Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lunch in the wind

Husband and wife

 I went to a hen-party at the weekend.  The bride to be is the daughter of a close friend, in fact she is one of my surrogate daughters.  The theme of the party was the 1950s Wife.

What fun we had.  We had to drive about 75 minutes from Wellington over the Rimutaka Range to get to Martinborough.  It was a lovely, sunny summer day apart from gale force winds that raged throughout the day.

The party started at 11am at the house of one of the bride’s future sisters in law.  The house and garden were decorated a la 1950.  Doylies hung from trees, bright red lanterns also swung in the breeze.  The tables sported lace tablecloths (where did they all come from) and there were antimacassars on the backs of a couple of chairs.

After champagne and ‘girlish’ chatter and talk we took off for lunch.  This was in the Trio Cafe at Coney Wines.  The Martinborough area is probably the centre of wine making in the North Island of New Zealand.

We were seated at a large table in the courtyard but because of the wind, the covers were all in place before we arrived.  All 18 of us had an envelope with our name on it and inside was a pithy comment relating to the 1950s.  We were encouraged to join in the wine tasting; each wine was accompanied by witty talk from the winemaker and owner of the vineyard and cafe.

The hostess had prepared a set of cards with questions that she had asked the groom about the bride.  Each of us in turn asked the bride what her groom would have answered to each of the questions.  Questions and answers were hilarious – or was it the champagne, wine tasting and wine with lunch?

After a long. relaxed lunch we went back to the house.  There the games continued.  Because of my big red Santa boot, I was given a seat and with one other woman was declared to be the judge of what happened next.

The women divided into two teams and were given ribbons, sellotape, staples and stapler and white embossed paper – looked like wallpaper to me.  They were charged with making wedding dresses.  They had about 20 minutes to complete the chore but as the timer was me, and as my watch has no figures on it, it was pretty hit and miss.  But what great things these women produced from these basic items.  We declared a dead heat as they were both so good!

Wine all round amidst the laughter and chatter and then on to the next game.

Hoover

Just what a 1950's wife wanted

The bride has 15 minutes to complete each in a series of exercises to decide whether she was fit to be a 1950s wife and this all happened outside in the sunshine, with women of different ages and in different stages of alcoholic consumption cheering her on.

But first the bride had to don a pinny (pinafore/apron) – pink and white frilly; long white stockings adorned with red hearts; a pair of fluffy pink slippers and the final insult, rollers in the hair.  What a sight.  Photos are still on the way.

cookery book

No NZ home was complete without one!

The first task was to make pancakes.  She was given a dog-eared copy of an old NZ cookbook, eggs, milk, flour and a bowl and whisk and was then expected to cook these things on a barbecue – note here that nobody thought to turn the thing on so the pancakes were not very good.  My fellow judge and I awarded her 7 out of 10 because we took into account that she was operating under difficulty.

Task No 2 – wash husband’s shirt.  Well this time she had a small bowl, cold water and some dishwashing liquid.  Shirt was dunked into soapy water but because there was no clean water supplied, had to be hung on the line without being rinsed.  To the accompaniment of much encouragement she hung the shirt but discussion ensued as to the best way to hang shirts.  The two judges decreed that shirts should be hung draped across the line and pegged under the armpits.  Well otherwise the shirt sleeves were dragging on the floor.  Points out of 10 – 7  because she kept listening to the others instead of the knowledgable judges.

And finally, she had to iron a shirt.  Again, nobody turned on the iron and so we had to wait for it to heat up.  But she did so well that we awarded her 10 points and all decided that she had done so well that she deserved a cheer and we said she could keep the stockings, slippers etc because they really suited her.

Vitamins

By this time it was about 6pm and we decided to go home leaving the young women to enjoy the rest of their evening.

As a 1950’s bride/housewife I could remember when a Kenwood Chef or a Sunbeam Mixmaster was considered an appropriate Christmas gift for ‘the wife’.  Fortunately, not for me.  What a fun day we had and I was so very privileged to have been made part of it.

And for some more fun advertisements from long ago visit the post I wrote in August “And Today’s Offers”

Many and Varied Thoughts

 

In a phone conversation with my sister in Los Angeles yesterday she mentioned that she had begun to follow Dor at Technicolor Daydreams after reading some of her comments on my blog.

Sisters

Oh so very long ago.

My sister brought my attention to a post that Dor had written in November and that somehow I had missed.  The post describes heating in those days when we didn’t all have central heating and used other means of heating the house.  See the post here.

