubby drives all week for work.

When I opened the car door at home, Bramble immediately hopped in and onto the passenger seat, refusing to budge over to the back, so that hubby could sit next to me. He was all prepared to sit in the back until I said I didn’t want an unrestrained dog sitting beside me in the front. After some rather hilarious pushing and shoving, we finally managed to get her out on the passenger side and then back in behind the two of us. And off we went amid some happy laughter.

Since the weekend, it’s been cloudy and grey with only people’s Christmas lights to brighten the streets. But today was a lovely day for a drive. The sun shone, burnishing the naked trees and brightening the grass. It was good to be out in the countryside with summer’s curtains of leaves drawn back to air the views.

The Fleur de Lys in Norton St Philip had not long opened when we arrived. Only one regular was sitting at the bar reading his newspaper; “escaping from in-laws”, he told us. To his surprise, we were welcomed with hugs and kisses by the landlady. And on the bar stood a glass wellie full of dog biscuits. Bramble was a happy doggie too.

The pub sits on a corner immediately opposite The George, and it's these two buildings that have the dark history. The George is reputedly one of the most haunted inns in England, and possibly the oldest. Probably first built in the 13th century, The George is recorded as having a continuous licence since 1397. In 1685, The Duke of Monmouth stayed here when he tried to usurp the throne of England from James II, and is said to have narrowly escaped assassination when a bullet was fired into the building through a window. His followers secured the village and fought off a Royalist attack, but Monmouth did not survive long afterwards for he himself was caught and executed.

The George also served as a court for his Bloody Assizes by the infamous Judge Jefferies, The Hanging Judge, who tried Monmouth's supporters, showing no mercy. Prisoners were either locked up in the George’s dungeons awaiting transportation, or hanged nearby. One of the accounts I have read says the executions took place at the Fleur de Lys and their bodies were displayed there. You can see it here, together with some photos of the two pubs that sit on opposite sides of the road.

We’ll have different memories of our visit to the village today, though, as we passed a happy hour with our friends before the skittle teams arrived for their lunch ahead of a game. We took our leave when they started to get really busy and wended our way home, let Bramble out for a run by the river, and settled in with some Christmas sarnies in front of the telly, before she had to go back to her regular master.

Thursday 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas Everybody

Happy holidays to everyone. Peace and goodwill.

Monday 22 December 2008

The Sally Army

This pic of a Sally Army brass band playing in Birmingham, UK, is by Anneli Salo

Every year I give what I can afford to the Christmas appeal of the Salvation Army, who do wonderful work in helping the least fortunate to have some sort of respite or treat at that time of the year. Knowing that there are homeless people sleeping rough and scavenging for food is bad enough at any time of year; at the Christmas holiday time it seems doubly hard somehow.

The Sally Army, as it is affectionately called here, was set up as an evangelical movement in 1865 by William Booth in the poorer areas of London’s East End. His wife, Catherine, designed the famous Sally Army bonnet. Lieutenant Eliza Shirley was only 17 when she followed her father to Philadelphia, US, with permission from General Superintendent William Booth to roll out his work in her new country. George Bernard Shaw's famous play, Major Barbara, tells a story set within the work of the organisation.

The international work of the Sally Army is now widely recognised as not only bringing people to the Christian religion, but supporting the least fortunate of any religion. They are, for example, famous for reuniting people who have been lost for years with people who have missed them.

Their homeless shelters are available all year round, but as Christmas approaches they appeal to those of us who have the comfort of our homes to help them make a special effort over the holiday. Donations also go towards helping poorer families to have a simple Christmas dinner and presents for their children. Elderly people living alone might be invited to join others for a meal. Extra volunteers are needed to distribute meals and gifts, or just provide companionship.

The Army's work reinforces the message that Christmas as a time of goodwill is not just for the fortunate few. Some people think its members are too evangelical. I myself may not completely share their faith, but I know they do invaluable work. The SallyArmy has been performing small miracles for nearly a century and a half. It would be great to believe that it won’t be needed for that long again, but I really hope it can continue for as long as the needy are with us.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Run Up to Christmas is Bad for Writing

Photo by
Nevit Dilmen

My blogs are about the only thing I'm writing at the moment. There's just too much else to do at this time of year. Thank goodness I no longer have clients with deadlines. I've no idea how I managed to fit everything in when I did. Tomorrow I'm heading for London and meeting up with an old friend. Friday I'll be helping my daughter to set up her new computer, and then we have a weekend of jollification. I'll be back on Monday and probably won't be able to post again before then.

