Thursday, 31 December 2009
Not that this is the case this year. 2009 has been a pretty good year on the whole.
It started with an Ithaca* walk following Bristol's Heritage Trail and ending with a bowl of soup around our dining table.
(* the name given to the 6 of us who meet once a week to share food, drink and stories of our journey through life - which I always look forward to and which keeps me going)
We had a loft conversion, a house face lift and stripped floorboards in the autumn of 2008 but the makeover wasn't complete until the kitchen and bathroom floors were tiled in January. And we're still not back to normal, whatever that means.
After being on the waiting list for several years I was finally offered a place in the Gasworks Choir. It's been a while since I've sung properly (20+ years ago at Edinburgh University) and the first time I've sung alcapella, which was pretty scary to begin with, but which I'm gradually getting the hang of. I've now done two terms, with concerts in May and December and an 'appearance' at the Festival of Song at Stourhead. I also took part in Sing for Water at Lloyd's amphitheatre.
I surprised myself by joining the WI, without the need of a blue rinse! The Malago WI is one of the latest urban branches run by some frighteningly efficient yummy mummies who have devised an incredible first year programme including Christmas decorations, egg cosy knitting, creative writing, Indian head massage and clothes swapping. And lots and lots of tea and cake!
As if that weren't enough to be getting on with, I've also started to attend, albeit sporadically, a Stitch and Bitch group that meets twice a month at the Tobacco Factory. One or both of my daughters usually comes along too. I started knitting a scarf for myself but was waylaid by a patchwork blanket for my younger daughter. Suffice to say I haven't yet finished either! Still there's something very relaxing about sitting with a drink and chatting away while you create a work of art. And there's always someone to help you when you get stuck.
I've been on two Year 6 residential trips to Treginnis Farm in Pembrokeshire. The weather on both occasions was excellent and we had a fantastic time with the farm staff and the animals as well as several long walks along the spectacular coastal path.
I became involved in the Grow Zones project, an Earth Abbey initiative to encourage and support the growing of fruit and vegetables in back gardens. I've helped make over a couple of gardens and have had our garden made over in return. I also took a course in permaculture which I hope will come in useful as we expand our microholding.
We took two holidays, the first a week in our old favourite, St Ives. It was our tenth visit, and our tenth cottage, this time a stone's throw from Porthmeor Beach. We did a few of the normal things - Easter morning service at St Ia's (where we missed Andy Couch), the Tate, body boarding, walks to Man Head and Clodgy Point and from Lelant, and breakfast at the Porthgwidden Beach Cafe. But we also racked up a few firsts - a very muddy walk to Gurnard's Head where the heavens opened, but where we were fortunate to take shelter, and lunch, in the Gurnard's Head Hotel, a pint at the Sloop and dinner at Blas Burger, an eco-friendly fast food restaurant on Smeaton's Pier.
The second holiday was one we'd been promising ourselves ever since our older daughter went on her first Bristol-Bordeaux student exchange three years ago. Her host family in Bayonne invited us to visit them 'en famille', and this year we finally took them up on their offer and spent a delightful 10 days getting to know both them and the Basque country. We travelled by train, stopping off in London for a few days in both directions. Our time was split between their homes in Bayonne and Creon (just outside Bordeaux) and highlights for me included a dramatic re-enactment of a battle between the French and the English (no prizes for guessing who I cheered for!) and the delicious paella we shared with 20+ of their family and friends on our last day. It was a real privilege to spend time with the family who'd looked after our girls and whose own girls have become honorary members of our family. I hope one day we'll be able to return the favour.
We've also made two summer trips to Scotland. The first was to visit prospective universities for my elder daughter who sits her A levels next year. We took the train to Durham (which we'd laid great hopes on but which sadly failed to impress) and then ventured further north to Edinburgh from where we took day trips to St Andrews and Glasgow. The 4 year MA course appeals and, if all goes to plan, our daughter will follow in her parents' footsteps and study at Edinburgh (albeit social history, as opposed to French or Zoology).
The second was just a week later when we travelled to Biggar, again via Edinburgh, to attend my an old friend's 50th birthday ceilidh. It was only as he welcomed his guests at the beginning of the evening that we learned that he had got married that afternoon! We didn't know many folk there, apart from his family, but we had a wonderful night reacquainting ourselves with the dances we'd first learned at school.
