Saturday 28 December 2013

BBC Proms: Dr Who Prom broadcast Xmas Day 2013

I was so looking forward to watching the BBC Dr Who Prom on Christmas Day. The snatches of music I'd heard from it on the radio earlier in the year had whetted my appetite and, although it had been broadcast in full of the radio, I wanted to see the TV version with all of the characters from the Dr Who series included. Daleks and Cybermen are not nearly as scary on the radio!

Oh how disappointed I was by it!  If I were to sum it up in one sentence, that would be, "Too much Matt and Jenna." 

Apart from the 8 minute tribute to the classic Dr Who era, with the inclusion of the superb Radiophonic Workshop sounds and the presence of Mark Ayres and Peter Howell (two of the composers from the classic series era), and a section of Dudley Simpson's score for Tom Baker's 1979 adventure, The City of Death,  most of the music seemed to focus on the Matt Smith period of the Doctor. What of the haunting Abigail's Song, superbly performed in the 2010 Christmas Special by Katherine Jenkins? Where was the Doomsday Theme from the parting of the Doctor and his companion, Rose Tyler? 

On the big screens flashed scenes from various episodes over the years, but there was no mention of several of the Doctors: the second Doctor - Patrick Troughton; the dark Doctor who resurrected the series - Christopher Eccleston; and the wonderfully humorous David Tennant were all noticeable by their absence from clips and script, whilst Tom Baker, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann all had but a token acknowledgement.

Also noticeable by their absence were many of the companions, and although it was lovely to see Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford) introduce one piece, where were Rose Tyler (Billie Piper),  Jo Grant (Katy Manning),  Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate)?  I spotted Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and River Song (Alex Kingston) in one clip each, but they were such big parts of the Dr Who story surely they should have been seen more?  And what about Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) who appeared in the 2005 series and went onto star in the spin-off series Torchwood?

In addition to the doctors and companions already mentioned, I missed K9 too!

A BBC Prom to celebrate 50 years of the iconic Dr Who series was a great idea which could have been realised in a much better way, by not focusing on Matt and Jenna, but on covering the whole history of the Doctor and his companions!

Saturday 14 December 2013

"Do you know what..." it drives me bonkers!

"Do you know what..." 

It seems to be the phrase of the year. Having replaced the ubiquitous "you know" which, for years past, fell from the lips of interviewers and interviewees alike on both radio and television, the new buzz phrase that I hear everywhere is, "Do you know what..." before the person speaking says what they want to say.

"Why?" I wonder, do people feel the need to prefix everything with such a buzz phrase... is it a verbal clearing of the throat?  Is it a nerve-suppressing prefix to speech? Is it just trendy and hip and what all the beautiful people are saying now?

Whatever the reason for this mindless phrase, it is driving me to distraction. I first heard it on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing spin-off It Takes Two, where every comment seems to be prefixed by this inanity. Today I heard it on <gasp of horror> BBC Radio 4, that bastion of intellectualism and sensibility!

I suppose I should rejoice in the demise of "you know", which was amazingly irritating, but I regret that it has been replaced by another, equally irritating buzz phrase. Can people not just speak, without presaging their oratory with unnecessary twaddle?!

Monday 16 September 2013

Going the Yelloway

Driving into town the other day we found ourselves behind a Yelloway coach in its striking gold livery, and I was reminded of my very first coach trip as a child. That trip was on a Yelloway coach too - and we went from Manchester to London to stay with my father's family for a week's holiday at Northolt, just opposite the aerodrome.

When I was a child my father had a series of old bangers, none of which lasted very long, and certainly none would have been roadworthy enough for long journeys. So, it was decided we would go by coach. I must have been very young, less than seven, as my brother hadn't yet made an appearance in the world.

 I vividly recall the excitement of packing our small cases and boarding the coach from Manchester, and the long long journey down to London. The most abiding memory of that trip is of another family who had two or three small children, and who were travel sick much of the way, something I found quite astonishing as I did not suffer from that malady at the time.