Thought I'd just mention that, since I put the Helium widget on my blog, my article clicks have definitely gone up. That's fantastic, and it has encouraged me to look for those widgets now and read seom of the articles written at Helium by other bloggers. That gets me over there to do some rating too. If you've not yet seen any of my work there, please do click on my Helium Go and then find something you'd like to read in my articles list.

Monday 15 December 2008

Moving Dreams

I’m feeling rather envious of a friend who has just moved into the home of her dreams, after spending a frustrated six months in rented accommodation waiting for it to happen. She sold her previous house very quickly after putting it on the market several months after mine went up for sale. Now she’s in the new house and I’m still waiting for a buyer, and likely to be doing so for quite a while to come, by all accounts.

Studland Beach is not far from where I hope to be living next. To reach it from there, the quickest way will be to cross the narrow entrance to Pooles natural harbour at Sandbanks on a ferry, as long as the queue is not too long. I understand it is very popular in the summer months. To reach it you drive past the famous millionaire homes, supposedly some of the most expensive coastal properties in the UK.

At the far end of the beach on the other side are some varicoloured cliffs. I took the photo there a couple of years ago in early summer. The second one is a view across the harbour taken from a layby where we stopped on the drive home.

Friday 12 December 2008

A Busy Day

Not much time to write anything today, including this blog. But I don't want to miss my Friday blog slot so I thought I'd just give you a run down on my day.

First was cleaning the house, then finding the Christmas decorations. Fortunately hubby came in for lunch as I was getting really frustrated having emptied out all the store cupboards in vain. I did find some things that had been missing for ages, but no Xmas decs. So we got out the loft ladder and climbed up there. And there they were, in a black sack inside a box.

My efforts are a bit minimal this year. We bought a tiny blue spruce growing in a pot, so we'll be potting it on after the holiday. It's about 2 foot tall, perhaps a little less. So I put it on a coffee table next to a mirror, put the lights around it and then up and over the mirror. it looks quite good. Perhaps I'll take a pic to show you next week.

Once I'd finished those minimal decorations to my satisfaction, I started chopping vegetables for the first of my curries. I made three altogether: Jean's special veggie; a lamb madras; and a chicken and mushroom dopiaza, the last two with shop bought sauces so really easy.

It's all in aid of my supper party tomorrow night. Hubby wanted curries and I don't know exactly what my guests will like so I've made some options, including a beef casserole for someone I know doesn't like anything spicy.

We'll have loads left. Numbers have dwindled a bit. Brian from next door called in earlier to give apologies: his wife is sick and I don't think he'll come without her. Maybe I'll offer him takeaways.

Not that it matters. What's left will freeze and I'll have some cooking free days in the next week or so.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Wordless Wednesday - New Forest Foal

Of course, this wasn't December - June actually.
I just like looking at it. Makes a change from the Christmas hype.

Monday 8 December 2008

Putting on Weight Before Christmas

pic is by Jmb at Wikimedia Commons

Oops. I got on the bathroom scales last week, something I haven’t done for a couple of months. I knew the weight would have gone up because I had more or less stopped all exercise to sit in front of this monitor all day long. I’ve only really left it if I had to do other things like cooking, shopping, cleaning and laundry, or to flop in front of the TV for Little Dorrit and the News. Or on those days when I just haven’t been here.

Part of the trouble is that I now feel locked in to so many money-making sites until I can make enough to receive a pay-out. Be warned, if you are looking into how to make money on the web. It’s as well to try them out one by one, if you’re concerned about your time at the computer. This is also eating into my writing time and I’m not getting as much done.

Anyway, the gain was well over half a stone. And this is before Christmas. Usually it’s not till January that I feel the need to check and then do something about it. But I need to start now or I’ll be looking like a balloon at the end of the year. Fortunately there will only be two of us here on the festive day, so perhaps I won’t be tempted to indulge as much as I do when I’m catering for the masses. But I am hosting a curry night for the neighbours next Saturday, and I have a long weekend with my daughter and granddaughter the following week.