I've been busy campaigning. Our local community organised an effective protest against the opening of a new Tesco store and I travelled to London to take part in The Wave demonstration at the beginning of December. Cutting down on waste and reducing my carbon footprint are still priorities with so much more to do.
All in all I've had a good year. AS levels and UCAS applications have been stressful and with A levels and GCSEs to come next year we're not out of the woods yet. I try to stay 'chilled' but I'm afraid I don't always succeed. Hey ho!
Still, tomorrow's another day ... and another year!
Friday, 18 December 2009
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
Well, I've already mentioned one of them - our Advent calendar. Then there's our annual visit to Bath Christmas Market and the pantomime (at Bristol Old Vic until last year when we switched to the Theatre Royal in Bath). We try (not always successfully) to read A Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. We wait until a week before Christmas until we buy our tree, from a lorry parked in Asda car park, and we always decorate it (in red, green and gold) to the Handel's Messiah. There is usually an argument over whether it is quite straight. This too is a tradition!
We throw a mulled wine and mince pie party on Christmas Eve with white iced star biscuits, adorned with silver balls. After midnight mass the girls are allowed to open one present - a pair of pyjamas (pinched from a friend, the tradition not the jimjams). We still leave Santa a glass of sherry and a mince pie and a carrot for Rudolph. There's a stocking for everyone. The girls' stockings must contain chocolate coins, pistachios, a Lush bath bomb, a pair of knickers, an orange (which they traditionally never eat) and a chocolate Santa. Christmas dinner is not necessarily turkey, but breakfast is usually Bucks Fizz and Christmas morning muffins (courtesy of Nigella Lawson).
After Christmas we tackle one of our Christmas jigsaws and visit the BBC Wildlife Photography exhibition at the Museum. We have to watch Love Actually at some point during the holidays and we keep our tree up until the twelfth night.
So how about you? What do you do?
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
The truth is that I'm am not at all sure that I can manage it - not properly anyhow. The campaign not only advocates buying nothing for 24 hours, but also turning off lights and non essential electrical appliances - a complete shut down. I am to park my car (the only easy bit, as I don't have one!), switch off my phone and log off my computer. Aargh!
However, never daunted by a challenge, I am going to give it my best shot.
Atleast I'll have an excuse not to do the ironing!
Saturday, 24 October 2009
Friday, 23 October 2009
Sunday, 18 October 2009
The event in question is a meditation on trees. As we follow the path through the woods we will occasionally pause to observe a tree. One of us will read a short passage describing its history, or properties or religious links, followed by a poem. We will then move on to the next one. At some point along the route there will be a break for a hot drink, a piece of cake and a chance to discuss our thoughts. We are hoping it will offer us an opportunity to reconnect with nature and reflect on its significance in our urban lives.
The idea was a collective one but we are indebted to Alison Swinfen for the readings from her book 'Through Wood'.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Sign up to Oxfam's Here and Now campaign and book your ticket to London for The Wave.
See you there!
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Sunday, 11 October 2009
After having started life as the source of fruit and milk for the city of Bristol and then as a clay pit, Royate Hill has been given over to private allotments for the last 100 years. There are currently 56 plots and a waiting list of 38. In the centre of the site there is a a community orchard planted with approximately 40 variety of apples, pears, plums, damsons etc. Mike pointed out a few varieties and allowed us to sample fruit positively oozing with juice and flavour. He then walked us round the area he cultivates where we tasted some of the variety of salads and soft fruit that he grows in abundance. After a cup of tea and the opportunity to use the compost loo, we were set to work pressing apples and mulching the apple trees with wood chip waste from a local timber yard.
What surprised me was Mike's apparent lack of interest in exploiting the land for as much as he squeeze from it. In fact, when questioned, he admitted that the tradional cultivation of vegetables was way down at 17 on his list of 'values'. Far higher up that list were education, community projects and working in harmony with the natural environment. Top of his list was his own sanity. The allotment is where he goes to escape to his own Planet Zog.