 The journey seemed to take forever. We must have stopped for "comfort breaks", as they are called now, but I cannot remember how many or where they were. This would have been in the early 1960s, so much of the M6 was not then built - it was a series of by-passes that were later connected up to create the mighty motorway we are familiar with today. Much of the journey was on A roads, travelling through various towns and cities until we licked up the M1 and headed into the capital.

Arriving in London, we wended our way past all the places I had heard of but never seen, until we finally arrived at what I suppose was Victoria coach station, where we were met by the relatives and taken onward to Northolt, where we spent an enjoyable week observing military aircraft taking off and landing at RAF Northolt, and visiting the national museums in South Kensington.

Later, after my brother's birth, annual visits to the family at Northolt were made by hired car - usually a Ford Anglia (affectionately called an angle-box due to is shape), which my father drove steadily down the newly completed motorway, usually through the night so that we children slept through the journey!

Sunday 18 August 2013

The Crochety Rabbit opens on Folksy

My new Folksy shop is now open and has its first hand-made items listed: The Crochety Rabbit on Folksy My ETSY shop remains open until the end of September 2013, when I'll review its future! The Crochety Rabbit on ETSY

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Looking back to buckets of water and a wet flannel

The demise of the shower on Sunday, and the subsequent message that the plumber cannot fit a replacement before Wednesday morning, made me reflect on how our washing habits have changed over the last 50 years. When I was a little girl, growing up in a "2-up 2-down" terraced house in a south Lancashire cotton mill town, we had no shower. Indeed, we did not even have a bathroom, and the loo was at the end of the back-yard in the unheated, unlit outside privy!

Daily washes were done in the huge Belfast pot sink under the kitchen window. When we were very small we were sat in it, later on the wooden drainer with our feet in the sink itself, and being washed down with a wet flannel well-soaped with Camay, then rinsed off with jugs of warm water until we were clean.

There was no hot water supply to the kitchen sink, just a cold tap, so all hot water was heated in a large pan on the stove. It was a huge black enamel thing, pale blue on the inside, with two handles to make it easier to carry. Whether for washing, cooking or cleaning, all hot water was produced this way - it was only on moving to a newly built house just before my 10th birthday that I discovered houses could (and did) have hot water on tap!

As we outgrew the kitchen sink we migrated to using the zinc bath which my parents used. It was kept outside in the back yard and brought in for the weekly baths, being set down on the flagged floor in the kitchen and filled by bucket with cold water from the tap, warmed to just comfortable by addition of hot water from the pan on the stove. Needless to say, we did not linger over our baths, as the water did not stay hot for long in a house which, along with no plumbed hot water, had no central heating either. The only source of warmth in the kitchen was the stove, so bath nights would coincide with Mother's  baking sessions, so the heat from the oven helped keep us warm whilst bathing.

My Mother's one big dream was to have what she called, "a proper bath", but in a 4-room cottage it was thought to be an impossibility, until one day when I was around eight or nine years old, a wagon pulled up outside, followed by a knock at the front door. On the step my Mother found the husband of her best friend, who was working as a labourer on a building site. On the back of his wagon was a bath - he had been working on the demolition of some properties near Manchester and everything was being disposed of. He had managed to rescue the bath, still in excellent condition, and had brought it home for her.

The big question, of course, was where to put it! Uncle Paddy, as he was known, and my Father off-loaded the big bath into the back yard whilst the matter was considered. The kitchen was fairly big, they mused, so if things were moved around a bit then the bath could be placed against the end wall. It really did not take much re-organising - the kitchen consisted of a free-standing larder cupboard and a stove, along with a table and four chairs in the middle. The bath was hauled into place, Dad made a hole through the wall to allow water to drain out though the plug hole, attached to a short length of piping, and into the same drain that the sink used. Although it sported two shiny chrome taps, the new bath had no plumbed water supply, but had to be filled by means of the same bucket and hot water heated in the pan on the stove. This meant that our bath-times were never in more than three or four inches of water, but they were accompanied by jugs of water poured over us to rinse the soap away.

Mum was delighted with her proper bath, and she set to and made a long curtain which Dad attached to a batten and wires on the ceiling, so they could have some privacy when bathing. I imagine that it may also have kept the draughts off them.

