Playing with colour

You’ve probably noticed by now how much I enjoy colour.  Now I’m learning to play with it myself as well as enjoy other people’s games.  Learning by doing.


I’ve been using odds and ends of yarn left over from other projects to make some simple squares to join for a multi-colour blanket of my own invention.  (I did need to buy a few extra balls, as there weren’t quite enough left overs for the blanket).

Then I decided that instead of mixing all the colours I would split them into two groups.  As you can see below.


And now I’ve sewn in all the ends on the red/pink group its ready for me to piece into a blanket.


I’m thinking about how best to join them – with a dark colour? or a pale colour?  Maybe I’ll do a bit more playing around before I decide.  I’m drawn to either white (or a creamy colour), or something really dark (navy? black?).  This could go either way.

I think this one may be a present for someone (I’ll have to check first with her parents whether these colours work for her, but they’re the colours I always associate with her, and they go with her name).  If not, it will be my ‘garden blanket’.   The other one (greens, blues) is for our spare bedroom, which gets used quite a lot these days.

And then I have the twine I bought in a sale last year to make a basket or two, building on the 3-d crochet I practiced with Emma on the workshop back in October.


Meanwhile I’m still enjoying other people’s colour play.  (All photos below courtesy of Malcolm).







(We’ve been to Lille – more of that in another post).

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The Gap Year: December adventure

(oops- a bit late.  Trying to catch up with myself.  Gradually….)

Another ‘adventure’ that isn’t so very adventurous.  But we enjoyed it a lot, confirming my view that ‘adventurous’ isn’t a pre-requisite for an adventure.

Oldest son and daughter-out-law were away on an adventure of their own over Christmas and New Year, so we borrowed their flat in South London for a few days.

Oh how I love you, South East London! (words my mother-in-law would have been thrilled to hear from me, but it’s taken so long for it to grow on me that to my regret she never did hear me say it).

They live less than two miles from where Malcolm grew up and his parents lived for years after he left home.  We spent one of our days revisiting old haunts – the home where he grew up, his primary school, favourite pub, favourite walks.  We also took the opportunity to visit some places new to both of us, and some further afield we haven’t been to together for a while.  Needless to say, most of the time we were walking, and you do see so much more that way.

We were only away for three nights, and we spent longer than intended travelling in both directions (by car, as trains severely depleted over the holiday period), due to traffic and difficult weather (fog, ice).  Even so, we managed to pack a lot in:

  • Nunhead Cemetery – one of the famous Victorian London cemeteries – includes great views over London (at least, so we were told – too foggy to see when we were there).
  • Exploring Crofton Park, Brockley, and Nunhead (including poking our noses into the Brockley Brewery – brewers of excellent IPA)
  • The Ivy House , Nunhead – London’s first co-operatively owned pub – well worth a visit
  • Walk along Thames Path – Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf (N Bank)
  • Walk from Forest Hill to Tate Britain, Millbank via Peckham, East Dulwich, Camberwell, Vauxhall
  • Visit with friends to Tate Britain (Henry Moore; William Blake; )
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery

Below is a flavour of what we saw.


Front gate, entrance to the ‘House of Dreams


Detail, outside the ‘House of Dreams’


Small bakery, shop window (closed that day)


Former school building, beautifully designed and built


A ram in Camberwell


Beautiful decorative brickwork


See how long this independent butcher shop has been going – against all the odds (my m-in-l shopped here in the 1960s and 1970s)


Proud to be South London


Community-owned pub – outside


Community-owned pub – inside (midweek mid afternoon – I’m sure it’s normally busier than this!)



Live-work accommodation, Brockley


M’s teenage drinking haunt, now updated – still a really nice local to socialise, drink, eat, and play board games if that’s your thing


Named for that strange-shaped thing on the top of the front – apparently a piece of whale bone. (I’m none the wiser….)


Renowned and revived. Crofton Park’s finest.

Posted in Community, Family, Gap year, Retirement, Seeing differently, Travels, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Whatever next’ – January 2017


So here we have the Daily Mail ‘newspaper’, churning out it’s daily message of hate, division and misinformation.  How do we address the fact that it has a circulation of about one and half million? (and still more online).  How do we deal with the lies and part truths it peddles?