This got me thinking about our own Grow Zone project which has, on the face of it, been of limited success. Our herb garden at the front of the house has flourished and I even managed to achieve my ambition of growing a few giant sunflowers against our new sky blue wall. We harvested a reasonable crop of potatoes from our old dustbin and from various tomato plants. I was able to eat peas straight from the pod in my own back yard and the chard in our rockery is still producing an abundance of vivid leaves. However our courgettes refused to fruit, the runner beans failed to thrive, the pumpkins were attacked by slugs and I didn't harvest our radishes until they were too woody to be edible. In terms of produce we come out approximately 50/50.
However, when measured by the Feingold scale we have done extremely well.
We have had fun
We have recognised the potential of our small space (and I really do mean 'small')
We have actually done something with it
We have worked with (and for) others
We have shared food and drink and friendship
We have learnt new facts and practised new skills
We have brightened up the street
And finally ... we have grown some of our own food!
PS I described Mike as 'extraordinary' in the best sense of that word. Click on the image below to see just what I mean.
Monday, 5 October 2009
I've given this some thought and I think it boils down to lack of organisation. It's not thinking ahead that:
allows me to leave the house without a carrier bag and have to accept a plastic one to carry my groceries home
prevents me from buying all the ingredients for a meal from the high street shops and not have to dash out to the local Tesco Express for an essential item
prevents me from baking a cake or a batch of biscuits to last the week and not have to buy plastic wrapped alternatives for the girls' lunch boxes
prevents me from doubling up a recipe and freezing half of it to save me to lighting the gas or heating the oven twice
allows perfectly edible food to fester in the fridge because I haven't thought of a way to use it up in time
If only I set aside a few minutes each day/week to make a few notes then I'm sure I could do a lot better.
I wonder what my fellow class mates will come up with?
The image is of The Egg of Life, the classic permaculture symbol.
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Monday, 6 July 2009
Sunday, 5 July 2009
Friday, 3 July 2009
Sunday, 14 June 2009
The fun day was one of a number of events to mark National Refugee Week, which started on Friday 12 June and runs until Monday 22 June. For those of you living in Bristol see here for details of all that's on offer. One thing that caught my eye was the Simple Acts campaign, which invites us to 'do something small to make life better for refugees and everyone else around you'. The list runs as follows:
Cook a dish from another country
Tell a child a story from another country
Watch a movie about refugees
Do a quiz on refugees
Say a little prayer for me
Read a book about exile
Sign off your emial with a note about refugees
Find five facts about refugees
Find out who you REALLY are
Visit a Refugee Week event
Learn to say a few things in a new language
Have tea with a refugee
Share a song
Join a big action campaign in support of refugees
Share your sweets
Give a book about refugees as a present to someone
Define the word 'Refuge'
Take a picture of you and your pro-refugee banner
Play football with a refugee
The website states that if everyone does at least one of these acts then we can make a big difference to the way refugees are perceived in the UK.
Which simple act will you do this week?
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Monday, 18 May 2009
Sunday, 3 May 2009
The Grow Zone project is part of Earth Abbey, a movement of people helping each other live more in tune with the earth. Half a dozen or so households have taken the challenge to grow at least some of our own food following permaculture principles.
So to get back to our garden. Two of us dug up the tired looking shrubs from the narrow bed outside our front window and replaced them with hardy herbs - a variegated sage, Russian tarragon, bergamot, Moroccan mint and hyssop. We replanted a rosemary bush from a pot in the back garden and finally added two giant sunflower plants which will look magnificent standing proudly against our new sky blue wall. We filled three window boxes with compost from our compost bin. I sowed mixed salad leaves in two of them and will transplant a couple of trailing tomato plants into the third as soon as they are hardy enough.
Meanwhile out at the back the rest of the team uprooted an overgrown rosemary bush in the rockery and removed a couple of the larger rocks to make space for some runner beans to be trained up the back fence and some spinach and rainbow chard which will nestle among the alpines. The rocks were piled up against the raised rockery wall to enable any frogs who leap down into the back yard to find their way back to the pond. Our old rubbish bin and two large containers were planted with the potatoes we've been chitting in our dining room doorway for the past few weeks. A growbag was planted with a miniature squash and two bush courgettes and various other containers with peas and broad beans. A second growbag awaits three bush tomatoes.
The sun shone brightly, tea and conversation flowed freely and when we were done and tidied up we shared a simple of lunch of soup, bread and cheese and chutney, salad and cake (much of it homemade), before heading off home.