Since I found out my weight, I’ve been leaving the house for a short but brisk walk every day, even when it’s been raining. I have to go to the post most days anyway. And I’ve been quite good about no snacks between meals, and cutting down a bit on portion sizes. After I finish this post and do my EC dropping, I’ll dig out my Rosemary Conley video and at least do the toning exercises.

Wish me luck in trying to get the balance right.

Friday 5 December 2008

Proving Love in the Morning


It’s years since I had breakfast in bed. I’ll never forget the lovely surprise on a Sunday morning when hubby left me to sleep late. The noise of his juggling a tray full of a sizzling fry-up and china while opening the door woke me, and the delicious scents of the coffee, bacon, eggs and tomatoes drew me out from under the bedclothes. It wasn’t a special occasion; it was just a spur of the moment decision on his part. For me, this was what was special, that he’d decided to do something to make me feel good and prove that he loved me.

Nowadays I am woken every weekday morning at 6.30 with a cup of fruit tea and a biscuit. This is just before my taxi driving hubby leaves for his second job of the morning and it means I can accompany my morning read in bed with a refreshing drink and snack that wakes me up properly. I have plenty of time left to enjoy my cosy duvet nest before I need to be up and making his bacon butty when he comes back at ten to eight.

What inspired me to write about this was finding out about a super soft Spundown Duvet that could make those kind of moments even more enjoyable. Spundown_duvet_packaging_

These duvets are light but warm, and washable at 60°, which is the temperature that kills dust mites. They are made from polyester microfibre so are just the thing for anyone who is allergic to feathers and suchlike. They are available from Pure Living Collection in London, UK.


Wednesday 3 December 2008

Copyright Infringement

I’ve spent part of today scrolling through 70 odd pages of a Wordpress blog looking for stolen articles of mine. Early this afternoon I checked the Constant Content forum and found a furore. Someone had discovered this blog which had posted hundreds of the showcased bits of articles from the site without buying them. We were all asked to search for our own articles and email their titles to CC support so that they could deal with the infringement of our copyright.

The site had 649 pages so it was a daunting task. But after 70 plus pages the material on it changed – it wasn’t from CC. I checked a few random pages and they all looked as though stuff had been hiked from sites like myLot and similar forums.

Some CC authors had up to 50 articles ripped off. I was one of the lucky ones. I only found three of mine on there.

Now it gets stranger. In the CC forum thread about this, someone published an apology for violating our rights and said it was the fault of a robot. Now I’ve heard of robots on the web but I don’t understand what they do.

CC are now reviewing their security measures, and I don’t know if this will affect my subtle efforts to market my work. There’s a link to it in my sidebar and in my email signature, but that’s not going to be much good if they limit access to the general public.

Anyway, all the offending articles have now been removed. I’m not going to give a link to the site because I don’t think it deserves any clicks. But if anyone is worried about it and needs to take a look, get in touch and I’ll let you have it privately.

Monday 1 December 2008

Bloggers Unite for World Aids Day

Bloggers Unite

December 1st is World Aids Day when bloggers unite to raise awareness of this dreadful scourge that is still threatening life in Africa and causing untold misery.

My daughter was just 10 years old in 1981 when the first symptoms of aids were recognised among gays in New York and California. Then it was labelled GRID (gay-related immune deficiency) and it was not until the virus was later discovered that the labels HIV and AIDS were coined.

When my girl was 13, Rock Hudson died of AIDS. She and her friends could speak of little else. It was top of the agenda among young teenagers who became very cautious about sex and very knowledgeable about safe sex.

Sadly that attitude didn’t spread far enough or last long enough, and the disease has multiplied around the world. According to the American International AIDS Foundation, deaths from AIDS now total over 25 million, while some 38 million people are currently living with the HIV virus. Africa is by far the worst affected continent but Asia, and India in particular, is fast catching up.

The history of medical research to find a way to halt the deadly virus is a travesty of litigation versus humanitarian efforts. Relatively cash rich countries have provided education, condoms and testing, as well as medication to help the HIV positive lead longer and fuller lives. Where the cash is not available, people just suffer and infect other people, often without any awareness.

The proliferation of HIV and AIDS is a direct result of the poverty that so many of us abhor but feel quite helpless about. Even when we dig deep in our pockets and send money with our goodwill, we later discover that aid has been misappropriated. We can only keep on giving, blogging and praying that our small interventions will one day make a difference.

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