Cannibal Glasses


I broke my glasses on Remembrance Sunday and as they are the ones I wear most often I was pretty distraught and had to get them fixed immediately or else I wouldn’t have been able to see to drive, or cook, or watch TV or anything. The opticians I originally bought them from was closed on the day, so I asked the chap in SpecSavers if he could help. He was very kind and managed to glue the arm back on somehow, and I’ve been very lucky to have had good use of them since then.

However, yesterday, the mended bit began to go again and today it was so bent I had to take action. I put a small plaster round the hinge to hold the arm on the frames, but quickly realised that having a huge white thing in my peripheral vision was not the best thing and so tried to take it off again.

Oops – the hinge broke completely and so I was stuck without an arm on my glasses.

Up steps Kevin with his set of small screwdrivers and an old pair of glasses and, voila!

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He has managed to put a pair arms from one pair onto the frame part of my current pair, and I now have a fully functioning pair of glasses again!! Thank you Kev! A bit of a cannibalised pair of specs, but beggars can’t be choosers can they?!

 

I have to say that the screws in glasses are so tiny, the people who make and repair them must have eyesight like hawks to be able to see them properly. It took Kevin the best part of an hour to do this for me, and that includes the time taken (twice) to clean up the blood and dance around the room clutching his finger as the screwdriver slipped and stabbed him (twice) in the pad. Ouch.

Lesson learned: don’t put sticking plaster on your glasses when they break or else it causes no end of sore fingers for your husband!

 

 

From the kitchen


Got to share tonight’s tea with you! I don’t usually go in for food sharing online, but this is one of the easiest, tastiest, inexpensive meals I’ve made for such a long time and it is definitely worth showing you.

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Baby potatoes with olive oil, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and chicken breasts bashed out flat with a dollop of garlic and herb cream cheese in the middles, rolled up and held in place by stretched out strips of smoked bacon.

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Chopped up green peppers, yellow peppers, red onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes tossed in olive oil with a hint of salt and a squeeze of lemon.

I sealed off the chicken bundles in the frying pan with some butter and sage leaves so the bacon started to go crispy then transferred them to the oven in a roasting tray.

The small potatoes went in another roasting tray, and the vegetables went in when the chicken and potatoes were partially done.

And this is the result:

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Washed down with a nice glass of red wine, this has got to be the best dinner we’ve had since Christmas. Estimated cost of each plate – £4.50. Miles better than a carvery dinner!

 

 

January Daybook


simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 11th January 2017

Looking out my window… I can see clear blue skies, but I can hear the wind howling and there is a storm on its way.

I am thinking… I might cook cheesy bacon pasta for tea tonight.

I am thankful… that mental health in young people is taken seriously.

One of my favourite things… is driving with my son to band practice and having a natter about all sorts of things, both big and small.

I am creating… this little beauty. I began it during the evening on Boxing Day (for my non-UK readers, Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day) and it is going to be used when we go away in our caravan this summer.

Rectangle blanket based on the traditional "granny" stitch, using rainbow colours. Three repeats of the individual colours followed by three rows of each colour afterwards. Just starting the blue three now and hopefully will finish it this weekend.
Rectangle blanket based on the traditional “granny” stitch, using rainbow colours. Three repeats of the individual colours followed by three rows of each colour afterwards. Just starting the blue three now and hopefully will finish it this weekend.

I am wearing… layers, layers and layers today. The heating is on but I’m bone-cold.

I am reading… “The Coroner (Coroner: Jenny Cooper Series)” by M R Hall

I am watching… The BDO World Championships on TV this week. I love watching the darts, and the BDO suits me because it is not as high-powered or glitzy as the PDC competitions. Darts are good to crochet to as I can listen and only half watch the TV as I’m concentrating on the yarn in my hands.