Daily Mail headline 19 January 2017 – more on this in a later post

I wish I had any kind of answer to that.

Malcolm says we should read the Daily Mail regularly to understand and know what we’re up against.  I can’t argue with that, he’s right.  But neither can I bring myself to do it.  The distortions and untruths leave me feeling diminished and defeated, and I can’t see how that helps anyone.

I was shocked when recently a good friend told us that his youngest child, an academic in his late twenties, gets most of his ‘news’ from Facebook.  I was relieved when I asked the same question of our sons and their partners and was told The Guardian and the BBC, with an explanation about the unreliability of many other sources of ‘information’ – the self-referential bubbles that, through algorithms, simply reinforce what we think we already know.

This weekend as I read some of the comments on blogs I enjoy, I was shocked and sickened to read the many hate-full comments, including repeated assertions, clearly strongly believed, that most of the millions protesting on the day of and the day after the inauguration were ‘paid to be there’.  I have no idea whether or how to respond to such non-sense – do I reply and counter? do I allow such things to remain said unchallenged? and if I respond, how do I do so without myself become one of the haters?

I ponder, and so far come up with no answers.


I had written a whole piece to go here on buying books – locally, not through Amazon and the like, money stays in our community, UK tax gets paid, blah blah blah.

And then came the US inauguration, and the subsequent press ‘briefing’.  And suddenly it is no longer possible to believe that maybe, just maybe, this administration will not be as bad and as scary as I feared, that it will somehow rein in the worst excesses.  Because when you watch and hear the US President’s press secretary denying the verifiable evidence and facts, that we can see in front of our eyes, in favour of some kind of ‘alternative facts’ (I prefer to use the normal description – lies), well now we know for sure that we’re in a different ball game altogether.

Back in at the end of the 19 century my great grandparents and many like them escaped oppressive anti-semitic regimes in eastern Europe and came to England (and to the US), bringing my grandparents (then very young children) with them.

Back in the 1930s and 1940s my uncles played their own part in fighting the looming and growing spectre of fascism here and in Europe.  They were part of the Battle of  Cable Street, when activists fought to prevent Mosley and his British Union of Fascists marching through a largely Jewish community.  (While we’re there, lets not forget that the Daily Mail supported both the British Union of Fascists and Hitler – plus ça change….).  My grandparents had a bakers shop in Cable Street and the family lived on the premises.  My mum, who was only 7 years old at the time, always remembered vividly what that was like (even through the fog of dementia).  My uncles all fought for this country and against fascism in Europe during WW2.

And now we ourselves have the biggest battle of our own lifetimes on our hands: simultaneously a battle against oppression, nationalism, the diminishing of democracy, and climate change.

So, whatever we can do, however seemingly small (like where we spend our money) is now absolutely important.  I am convinced that we each must take a stand and resist in every way we are able to, and that every small step we can take is vitally important.

This is not how I expected to spend my 60s, but I can’t just walk away.  And even if I wanted to, there is no ‘away’.  “No man is an island”.

On Friday, the day of the inauguration, I went to Pulteney Bridge as promised, and found others with whom I was able to take a stand for Building Bridges Not Walls.  The others had arranged press coverage, and we were interviewed by our local paper.  I was initially floored when the journalist asked each of us “what do you do?”.  Responding “I’m retired” seemed not enough, and I found myself without thought saying “I’m retired and an activist”.


Goodness, I’ve never thought of myself as an activist, I don’t know where that came from.  I’m not even sure what it means.

But I’ve given it a lot of thought since, and it’s a badge that for now I’ll wear proudly and actively.


On the whole fascists and oppressors don’t announce themselves as such – we have to discern for ourselves who and what they really are, and for that I believe we have to judge by what they do as well as by what they say.

I hesitate to draw direct comparisons, but Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, Hitler and Goebbels clearly had their appeal to many ordinary people in their time, who either took up their views or were prepared to given them a chance, or just look the other way and cultivate their gardens (or were to frightened to resist).

