Monday, 7 June 2010

I was interested to hear, on Radio 4's PM broadcast this evening, of the proposal to set up an English Academy. The aim of this body would be to preserve and protect the English language, along the same lines as the Academie Francaise.

As a pedant who cringes at the inappropriate use of the apostrophe and who cannot bear to use text language, I would support such an institution. My dad. who studied English at Glasgow, instilled in me the love of well written English, which has never left me and which, I am happy to report, I appear to have passed on to my elder daughter.

One of the guests on the programme was from the Queen's English Society whose aims are 'to improve standards of English, to encourage people to know more about our wonderful language, to use it more effectively and to enjoy it more'. Hear hear!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Sweet Sixteen

My younger daughter celebrated her sixteenth birthday today. Well sort of. With seven GCSEs this week the celebrations were restricted to cards, presents and her choice of today's menu - pancakes, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast and Chinese crispy duck for lunch. Oh, and a chocolate birthday cake!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Singing in the Sunshine

I spent today at the Festival of the Voice at Stourhead. It was my second visit and the sun shone just as brightly as it did last year. I went with the Gasworks Choir and we sang the songs we'd sung at our concert a couple of weeks ago.

I was disappointed that there did not seem to be as many choirs this year but I would like to mention two in particular. The first was an alcapella ladies quartet called Belladonna who sang some delightful jazz numbers. The second was the Avalonian Free State Choir who captivated the audience with their haunting eastern European songs - and the conductor's sensual salsa dancing! If you get a chance to hear either of them then jump at it. You won't be disappointed.

The photograph is of the floating flower creations made by my friend's children.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Salad Days

This year, inspired by the lovely Alys Fowler, I've planted flowers not just to add colour to my back garden but also to my salads. I 've sown calendula and nastursiums but I've also allowed other plants to flower. The chives growing in the planter over our wormery, have produced my favourite flowers so far - bright purple spiky balls that taste of garlic. This evening I sprinkled some of the tiny individual flowers over a green salad at dinner. It looked almost too good to eat. - but not quite!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Stress Busting

A couple of months ago I started attending a weekly yoga class. My daughter sits her A levels this month and yoga was suggested as a means of dealing with stress in the run up to her exams. I decided to go along to keep her company. We found an evening class just round the corner run by a cheery young woman who puts us through our paces without taking it too seriously. The first couple of times I felt every muscle in my body the next morning, but it's getting easier. It makes me more aware of my body, how it works and what I can do to to improve my wellbeing. However my best bit is still the last 15 minutes when we get to lie flat on our backs and are given a short shiatsu massage. Bliss!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


Today was one of those days that doesn't show much promise at the outset, but then surprises by getting better and better. I'd decided to attack the pile of ironing teetering at the bottom of our bed but, with the sun emerging from behind the clouds, I only got as far as the third item of clothing before I abandoned my iron in favour of a trowel.

I find gardening utterly addictive so, after repotting and staking the Red Alert bush tomato plants my friend Moira had given me yesterday evening, I planted out another Marmande and a squash. Of course I then had to rearrange the garden to find room for the new plants. Next I remembered that the front garden was looking a bit untidy, so I did some weeding and trimmed the Russian tarragon. What with all that, and the need to stop every now and then to admire our poppies, watch the bees disappear into the foxglove and spot the frogs under the lily pads, I was out in the garden for hours.

The ironing will just have to wait until the next rainy day!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Letters from the Desert

I'm a big fan of Peter Owen Jones. I admire him greatly and enjoyed his first two television series (Around the World in 80 Faiths and Extreme Pilgrim). He approaches his subjects with an enthusiasm and honesty that infects and inspires. So I was rather disappointed in his latest series (How to Live a Simple Life), in which Peter attempts to follow in the footsteps of St Francis by giving up money and relying on the generosity of his parishioners and the strangers he meets on his pilgrimage across the south of England.

Peter was as charming as ever and introduced us to some extraordinary people. The problem is I can't see what's wrong with money. As far as I'm concerned it's neither good nor evil, just a more sophisticated form of barter. It's how we come by it, and what we do with it that matters. This seemed to be the conclusion he came to at the end of the final programme, which made me thankful that I'd persisted with it.

I was therefore very grateful to have my faith in him restored by the reading of his latest book (Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim). This is a collection of letters written to friends, family, and a unusual assortment of others, during a period spent in a hermit's cave in the Sinai desert. The letters are lyrically written and disarmingly personal. Peter bares his soul as he narrates the events of his life; his adopted childhood, his wild youth, his broken marriage, his friends and lovers, his career as a parish priest, his faith, and how they have all shaped him into the man he is.

I borrowed the book from my friends Steve and Moira and read it in one sitting this morning, but I have realised I'm going to have to buy my own copy to read and mark for future reference.

If you can lay your hands on a copy, read it and let me know what you think.