I have been listening to… Pemberton Old Band rehearsing for a competition this weekend in Skegness. My son plays bass trombone for them and I sometimes give him a lift to rehearsals. I have enjoyed the experience of being a groupie rather than a player since he started playing with them, and it makes a refreshing change for me to hear a piece of music being crafted into a performance piece to contest level by a band of this calibre. They are in the First Section (one level down from the Championship Section but working on their way back up) and they are a level above where I played with Middleton Band before I stopped playing.

I am hoping… my brother recovers quickly from his surgery yesterday.

I am learning… to trust my instinct.

In my kitchen… I have been making the effort to cook proper meals from scratch. We have a limited food budget and sometimes it can be a challenge to eat healthily all the time, and I have been enjoying the challenge of finding recipes and dishes that we can eat to fill us up, fill us up healthily, fill us up healthily and inexpensively.

Board room… we are looking at the story of Jonah and the Whale for our next Messy Church and I really want to do this activity with the children:

Post Script: I found this site (Strategies for dealing with change) when I was looking for something to help someone I love who is going through some really difficult, anxious times. I found this picture, and thought it would be great to share with you too. Please visit the host site for more like this.

 

Shared Quote…
strong-roots

Closing Notes… I began this post this morning, about 12 hours ago (which is why I said the sky is clear blue and not the midnight black it is now) and today has been another one that has been packed with drama, fun, music, family, planning, crafting and laughter. I thank God that my life is so varied and that it is filled with so many people who stimulate me in so many different ways. I have to say that being a mum is challenging at the minute, and I trust God to see us through the particular storm we are weathering just now. I am grateful to my friends who visited today too – a bit of a giggle and a chat with people you love goes a long way to making things feel better! And music. Ah music. Where would I be without you? Laughing with Ethan and Megan in the car going to band rehearsal tonight and having fun finding music that we all like. Fortunately all three of us have similar musical taste and we enjoyed a great 45 minutes each way listening to all sorts of stuff, from First Class’ “Beach Baby”, to the cast recording of songs from “Sweet Charity”, by way of Glen Campbell and his “Rhinestone Cowboy” (with alternative words, courtesy of yours truly) and a bit of “Hairspray” to finish with. You definitely can’t stop the beat if you’re travelling with the Pamster at the minute!

 

 

Book Review – “She” by Pete Brassett


 

Finished 5th Jan
Finished 5th Jan

“She” by Pete Brassett

From the blurb: A gripping murder mystery detective thriller that keeps you guessing until the end.

Background/plot: A serial killer is at work in London, and the newly-formed team of DI Munro and DS West work together to find out what is happening.

My overall impression? I’m in two minds about this book. I was part blown away, and part disappointed so overall I’m not very impressed to be honest.

The positives first: The plot was great, the storyline was original and the ending was satisfying, if somewhat confusing and open-ended.  Some chapters were written in the first person from one character’s point of view, and the third-person narrative switches between the killer and the police which altogether, makes it a very interesting read.

But the negatives outweigh all that. First of all there were FAR too many commas for me to be able read it properly. The writer is obviously striving for a realistic speech pattern in his narrative, but what happens is that all the characters end up speaking the way, and the prose is stilted and just doesn’t flow properly. Secondly, while the characters on the criminal side were excellently drawn, the characters of Munro and West on the police side seemed almost as if they were written by a different person because they were so wooden and unrealistically drawn. I didn’t get a firm idea of them and I kept having to remind myself who was who as I read. I felt I didn’t care about either Munro or West and their part in the story could have been fulfilled by any stock character from anywhere.

Who are the main characters? This book is billed as being a “Munro and West” crime thriller, and these two form the backbone of the police investigation team. The other characters are victims of the killer, which I won’t describe as it will give the game away.

Where is it set? In and around London.

Will I read the next in the series? I didn’t want to, but “Avarice” is being offered on Amazon Kindle Unlimited for free, so I started it the day before yesterday to see if it would resolve the ending or if it is as badly written as this. I am about a third of the way in and am frustrated by the same things – the commas and the one-dimensional, highly unlikely team of  Munro and West – and I think I won’t be reading the one after it.