Scary times indeed.  The one thing that gives me hope and optimism is that there are so many of us willing to take a stand, even though we don’t always share the same views on every issue.  And the old saying that ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ has never been more true.  We must not allow our opposition and resistance to become fragmented.


(And to round off a positive and optimistic morning, I met up for the first time with a lovely like-minded blogger, Kathryn.   She too is trying to change the world, and writes an inspiring blog which you can check out here.  So good to make new connections, learn new things – and all in good company).


Sometimes we don’t realise that the things that come (relatively) easy to us, feel really difficult for others.

Part of my paid work (before I retired) involved working alongside school leaders where significant improvements were needed in an important aspect of the school’s work.

My aim was to help them understand how things needed to be and why, understand what they needed to do, break the work down into manageable chunks, and leave them feeling empowered to cope with what was sometimes a lot of work on top of an already massive workload.  Then I worked alongside them supporting them through the process.

One of the great pleasures of my job was going back when they were finished and seeing the change and growth that had happened – and that they were pleased they had done it.  Because the subject area was potentially very high risk, having it all in good order actually removed a whole layer of stress for them and their colleagues.

Something I have been doing more of since I retired is using those professional skills and experience to support people in my community.  For me this has meant spending time reviewing organisational systems, policies and procedures, and working practices for several organisations.  But it applies equally to our personal lives.

In the last couple of months of 2016 I went to 3 funerals, all for friends or acquaintances living in my community.  Having been through the process myself twice in recent years, I offered to talk one of the bereaved friends through the process of dealing with paperwork she needed to tackle as executor.  She seemed to find it helpful, and I was able to reassure her about some of the processes.  Along the way she mentioned that another friend was struggling to get started on dealing with her husband’s probate, so I offered to do the same with her.  I’m booked in to meet her soon over a cup of coffee, and I’m confident that by the time I leave she’ll have a good idea of what she needs to do and, more importantly, feel able to get started and tackle it.  And I’m also sure that when we meet up again, she’ll have made loads of progress and feel a lot better about the whole thing.

I suppose what I’m saying is, sometimes the things we can do in and for our community aren’t necessarily the things anyone can see or that are obvious, and they’ll be different for each one of us.  But they all count, and are all small parts of the bridges our communities need to be able to survive.


I’ve stopped taking milk in my tea.  I don’t miss it in the slightest.

A tiny drop in the ocean, I hear you say.  And you’re absolutely right.

But.  I measured how much milk I was drinking in my 5 cups of tea a day.  It came to 22ml of milk a day.  That works out as 154ml a week.  Which equates to 8 litres a year.

Again, barely anything in the big scheme of things.  But if everyone did something similar, the cumulative effect would be great.  And so it is with all the small changes: individually we are nothing, together we are great (or at least, we can be if we choose to be so).

(Oh how puny this feels as I write it.  And yet I have to start somewhere.  And this is certainly so very easy compared to the rest of the stuff).

Posted in Climate change, Community, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

‘Whatever next?’ update – December 2016

I’ve been reflecting on the post I wrote here, and thinking that if I’m proposing that I and others do something, maybe I should hold myself to account and record what actually I’m doing myself.

So this is either the first in what will either become a regular feature, or a one-off that I won’t continue with.  Only time will tell.

I’m not going to list everything here, just pick something in each heading to write about each month.


I have to confess that I am often not very good at this.  Or at least, I am good at it when I’m in ‘listening mode’, but I have a (bad) habit of jumping in too soon and responding before the person talking to me has finished what they’re saying.  (Those who know me well will I think be nodding in agreement with this).  Sometimes that’s to do with my loss of hearing; other times I misread whether the sentence has finished; sometimes I (think I) know what is going to be said.  I must try harder.

I have been reading the blogs of some people (particularly in the US) whose lifestyles are in many ways similar to mine, but some of whose core beliefs are a world away from mine.  I’m finding this both comforting and shocking.  Sometimes I’m completely in sympathy with how they live their lives, and then they share something about their underlying beliefs and I recoil in horror.  And then I read on, to better understand.   How can we be so similar and so far apart?


I’m starting with thinking about shopping, partly because this is something most of us can’t avoid doing, if only to feed ourselves (but also for housing, warmth and clothing).