I don't know what it was; the sunshine, the friendship, the labour, the food, the fresh air, but my spirits were uplifted and I spent the rest of the day on a high. This morning I came downstairs and felt compelled to go out into the garden to see how it was. It looked lovely.
Thursday, 30 April 2009
I've bought myself a small aluminium water bottle which I have begun carrying around with me to avoid having to buy bottled drinks. I am now going to follow Beth's example and invest in a travel mug for those occasions I pop into a cafe for a latte.
Why don't you let me know what you'll give up?
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
There are four plinths in Trafalgar Square, one in each corner. Three of them are occupied by statues of military men. The fourth was destined to feature an equestrian statue of William IV but was scrapped due to insufficient funds and remained empty. Then, in 1999, the Arts Council set up the Fourth Plinth Project which used the plinth to showcase the work of contemporary artists (Ecce Homo, by Mark Wallinger (1999), Regardless of History, by Bill Woodrow (2000) and Monument by Rachel Whiteread (2001). The project is now managed by the Greater London Authority who commissioned Marc Quinn's Alison Lapper Pregnant and Thomas Schütte's Model for a Hotel 2007.
The latest work, One and Other, was chosen from a shortlist of six. We were in London during the public consultation and I voted for Anthony Gormley. His concept of elevating everyday life to a position normally occupied by monumental art appealed to me and I knew that if he won I would apply to be a part of it.
I realise that encouraging others to apply will reduce my chances of being selected, but hey, life's for sharing, so log on and sign up. You've nothing but the coach fare to London to lose!
But if I can't convince you then maybe the man himself can ...
Antony Gormley on the Fourth Plinth from One & Other on Vimeo.
Now all I've got to do is decide what I'm going to do for an hour! Any ideas?
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Monday, 2 February 2009
Monday, 26 January 2009
I have grown to hate packing lunches. I get bored of sandwiches, no matter how many changes I ring with various breads and fillings. Then there's the waste. Sandwiches need wrapped, biscuits and cakes need to be protected against crumbling and fruit against squashing. Yoghurts and crisps come in individual packaging, invariably plastic. I'm hoping that these boxes will help me pack more exciting lunches and cut down on waste at the same time.
Today the girls had pasta with tuna and sweetcorn, grated carrot with vinaigrette, a crunch jumble (biscuit) and an apple.
Who knows what they will find in their boxes tomorrow!
PS If you would like to find out more about these boxes, including idea on what to pack them with, go to Laptop Lunches.
I think it's important to celebrate occasions with family and friends, but I don't do nearly enough of it.
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
- Catch the ferry to Bees Tea Gardens
- Bake a brioche
- Watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one day
- Knit myself a scarf
- Teach my daughters how to knit
- Make a Cornish pasty
- Walk to Bath along the cycle path
- Make my will
- Make a year's supply of marmalade
- Sort through my photographs
- Have our Amsterdam poster framed
- Grow half a dozen vegetables in our back garden
- Paint the front door
- Make a birthday card from recycled materials
- Work my way through my piano book
- Make tablet
- Watch a Bollywood movie with my daughters
- Make a note of all my friends' birthdays
- Read a French novel
- Buy an address book and make a note of all my friends' addresses
- Reduce my BMI to 20
- Write to all the people who sent us Christmas cards
- Reduce our landfill waste to 100g or less per week
- Write one letter a month for Amnesty
- Read at least one book a month
- See at least one film a month
- Phone my sister once a week
- Clear out my wardrobe
- Book tickets for Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory
- Make Pashka at Easter
- Give up something for Lent
- Take up something for Lent
- Bake Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday
- Remember to use the shrink wrap egg decorations at Easter
- Follow the longest trail in Leigh Woods
- Take a picnic (and some friends) to Brandon Hill
- Visit the Georgian House
- Make butter
- Learn to crochet
- Make my daughers something for their birthdays
- Cook a special Valentine's dinner
- Preserve lemons
- Have the piano tuned
- Devise a 4 week menu
- Attend evensong at the Cathedral
- Arrange our classical CD collection
- Book tickets for the BBC Proms
- Grow giant sunflowers in our front garden
- Organise a 50th birthday celebration
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
I couldn't help being reminded of 2 May 1997 and Tony Blair's triumphal arrival in Downing Street ...