Would I recommend it to my friends? No. Don’t bother. The different-ness about this book is not enough for it to warrant a “wow, read this!” from me because of the faults with it. I feel that had the writer used the benefit of a good edit and rewrite then it would have been a million times better. The plot is great, the storytelling is not so great. Sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Loss


angelOver two days this week I have been involved in four funerals. When I say “involved” I mean that I have provided the music for one, delivered the eulogy and address at one, supported a friend who was delivering his first eulogy at another, and at one to mourn the passing and celebrate the life of a friend. It might seem that to go to four funerals in two days is a bit much, but to be honest, I found those two days a journey of personal and spiritual growth, and I have learned more about myself and the relationships I have with people around me after reflecting on the lives of the four people I said farewell to.

For the first funeral (Wednesday), my role was to play the music during the funeral of Daniel*. He was an elderly gentleman whose family had chosen to have a church service and burial, and his funeral was attended by lots of family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. He was a big Blue (a big Manchester City fan in case you didn’t know) and he was brought into church to the beautiful singing of Mel Torme and “Blue Moon”. In the congregation was Fred Eyre who used to play for City and who now provides match commentary on Radio Manchester. The tributes were read by Daniel’s friend, and by an 11 year old little girl, who lived next door to him. It was very moving to hear an 11 year old child speak about the gentle giant that Daniel was, and she brought me to tears with her emotional speech.

On Thursday morning I attended three services at the crematorium, one in each of the three chapels there. I had the privilege of giving my very first funeral address. It was for William*, who had died in October and whose family were unable to organise the funeral for him. I did manage to speak to a couple of people who knew William and I learned a little of his life and the manner of his death, and I drew on that information and the gospel message to be able to write an address for him. I didn’t expect many family members to be present, but as it turned out there were about 50 people there to hear the funeral service and to mourn William’s passing.

Straight after William’s funeral was the service for George*. My role was two-fold, first to be a support for my friend Nick, who was also delivering his first funeral address, and also to be a mourner for George who had only two distant family members there for him.

After George’s service was the funeral of one of my own friends, Bryce. He was a cornet player and involved in many brass bands over the years so the chapel was full to the brim, with standing room only at the back and down the sides. I estimated over 200 people were there for him today, and the tributes were rich and emotional, moving and joyful. The band played “Nimrod” as a piece of reflection music, which again was very moving, and there were lots of tears shed at the very end when Bryce’s own cornet playing was relayed to the gathering in a recording he made about 18 months ago of “Ave Maria”.

So, four very different funerals. Four very different people, and four different views of death and saying goodbye to them. When I look at them as a group of four, I see the differences that life throws up to us. One man drew a couple of hundred mourners, another drew just two; one man’s family had split down the middle and didn’t really know about each other – not because of any argument but by a simple drifting apart and not speaking to each other; one man had no family to even fall out with and was truly alone in the world.

The differences go on and on, but it’s the similarities that strike me.

All four men at some point in their lives had met with hardship and struggle. With health, with learning difficulties, with failed marriages, with family splits. They had all loved and lost in one form or another, and yet they still managed to survive into later years, to about 70-80 years old each.

Another similarity is that they were all loved. Love is love, and to me it doesn’t matter whether there are just a couple of family members and “staff” from the local church to mourn you, or whether there are 200 people and a big brass band gathered to send you off, the fact is that these men were all loved and were mourned.

But it’s not just love that we understand in human terms that these men experienced, they are loved by God our father who loves us all, no matter how lost or broken we may feel, or how messy and chaotic our lives may be, or how we view ourselves as failures and so on. The love that sustained these four men sustains us all too, and we all have the promise of resurrection in glory at the end of days.

Death is a great leveller, and I realised on Thursday that no matter what our life’s achievements are or what may try to accumulate in material wealth, we all end our days on earth here the same way.

 

*Names have been changed to preserve the privacy of the individuals concerned.

On Joy and Sorrow


I heard this poem today at a funeral I was attending today, and it struck a chord with me.