I’ve always been careful about where I spend my money (and what I spend it on).  Now I’m trying to be even more mindful and careful about this.  I realise it is a privilege to be able to do so – I have enough money that I can choose to spend more on something if I wish to.

So, I’m already choosy about where I buy my food, clothes, utilities, books, and everything.  But I think there’s scope to review all of it, and consider whether and how I can do more.

In particular, research shows us that money we spend in chains and online migrates out of our own community (and often avoids paying any UK tax, to the detriment of us all), whereas money we spend in our communities especially with independent shops and traders mostly remains in our communities (and attracts proper UK tax and local Business rates).  So this year will be a year of even more careful scrutiny on my spending.


I recently read a sobering comparison about two areas of our city that I know well.  The ward where Bath City Farm is situated is one of the 10% most deprived in the country.  The ward where I live, just a 30 minute walk away, is one of the 10% least deprived in the country.  I’m sure this difference and inequality is replicated in most towns, cities and villages in the UK.


We were responsible for feeding the animals on Boxing Day morning – such fun!

One of the things I love about Bath City Farm is the way it brings together people from all over our city and beyond, across all sorts of divides (class, money, race, religion, age, dis/ability, health, sexuality….).  Unlike many City Farms, we offer open access, free of charge (though we ask those who can to donate what they can – access is free, but unfortunately upkeep, maintenance and develop all cost money, which we have to find from somewhere.).

Malcolm and I play an active part in fundraising for the farm, and in December that included helping pack shopping at one of the local supermarkets.  This proved far more enjoyable than you might imagine – there’s a huge difference between packing your own shopping when you’re feeling frazzled and stressed, and helping others pack.  And people were so generous, and appreciative of what the farm adds to our community.


Attending my first rugby match, representing Bath City Farm – with a great view of the action!

We also volunteered to help our local Samaritans group with their fundraising by being their collectors at an evening Bath Rugby match.  Until recently I had no idea just how much money Bath Rugby raises for local charities, but the City Farm was one of their Charities of the Year last year and this autumn we received a substantial cheque as a result.  So, on a chilly dark and drizzly evening last month we went to a rugby match, held out collecting buckets, and hoped for the best.  The atmosphere at the match (and before and after it) was great, people were generous with their money, and I’m guessing that even on a miserable autumn evening a lot of money was raised for local good causes.

For the first time I appreciate the important part Bath Rugby plays in the life of our city – a focus for sport certainly, but also for being at the heart of our community and supporting the city.


Bath City Farm received about a quarter of the total sum raised – a very welcome boost to our funding

And as ever I often chat to people along the street and when I’m out and about.  I may be morphing into the person you hope won’t sit next to you on the bus…..


I’ve been thinking about how I will cut down on dairy products.  It struck me that in order to see whether I’ve managed to do this I first need to gauge how much I’m currently using.  So I deliberately didn’t immediately make any changes in my diet.  I totted up the plastic milk bottles that went out to be recycled just before Christmas morning, and I was shocked to find that it totalled 26 pints.  Really???  Really.  That’s two people in one week.  Did we really get through 13 pints each in just one week?  I can only assume we did.  I plan to record the plastic bottles each time I put out the recycling this year, and see whether I make any difference.  Or not.

As for farmed meat, that’s a relatively easy one for me.  We don’t eat meat every day, and a while ago we took a decision to mostly eat wild meat, rather than farmed meat.  We stopped eating intensively farmed meat a long time ago.  We are fortunate that we can buy local venison, wild boar  and wild rabbit easily and comparatively inexpensively.  This isn’t meat reared for the table, it is genuinely culled (killed) to keep wild numbers in balance in the absence of non-human predators.  We also stretch whatever meat we eat with lots of vegetables, barley or whatever, so that meat is not the main component of a meal.

Malcolm recently did a course on game butchery and cooking.  The venison sausages and pies he brought home with him were delicious, so I’m looking forward to more of the same.

I’m not sure yet how I’ll measure or assess any change we make, but I will at least try to be more conscious of what we’re eating.