How different it all was to our current, cosy, plumbed-in bathroom with its shower, wash-basin and flush toilet, and how quickly had we forgotten those early simplicities, only brought back to mind when the shower stopped working and we had to revert to a sponge and soap in a basin, and being rinsed off with large jugs of water!

Sunday 30 June 2013

The empathy of marmalade cats

Watching the BBC news story about how a street cat named Bob adopted a homeless, drug-addicted busker and turned his life around set me thinking about the abilities of marmalade cats like Bob.

A few years ago my parents' small elderly Jack Russell dog came to live with us as she had gone blind and they could no longer cope with her. She arrived in September, and settled in well, enjoying walks along the lane, sniffing all the while, so that even if she couldn't see, she was still aware of her environment.

However, within a few weeks it was apparent that she was developing canine dementia, and as her condition deteriorated the previously enjoyed walks became a bit of a trudge for her. No longer able to manage more than a hundred yards and back, she plodded along with no interest in her surroundings at all. In fact, one neighbour commented that she was well past it and wasn't long for this world.

Despite her frailty she still enjoyed small meals and treats, and loved being cuddled, spending much of her time curled up on my lap.

Our old girl in her younger days

One day we opened the door to go for her usual short walk, and found a marmalade cat on the step. He was one of two which had been playing in the garden for a few weeks, then one had vanished completely, and the other was rarely seen. Now there he was, on the step. Seeing the dog he raised up, hissed and spat at her, and swished a paw with claws extended across her muzzle. She, being blind and with no sense of smell, was unaware of him and suffering a scratch cried out in pain and shock. But unlike other dogs, she didn't react by attacking her attacker. The cat was puzzled. He crept forward and sniffed her, and seemingly realised that this was a sick dog.

As we set off for our short amble along the lane, we heard to swish of a tail and the patter of small paws, and there, walking alongside the dog was the marmalade cat. When she stopped, he stopped; when she strayed he gently nudged her back on course; all the while trotting along quietly beside her until we returned to the house.

Thereafter, each time we opened the door to take her for a walk the cat was there, and he accompanied us on the walk. Finally, at the end of January our little dog stopped eating, and having been advised by the vet that the time had come to say goodbye, we sadly made the necessary arrangements.

The next time we opened the door, the cat was there again, but seeing no dog he just turned and walked away and did not return. He had done his job lending a helping paw to our old girl in her last few weeks.

The marmalade cat who befriended our old girl

Thursday 20 June 2013

Ferdie the Fearless

Ferdie the Fearless lives in the cottage opposite ours. He's small, speckled, affectionate, blind in one eye, and very inquisitive! We first met him on a cold Winter afternoon, when leaves prickled with frost and the chill of the air cut each breath like a sharp knife, and he clearly thought that joining us in a warm house was a better option than exploring a frozen garden.

He's a Bengal x British Short Hair, one of two hand-reared brothers belonging to our neighbour - the other being more of a home-lover, curling up on the rug before a cosy fire. But not Ferdie, he's a curious cat. He wants to be in the middle of whatever is happening, and he loves people! If he hears voices, or if a vehicle stops outside the houses, he comes running, his loud MIAOW! is heard long before he is seen. Many is the time the doorbell rings, and opening the door we find a visitor plus Ferdie on the step. "Is this your cat?" they ask. "No" we reply, "but he would be if we'd let him!"

On the coldest days of the year our frog pond froze, so Ferdie became accustomed to walking across its glassy surface. After the thaw it changed from clear water to green as the floating pond weed grew back, making the surface look solid again. Approaching Election Day, on a sunny warm afternoon when I was stood in the garden chatting to one of the candidates, Ferdie appeared as usual. After climbing up my jeans for a cuddle - he loves being held - and having made friends with the candidate ("Even if cats can't vote for me!") he had spotted a frog so demanded to be put down again. Off across the garden he raced, and then pounced, only to find that the apparently firm green surface was really liquid. With a big splash, and a look of shock that would have done credit to any cartoon cat, he scrambled hastily out of the pond, sopping wet and covered in tiny green dots of weed. Glaring at us, daring us to laugh at his predicament, he hid under a garden chair feeling very sorry for himself before slinking off home to his bemused owner and an early bath.