On Joy and Sorrow
Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

 

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I hadn’t thought of it before, but when we feel sorrow it is because we have loved. We cannot experience love and not expect to feel sorrow, and what is life without love?

Please drop me a line in the comments and let me know what you think of this poem.

(PS – more about my four-funerals-in-two-days tomorrow!)

 

 

Book Review – “Speaking in Bones”


Finished 1st Jan
Finished 1st Jan

“Speaking in Bones” by Kathy Reichs

Background/plot:

There are a couple of strands to the plot of this book. There is the main thread that describes the professional life of Temperance Brennan where she receives fragmentary human remains at her office, and there is the ongoing personal life thread which links each of this series of books. Professionally, Brennan gets involved with a police deputy from a neighbouring jurisdiction as they try to track down a missing person by the name of Cora Teague and try to identify the remains that have been found in fragments a few years ago. They get a little flirty, which brings an element of humanity to Brennan, which is a refreshing change from the way that the character is shown in the TV series “Bones”. Along the way of finding Cora Teague, Brennan and Ramsey get involved with an amateur web-sleuth who is convinced she knows what has happened to Cora Teague, and the pair of them find themselves involved with a fanatical church leader who is suspected of being involved with her disappearance and possible murder.

Personally, Brennan has to put off a trip to Montreal and her long-term boyfriend/partner Ryan in order to solve this case and it throws up a lot of issues for her, such as whether she wants to share her professional life with him as well as – or instead of – her personal life. The book ends with some sort of conclusion to her ongoing struggle with her personal life and her relationship with him.

My overall impression?

As with all of the previous books in this series I loved it. Reichs’ writing style is highly compelling and she has a knack of building in cliff-hangers to keep the reader interested in the story and wanting to know the next bit almost before the current bit is over. I love the descriptions of the rural settings in which this story is partially set, and I really liked the developing relationship between Brennan and Ramsey.

As far as plotting and narrative are concerned, Reichs is almost faultless. I could see no plot holes (or at least none that mattered), and the conclusion, though twisted, was logical and believable. I liked the balance of “standalone” plot, i.e., the search for the identity of the fragmentary remains etc and the “meta” plot, i.e., the development of Brennan’s character and the advancement of her personal issues that have developed over the whole series. There is enough of the standalone plot to make it readable as a one-off, although obviously a reader would get more out of the book if they know the backstory of Brennan and Ryan and understand the relationship with Slidell and so on.

Overall, great book and a cracking plot.

Who are the main characters?

As already discussed, this is a Temperance Brennan book and the story is told from her narrative viewpoint. There is a new “main” character in this book, Ramsey the neighbouring deputy, and apart from the “baddies” (which I can’t tell you about otherwise it will spoil it for you) most of the other characters have all been in the series before. Interestingly, they only play a small part in this story and I think the book works the better for it. For example, the small inclusion of Ryan, Slidell and Larabee means that the focus of the plot is Brennan herself which is something I have felt had started to become a bit of a problem in the last couple of books in the series.

Where is it set?

It is set in and around Charlotte (Brennan’s office), and in the Blue Ridge Mountains which is about a two-hour drive away for her.

Will I read the next in the series?

Most definitely, yes.

Would I recommend it to my friends?

Yes I would. It would suit anyone who is interested in reading crime fiction and it is possible to pick up the threads of Brennan’s personal life in this one so it could be read without reading the previous ones. It is lighter on the forensics than earlier books in the series and it is less gruesome in that respect so if you haven’t read any of them because you feel a bit squeamish at that kind of thing, this one is more gentle on you, I promise.

Just a quick note on the character Temperance Brennan: She appears in this series of books and also as a TV character in “Bones”, and confusingly, Kathy Reichs has a creative hand in both. However, the character is completely different so don’t be surprised if you read the books expecting to find FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth et al and find them all distinctly absent. I prefer the written Brennan to the screen Brennan, but that’s just my personal choice and I’d love to see what you think of the differences/similarities between the two .