In the meantime, on Friday I’ll be marking the inauguration of the new US President by going to a bridge with a poster, and demonstrating my belief in ‘Building Bridges not Walls’.

Do share if you feel tempted to join me in any or all of these.  I’m sure you also have great ideas of your own which I’d love to hear about and think about taking on.


Posted in Climate change, Community, Food, Inspirations, Local, Local food, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Starting as we mean to go on

So – a new year, and plenty of thoughts about how to make the most of it.

But before I get to that, two lovely and very different holiday days to start 2017.

1 January turned out to be dreary, cold, wet, dark, and definitely feeling like a ‘wet playtime’ day.  So we ditched the plan to go out for a long walk and instead luxuriated in doing not very much at all at home.  A bit of pottering indoors, some crochet, a book or two, and a lovely fire to sit in front of, leftovers for supper.  A perfect day.

2 January by contrast was quite a different beast (though just as perfect, in a different way).  Cold, clear, crisp, frosty (icy even), with a bright blue sky and more of the same promised.  The seaside walk beckoned once more.  We packed a picnic and a flask and drove down to our favourite place by the sea – Hengistbury Head, near Bournemouth.

(All photos Malcolm’s, all photos from previous visits – no, I don’t paddle in the middle of winter).



This is somewhere we go, just for the day, several times a year, every year.  We’ve been doing so for at least 10 years, maybe more.  Its been a joy when our spirits were high, and a joy and a boost when times were tough.




We always do the same walk – first along the beach from the car park, then around the corner along the next bit of beach.  Then the ferry across to Mudeford, and a walk all along the next two beaches and up to Steamer Point, where there’s a picnic place with benches overlooking a deserted beach and looking out to the Isle of Wight.

Then the same again in reverse, but we return on the freshwater side of the Head not the beach side.  Sometimes there are lots of wading birds, herons and egrets to see; other times (like yesterday) not so many.





It’s always a wonderful day out, and we always comment to each other at some point in the day that we’ve never failed to enjoy a day out there, whatever the season or the weather.




This visit was no different.  And all the better for that.

Happy new year to you, and here’s to starting the new year with hope and optimism.  And with plans.

Posted in Inspirations, Local, Nature, Reflections on life (and death), Travels, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Gap Year: November Part 2

Mini-adventure 2

(all photos by Malcolm – apart from the chips)

We had talked about having a few days away in late November to celebrate our ‘going out together’ anniversary. The GWR rail offer planted a seed of an idea of going to Cornwall (all the way from Bath to St Ives and back, for just £24 each!).

Many years ago, when he was in a job involving staying away from home for a fortnight at a time, Malcolm stayed in a memorable hotel there. We had been to St Ives together several times over the years, but only ever for the day when we were camping near St Michael’s Mount. Going back to stay there, especially out of season, seemed an attractive proposition. So I looked up the hotel to see if they had any seasonal offers on (normally this is a rather expensive place), and they did.

£59 per night B and B for the two of us seemed like a steal.  I booked two nights and our rail tickets, and we were set.  Or so we thought.

We didn’t expect torrential rain for about 36 hours before we were due to leave, with the rail line cut off by flood water and GWR warning people not to travel unless it was really necessary.

Still, with limited and contradictory information on the GWR and other websites, we thought we’d take our chances.  We turned up at the station ready to travel and hoped for the best.

And the best was what we got. Despite everything, and despite lots of GWR sucking of teeth and dire warnings about Devon and Cornwall being marooned, we found that our train managed to get all the way to Taunton, where there was a coach waiting to take us by road on to Exeter, and then onto a different train, thus successfully by-passing the flood.

So, we eventually arrived in St Ives rather later than planned, but early enough to spend a couple of hours exploring the town before hiking up the hill and checking in at the hotel.


We were blessed with good weather (mostly), and had a great new-to-us walk along the coast path from St Ives to Hayle. The views and beaches were stunning. There were plenty of birds to see. Just at the right moment we found a lovely cafe for coffee and cake (definitely somewhere to plan to go for lunch another time). We had a brief stroll around Hayle, though oddly the only place we found truly interesting there was the recently-built Asda – an astonishing and we thought beautiful (though locally controversial) building designed by Bath-based architects Fielden Clegg Bradley. We had seen it from the train on our journey to Cornwall, and wondered what it was.