Now that Summer has arrived and we like to keep the downstairs windows partly open - enough to let in the fresh air but not enough for a cat to squeeze through! Today with the arrival of the decorators Ferdie thought he had outwitted us. There were two painters up ladders painting the soffit boards, and as the upstairs windows were open Ferdie saw his chance - up the ladder he went after a painter, then realised he could not get past the decorator to get to the windows. What to do next? Turn round and come back down again, of course, which is not quite so easy, but he managed it until about five feet from the ground when we gave him a helping hand!

Monday 25 March 2013

Photographing a Templar... ?

My book of poems and photographs is almost complete... in fact I just need one more photo and it's done. The problem is that the photo I need is of a Knight Templar, and there are very few of them to be found in the 21st Century, so I'm having to apply some creative thought as to how to solve that problem!

A Butterfly Mind is a collection of my poems, accompanied by photos taken by me or my partner (BJ Morgan), and will be published shortly... when the Knight Templar photo issue has been resolved!

Sunday 3 March 2013

Giving him a helping hand!

For some time my partner has been "thinking about" having a website to promote his writing, but as this has not happened, I decided to help him along by creating him a site. He seems to like it - in fact he spent several hours playing with it yesterday, so I'm hoping he may be fired with enthusiasm by it. The hardest part about publishing titles on our own imprint is the marketing and promoting side, and we as authors and publishers have to do it all ourselves, so with a little luck his new website will help promote his book Moonbeams!

If you'd like to pop over and see it, and perhaps drop him a line to say hello, I'm sure he'd be thrilled. Even more so if you have read his book and would like to send him some feedback about it, or write a review. You'll find the website here: BJ Morgan [author]

Thursday 17 January 2013

The Crochety Rabbit

This week has been mainly taken up with crochety things. No, not crotchety - I'm not getting irritable in my old age! Crochety, as in the age-old hand-craft of crochet. Making things from yarn using a hook and one's hands. I find it relaxing and therapeutic, sat listening to a radio drama, whilst my fingers twist and hook the yarn to make shapes, which in time become garments or accessories.

This week I have been making crochet flower brooches, after a friend in Poland asked me about them. Late last year I'd made some hats which had a flower attached, so thought it would be fun to use the flower as a brooch design. They work well, so I now have a Quality Street tin (yes I know it should be a Roses tin but...!) containing pink, lime green and lavender roses (so far, more colours to follow!)  Making each one different has been fun too, some just one colour, others bi-coloured, some with a bead centre, and others with an attached leaf.

They look super on a lapel, a hat, or attached to a bag. They could also be stitched onto a blanket to make a flowery detail...  I can sense another design coming on!

My crochet items for sale are available from my ETSY shop:
or visit my website to contact me or see my other crocheted items

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Sharing the muck!

A recent comment on Facebook about muck-spreading, from my friend Sue Millard at Jackdaw E Books, reminded me of something which happened when I was a teenager and was dating a local farmer's son.

My mum was a passionate gardener and she and my boyfriend got on like the proverbial house on fire - she made fab apple pies, which he loved!  Anyhow I digress!  One day he'd arrived in his car (a VW Beetle) to collect me, as we'd arranged to go to a steam fair at Levens Hall, so off we went. It was a *very* hot August Bank Holiday afternoon, and we parked the car in the middle of the field allocated for parking, and went off to enjoy the event. When we came back 3 hours later it was to find the Beetle sat alone in a huge open space in the middle of the field - with a definite haze around it. As we approached we detected the smell... which got stronger the nearer we were to the car... looking puzzled I wondered what it was, and the boyfriend - looking very sheepish - confessed he'd brought two large sacks of farmyard manure for mum's garden, but instead of dropping them off for her before we went out, he'd left them in the boot of the Beetle - which, as you most probably know, is at the front of those cars - so we travelled home with an incredible smell of well-cooked manure wafting back over us!