For both of us, this brought back so many memories.  When we were growing up we had not only an open fire in the living room but also a heater in the kitchen that heated water and the one and only radiator in the house.  The open fire used coal and the kitchen heater used coke. For those of you not familiar to this material (and how many are as old as me?) coke comes from coal is grey, hard, and porous and is produced in much the same way as charcoal.

Coal and coke were delivered each week and we had two large bins outside the kitchen door for the coalman to dump them into.  The coalman has now disappeared and open fires are no longer allowed in London.  I wrote about the fog, soot and smoke (smog) caused by open fires in an earlier blog.

Oil heater

From memory this looks like our heater

In memory, the house was always warm but this was achieved with not only the two fires and one water reticulated radiator, but with a variety of other sources.  We had various electric heaters around the house and we also had a kerosene heater in the bedroom I shared with my older sister.  It had a distinctive smell and it too left pretty pictures on the ceiling.  I do remember that if one or other of us had the dreaded bronchitis so prevalent in London at the time, mother would put a kettle of water with Friar’s Balsam in it on top of the heater.  The resulting steam which we inhaled, helped to clear the bronchial tubes in those far off days before inhalers were readily available.

I don’t remember that there were any problems with the one at home.  Only father was ever allowed to fill the thing but we three girls had to take ourselves off to the hardware shop to buy the kerosene and carry it home in a can.  The can was quite heavy and it seems that there was always discussion as to whose turn it was to carry it.

Then when my dashing-young-Scotsman and I moved into our first “garden” apartment (here read semi-basement apartment), we had a really stylish oil heater.  In the cold winter months following our wedding, we would leave this thing on in the hall so that the apartment was warm on our return from work.  One day, when my (very new) husband was away on business I arrived home to find great stalactites of oily grease hanging from the ceiling.  The heater had blown something during the day – how lucky that we didn’t cause a fire. But what was a very young bride to do?  A quick call to the family home, some ten minutes walk away, resulted in both mother and father arriving and taking charge.  They cleaned, scrubbed and dusted while I looked on providing copious cups of tea and encouraging words!

Of course, the ceiling had to be repainted and my very adaptable clever father did this over the next few days.

What memories are revived when reading other people’s blogs.  Thank you Dor and thank you, Christine, for bringing the post to my attention and thus reviving these memories.

Madman, Murderer and Words.

By now you will have recognised realised that I am besotted by words in the English language.  I like the way they look, the way they sound and their meanings.  I can spend whole days following the etymology of words.

Imagine my delight then some years ago to be presented with a copy of “The Professor and the Madman” the story of the compiling of the Oxford English Dictionary and the two men who were so intimately involved in it.

Book cover - Professor and madman

The Professor and the Madman masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the “Oxford English Dictionary”–and literary history.” From the book description on Amazon.

Have you discovered this book yet?  It was written and researched by Simon Winchester and  published in 1999.

We are told that compiling the OED  was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken.   As definitions and quotations were collected, Professor James Murray leading the overseeing committee discovered that Dr W C Minor had submitted more than 10,000 words and their quotations.  The committee insisted honoring him at which time the truth came to light.

That truth – Dr Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was  an inmate at Broadmoor, an asylum for the criminally insane.

Dr Minor had served in the Union army as an  assistant surgeon and held the rank of lieutenant. He spent about six months attending to civil war casualties at hospitals in New England before being sent to the front line in May 1864. It appears that following time in the battlefield his mental illness resurfaced.  Because of this he had to leave the army and was sent by his family to convalesce in London.  He settled in a particularly poor part of London (Lambeth) where he supported himself by painting watercolours and playing the flute.  But his mental illness was never under control and while living there he shot and killed a brewery worker who was on his way to work, thinking that the worker was out to seek revenge for an earlier incident while Minor was in the US Army.

Minor gave himself up to the police and was sentenced to be confined in the newly opened Broadmoor Asylum ‘Until Her Majesty’s Pleasure Be Known’

While detained in Broadmoor where he had two cells, a manservant, a large collection of books, and, incredibly, regular visits from Eliza Merrett, the widow of the man he had murdered, Minor heard of the   ‘Appeal for volunteer readers’ sent out by James Murray, in which Murray asked interested members of the reading public to scour published literature for quotations to illustrate the use of English words. Minor, described by the Broadmoor administrators as particularly learned set to work assembling lists of quotations and by the mid-1880s was sending hundreds, and later thousands, of quotations on slips of paper  to Murray and his team at the “famous scriptorium at 79 Banbury Road, Oxford.”

The letters were  signed ‘W. C. Minor, Crowthorne, Berkshire’, and until he called upon Minor,  Murray had no idea that his most assiduous correspondent was an American murderer and an inmate at one of Britain’s most secure and infamous lunatic asylums.

The two men became firm friends united by the complexity of the English language.  Despite this friendship and the benefits of his involvement in the dictionary Minor’s illness became more acute and in 1902, he amputated his own penis in the belief it might curb his troublesome sexual appetite. Following this and prompted by Murray, the  Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, allowed Minor’s release and deportation in 1910.

Minor was farewelled by Murray and his wife and sailed back to New York where on arrival there, he was immediately committed to  St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC. He deteriorated steadily, was moved to the Retreat for the Elderly Insane in Hartford, Connecticut and in 1920 died of a respiratory infection

We know very little of his life after returning to the United States but his legacy as a volunteer reader can be found among the pages of the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary. Professor James Murray said of him at the time that “so enormous have been Dr. Minor’s contributions … that we could easily illustrate the last four centuries from his quotations alone” (The Professor and the madman p160).

Associated posts

All I Need To Know

Noah's ark

Many years ago my sister gave me a book entitled “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum.

This little book contained all kinds of advice that we can heed.  But for me all I need to know I learned from the story of Noah’s Ark.

  • I learned to listen to the voice within regardless of what others think.
  • I learned to follow my intuition
  • I learned to make preparations well in advance
  • I learned to build my house and my life with strong materials and on a firm footing able to withstand whatever comes along
  • I learned to rescue those people and things that were important to me and to keep them safe
  • I learned to choose my companions and fellow travellers well
  • I learned to love my fellow travellers
  • I learned when it was time to let these travellers (aka my children) go to do so with grace knowing that in setting them free they would return
  • I learned to listen to others opinions but to make my own decisions
  • I learned that there is safety in numbers and that none of us can live entirely alone
  • I learned that time for solitary, quiet reflection is also necessary
  • I learned to go with the flow and embrace each new experience wherever I happened to land
  • I learned to give thanks for rain knowing that water is one of our great life sources
  • I learned to give thanks for the sunshine and the drying wind that came after the rain
  • I learned to give of my time to others – Noah’s Ark was built by volunteers
  • I learned to accept the assistance offered by others
  • I learned that life will not be all sunshine and light and that there will be times of rain and hardship
  • I learned that a sense of humour will take me through the hard times
  • I learned that wo/man is not the only living creature and is not of paramount importance.  Who gave us dominion over the rest of the creatures inhabiting our planet?
  • I learned to nurture an attitude of gratitude for all that I have and the life that I have
  • I learned that one man/woman with a strong belief can overcome and succeed in spite of the odds
  • I learned that fish is good for you!

Where did you learn the things you need to know to live life?  And are you living your life true to yourself or are you living somebody else’s dreams and decisions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday the Thirteenth

13th calendar

It’s Friday the 13th in New Zealand – it will come to your place in the next few hours if it hasn’t already arrived.

Friday the 13th is the most widespread superstition in the Western world.  Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t eat in restaurants and many would not consider setting this as a date for a wedding or other large celebration.

According to our good friend Wikipedia “The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen)”  So we have a name for this phobia.

But from where did this superstition arise?  The number 13 has been considered unlucky for centuries. Some say the superstition began with 13 people who attended the Last Supper, but ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi omits the number 13 in its list of laws, so the superstition dates back to at least 1700 BC.

It appears that Friday’s bad reputation goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  Apparently it was a Friday when Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit.  We are told that the Great Flood began on a Friday; God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on a Friday; and it was on a Friday that the Temple of Solomon was destroyed.  And Friday was the day of the week on which Christ was crucified.

In pagan Rome, Friday was execution day and later Hangman’s Day in Britain

But the association of Friday with the number 13 didn’t arise until the 20th  century.  In 1907, Thomas Lawson a Boston stockbroker, published a book called Friday the Thirteenth.  This told the story of one man’s attempt to crash the stock market on the unluckiest day of the month.  The book sold nearly 28,000 copies in the first week.
Wall Street’s superstitions about Friday the 13th continued and in 1925 the New York Times declared that people “would no more buy or sell a share of stock today than they would walk under a ladder or kick a black cat out of their path.”
Even today most tall buildings don’t have a thirteenth floor.
So are you superstitious about this day?  In 2012 Friday the 13th will occur three times – January, April and July – so if you are you will have to watch out on those three days,

Crop Circles

Crop Circles

Photo copyright Colin Andrews (www.ColinAndrews.net)

I have been intrigued by crop circles since I first heard about them several years ago when living in the UK.  But even though this was the first I heard of them, these circles have been discovered around the world over the past two centuries – They were witnessed by policemen and farmers as far back as 1890, they exist in the folklore of South Africa and China and are mentioned in 17th Century academic texts. (quote from Crop Circles Secrets.org.)

And then, through a friend, I heard about Freddy Silva and his fascination and work on them. He has produced a fantastic book on the subject – “Secrets in the Fields“.  In the site – Crop Circles Secrets it states

Crop circles are scientifically proven to be manifestations of energy under intelligent guidance.  Over 80 eyewitnesses describe them to be made by tubes of light in less than 15 seconds. The evidence for crop circles as a genuine phenomenon is found in Freddy Silva’s book Secrets in the Fields and throughout this site.”

Crop circles first appeared in the fields of southern England in the mid-1970s.   These circles were quite simple; they appeared overnight in various farmers’ fields in amongst the wheat, rape, oat, and barley. The crops were flattened, the stalks were bent but not broken. And there was no sign of entry through the fields to the circles.

The county of Wiltshire is the acknowledged centre of the phenomenon of crop circles.  Wiltshire is one of the most mystical places on earth and the county is the home of  sacred Neolithic sites including Stonehenge, ,Avenbury   and Silbury Hill.  and these circles seem to appear most often in close proximity to ancient and sacred sites.  It is an area well worth a visit when in England.

Crop circles have been reported in Australia, South Africa, China, Russia, and many other countries.  But southern England is still the hub of the activity and we are told that more than 100 formations appear in the fields there each year.

Discussions on whether these circles are man-made or not range widely.  Because of my interest I attend lectures and presentations where this phenomenon is the topic.  Divergent opinions always surface, usually with the presenter being in favour of some other source of the circles while there is always at least one in the audience vociferously opposed to this.

Serious crop circle researchers seem to agree that the majority of the circles are not made by humans and seem to be messages from unknown intelligence.  These researchers include those with advanced degrees in science and engineering.

If you are interested in reading more about crop circles and whether or not they are an elaborate hoax perpetrated by men/women around the world either read the book Secrets in the Fields or go to www.greatdreams.com and read Joseph E Mason’s take on this.

And for even more information on this phenomenon visit Colin Andrew’s site.

Celebrating a Milestone

This was yesterday’s blog but for whatever reason WordPress didn’t publish it so there will be two posts today.

Posted – January 11, 2012

Today I had no hesitation when I sat down at the computer to write my blog. No problem with water aka thoughts rushing to find a safe place. I knew exactly what I was going to write about.

When I started on my blogging journey way back on March 1, 2011 I didn’t know how much fun I would have in writing every day or how many friends I would make in this blogging world.

Milestone celebration

Well today, I have reached 100 followers and I would like to thank you all for reading and following and commenting from time to time. I really appreciate all of you. Many of the blogs I follow have a greater number of subscriptions but I am very excited at reaching this milestone.

Over the months I have read blogs from people whose lives are so different to mine. Most live in other countries and are of a different age group (well how many have reached my VAST age?). Many have young children and their days are taken up with all the busyness that accompanies families. Some are looking at retirement and how they will fill in their time once they do retire. Some are battling demons either within themselves or from actions of others, and others are living their daily lives with vigour and excitement greeting each day with enthusiasm. I do know that some have health problems and in one case in particular, these problems are the basis of his daily (and sometimes more than once daily) blog posts.

There are a number of writers that I follow and some of whom follow me. Some are writers of fiction and some of fact, and in a couple of cases have had books published this year. Congratulations to each of them.

So to all of you who follow my blogs and those of you whose blogs I follow thank you for the support offered unconditionally over the past months. Here I have to say that in receiving over 3,000 comments on the posts I have only ever received one that I didn’t want to publish – apart that is from all the spam.

Thanks

And today I received another award – thank you Linda Cassidy Lewis for the nomination. Have you read Linda’s book “The Brevity of Roses”? It’s a great read and should be on your reading list.

Liebster blog award

In accepting an award I am called upon to nominate others to receive it and also to tell some things about myself. Well I have so many wonderful blogs that I follow that I will once again, just direct you to my blog roll. If any of these are new to you please do visit them. I always find something new in their blogs. And as for me, I have told you about myself in my posts and on my page Meet Judith Baxter, so I really think there is nothing more to add.

And because it’s a lovely day of celebration and sunshine. And because I have only 2 more weeks tomorrow to wear my big red Santa boot, I offer you once again, my special rainbow. Please accept it and make it yours. And if anybody wants to use it in a blog post, please feel free to do so.

Rainbow

My rainbow

Better to write

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” ― Cyril Connolly

I came across this quote the other day and thought how much I agreed with it.  Just as some people, particularly children, like to sing I like to write.

I have many notebooks filled with my writing and often it is work that has never been seen by anybody else.  The joy in much of this writing was just to get it down on a page.

Notebook and pen

Of course, with the advent of at least one computer in every home, writing has become easier.  Well the physical act of writing.  No more putting pen to paper but instead sitting at a keyboard and letting the words pour forth.  On a good day that is.

But like all writers, whether well known or like me just writing for the pleasure of writing, we know what it is like to step up to the page aka computer screen to be faced with a blank sheet.  No thoughts on anything.  Blank screen and a blank mind.  But then something comes and the void is filled.

As writers we are vulnerable.  We write about what matters to us and expose ourselves and unveil our deepest feelings.  Our words reveal much about us and our truths.  And sometimes, because of this, writing feels dangerous.  But this is what keeps us (well me at any rate) coming back to the screen/notebook/page.  The need to share my feelings on the page with others (hopefully) or just with myself when necessary.  It is scary and often I am looking for excuses – the dishes must be done, the washing hung out etc etc, but I keep coming back to the page.

At times we feel the need to judge, to edit our writing.  We strive for perfectionism but we know, unless we are one of the great writers, that perfectionism is out of reach.  Lord Marks of Marks & Spencer fame said “The price of perfection is too great.  Close enough is good enough.”

But I do love it that people are following my blog and commenting.  Thank you for caring.

“And as the water continues in its downhill rush over rocks
and  the thoughts continue to tumble around in my brain
with no defined pattern or path,
they eventually find and settle into a safe place
and the void is suddenly filled
and my mind is active once again.”

Waterfall

Annoying, maddening and downright frustrating

Have you ever tried to write a blog on a friend’s computer?  I tried to do so today with no appreciable result.

The computer is obviously older than mine; would not let me upload any of my photos; would not let me surf the web etc etc.

So I am left with only words today.

I think maybe I shall simply repeat the verse from yesterday’s blog and try again tomorrow to entertain you with some fantastic thoughts from this aging brain.

“And now
As the water cascades and tumbles
over the rocks in it’s rush
down to join the river
so my thoughts tumble around my brain
looking for an outlet
or a safe place to stop.”

Unfortunately, today, I am still looking for the safe place.  So until tomorrow.

Dancing With Skeletons

“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–”
Mary Oliver, The Journey.

When I decided that I did want to write I took a Creative Writing Course at the university here in Wellington.  Looking back all those years, I wonder how it was that I didn’t recognise that I had always been writing.  My many notebooks attested to this fact but yet, I didn’t think of myself as being a writer.

So to the Creative Writing Course.  One task we were given early in the course was to “Write about your skeletons”.  We were told we all had them and if we could put them onto paper it would be a good place to start.  We were required to write them down, not type them into the computer.  The tutor reiterated the “known fact”  (well accepted fact) that transferring the words from your mind, through your hand to the page gave them power.

Note – Research has shown that hand-writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on at the moment—the physical act of writing brings it to the forefront.  Author Henriette Anne Klauser who wrote Write It Down, Make It Happen, says that “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’

Skeleton

Free Clipart

For me at least, this skeleton thing was something that I didn’t want to write about.  And then the thought of reading my words  out loud to others in the group  (and yes this was a requisite that we read our pieces to the others) made my skin cringe and my fingers curl.  But guess what, in putting this down on paper it lost a lot of its power over me.  It wasn’t a huge skeleton just something that I omitted to do when I was much younger, but it had ‘haunted’ me ever since.

In writing this  I was required to analyse what the problem was, how I felt about it and also what I could have done differently in that situation.  Written down I saw it for what it was,  simply a blip in the long road I have travelled.

This task has stood me in good stead over the years when I have been honing my ‘skill’ as a writer.  I now write every day as we all know that we must practice and practice whatever we want to be good at.  Remember Beethoven, Einstein, Edison, Colonel Sanders, Clint Eastwood and the Wright Brothers all worked at their craft regularly to perfect it.

So I shall continue to write.  Whether for my eyes only or in the hope that others may appreciate what I have written.  And when the words flow freely as they sometimes do I shall recall these lines but I don’t know where they came from.  Can anybody help please. **

And now
As the water cascades and tumbles
over the rocks in it’s rush
down to join the river
so my thoughts tumble around my brain
looking for an outlet
or a safe place to stop.

** Since writing this blog I have discovered these lines written in amongst my attempts at writing poetry and so unless anyone can tell me otherwise, I shall recognise this as my own words.

Waterfall