In sharp contrast to the tourist-trap shops of St Ives, Hayle struck us as one of the many economically depressed towns of Cornwall, with little evidence of investment in the community (apart from the Asda building and the restored railway viaduct).  This is common in the UK as you get further and further from London, and especially in places like Cornwall where many wealthy people from elsewhere own second homes which mean that locals, mostly on low wages, simply can’t afford to live in their own communities.

In fairness to Hayle, we really didn’t have a lot of time to explore it before getting our bus back to St Ives.

However, Hayle was of particular interest to me because in 1940, at just 10 years old, my mum was evacuated to a village nearby (Gwithian) for two years. Although she was very fortunate to be billeted with two lovely families, this was nonetheless a traumatic experience for her. Moved suddenly from her almost entirely Jewish immigrant surroundings of London’s east end to a tiny village in rural and remote Cornwall, with her (older) sister’s school but not her older sister, she barely saw her parents or anyone else she knew during the whole two years, due to travel and communication restrictions.  A fussy eater and a shy child, she had to swiftly adjust to profoundly different food, culture, surroundings, language and life.






The next day we spent exploring St Ives. Coffee and excellent brownie at the local Farmers’ Market; tiny back streets; lots of photography (him) and culture (me) – when we split, he walked a little way along the coast path and took some stunning pictures, and I sat and just ‘was’ in the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden. Such a peaceful and inspiring spot, both as a small town garden but also as a compact collection of her beautiful work. And a fascinating and fiercely talented woman.



Then tea and chips by the harbour. The full English seaside experience (especially if you add in the fish and chip lunch we had the next day).





As we left, we managed to catch a beautiful sunset over St Ives.

Any cobwebs were thoroughly blown away by the time we got home, and we felt refreshed and reinvigorated by just 3 days away. Especially as we did something we’ve never done before and upgraded our reserved train seats to 1st class, and sat in comfort.  Despite the disruption on the way there, the journey was just as much a part of the holiday experience as the time in Cornwall was. We will definitely look out for this rail offer again next autumn.

Posted in Community, Family, Frugal, Gap year, Reflections on life (and death), Retirement, Travels, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Gap Year: November Part 1

There were two min-adventures in November, both courtesy of Great Western Railway, which had a little-publicised (almost secret) special offer on during October and November, just for those of us who are 60+.  Go anywhere on their network for a maximum of £24 return.

Mini-adventure 1

I had a packed day out in London for just £24 (about 2/3 of the normal charge).   I was amazed at how much I managed to cram into a single day.


Kensington Gardens / Hyde Park

I walked from Paddington Station to Sloane Square and enjoyed a coffee and cake and fabulous view from the cafe at the top of Peter Jones.  I even got a much-in-demand window seat. (And as I used a voucher for free coffee and cake, this was another bargain aspect of the day).


Albert Memorial with people

Then I walked from there to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, where I wanted to revisit some of the paintings I saw in September, in particular to remind myself of the painter of a portrait I found intriguing.


The artist’s father, by Durer (can’t manage the umlaut…)


I love the National Gallery medieval galleries

Another walk from there to Bloomsbury, where I met up with a friend for lunch.

Yes, all that, and it was still only lunchtime.

We got a bus eastwards and explored more of the area around Brick Lane.  I bought beigels and cheesecake to take home with me, including something for my supper on the train home.  He showed me a fascinating work space, and an even more fascinating bookshop across the road.

Then we split: he to go to his print-making class nearby, me to walk west again back to Bloomsbury where I met up with oldest son and daughter-out-law after work for a(nother) coffee and cake.  It was lovely to be able to celebrate with them in person him finally (finally!) qualifying as an architect, and her passing her British Sign Language course.

Then a bus ride to Paddington and home again, after a full and delightful day, with plenty of exercise built in.

Along the way I chanced upon all these inspiring people.








Mini-adventure 2

You’ll have to come back for another post to find out about this!  Back soon….


Posted in Family, Gap year, Inspirations, Local, Retirement, Seeing differently, Travels, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments