Friday, 31 August 2012

The Going to the Zoo to See the New Red Squirrel Corner Day

The strawberries have had their own list this month. We went to see Brave- bit disappointed. Had such high expectations of that hair. PC took them to the cavehill advencher park. Yesterday I took them to the Zoo.
The new Red Squirrel Nook. Impressive- there are binoculars on those little ledges, and you look into a magical forestscape of tiny houses and leafy glades. Didn't actually see any red squirrels...
Penguins queue up to be fed. They wait patiently for the keeper to glide a fish into their grateful mouths, and then they toddle happily away leaving space for the next penguin. What? Penguins feed more humanely than strawberries?
It is turning out to be a gracefully mellow end to the summer. All the suns really want is lots of time outside with friends. I think we all know that the end is nigh!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Lists and Links

Today was supposed to be the Getting All Things Else For School Day. By lunchtime, today had become a Writing The List For Getting All Things Else For School Day. By half past two I was acknowledging that today was in fact a Lie Around Watching DVDs and Thinking About Writing The List For Getting All Things Else For School Day.

At 3.57pm Jo put the last piece of jigsaw in to the puzzle and I looked at the clock and screamed. At 4.20pm I was thankfully driving into my new place of little employment (this is a long story for quite another time) and today was relegated to the Forgetting All Things Else For School Day. There's always tomorrow, although that's sort of supposed to be the Going To The Zoo To See The New Red Squirrel Corner Day....

Now I am home and waiting for pasta to cook. So in the meantime, I would cordially invite you to visit Hookery in the Bookery for tonight's latest adventures in yarn, and a very special orange photo-shoot, and then do please visit Queen Niqi's blog, and follow it, and comment thereon. You'll find a much more efficient class of bloggiste there!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

In the Collective!

So, here it is! A while ago on facebook Rend asked for volunteers to come down to the beach to help them record a live Campfire Worship album. But you had to be young, so obviously I didn't think anymore about it. Then, on the deadline, they said that they had a few spaces left, so I stuck my brass wrinkled neck well out and emailed to ask if two over-ripe strawberries, one of whom was able to sing, could come and play with the other children. And they laughed a lot, apparently, and said we were in!

So here are just a few of the many out of focus photos. There would have been copiously more were it not for the fact that it's jolly hard work singing on a beach for six hours, let alone bouncing up and down enough times for the camera crew to be happy! (If you want to hear them, they were also on Songs of Praise tonight at 12 minutes 20.) The album will be released free, hopefully around Christmas Day 2012- and fear not, as soon as there's a link to a video, you'll be invited to spot the small jumping strawberry with the brass wrinkled neck!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Bursting with excitement!

I know. I know! More Rend! You see, Prince Charming thinks that I probably can't tell you why the both of us will be on a North Down beach from 3 to 9pm tomorrow, with a set list and a raincoat (or two). But believe me, as soon as tomorrow is over, I won't be able to hold my water, as we say, sometimes, some of us. Suffice to hint, for the moment, that I think it will all look something like this...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Strawberries and Almonds 2012

We have had a fabulous weekend. Joint ingredients in a very sweet thing indeed! Saturday: morning coffee and cake, followed by lunch with tea and cake. Quick walk round sunny, sunny Belfast, then off to build Titanic. First walking with the workers in the streets of the late C19th city. Home for dinner, tea and cake.

Sunday: church, lunch in the garden with some (lots of) friends followed by an afternoon of coffee, cake, and deep discussion. Alternative venue hosted Cluedo tournament. Tour of murals and peace walls abandoned in favour of evening of reading, tea and cake.
Monday: traditionally mysterious happenings, more of this later in the week. Eventually off to inspect the new visitors' centre at the Giant's Causeway, and of course the stones themselves. Which have been controversially eclipsed by Hans Peter Kuhn's art installation "Flags".
We discovered that we were all erudite modern art critics, and discussed our conclusions with any volunteer who would listen- above we are on to our third and wondering if they will let us polish off the barbecue that had been laid on for the artist and the BBC.
No food (not even a sausage, Frances), but undaunted, Bob procured a TV and radio interview. Ang looks proudly on.
Soaked quite through by a rain storm that we had happily watched approach as we munched our picnic, we spent a significant part of the afternoon in a warm coffee shop with hot chocolate and cake, but the warm air enticed two thirds of the party into the water. One brave third didn't even need wet suits. Atlantic swimming- a rite of passage for visitors to Strawberry Land! Monday night was Hookery Jam for hookers and jammers alike. Thank you immensely to Heather Boss for setting that up x
Tuesday: trip to the Museum. Almonds did art and inspiration, strawberries did dinosaurs. And only then did poor Bob get his Ulster Fry.

Thank you, Almonds, for being such a highlight of our summer. Before the school experience filled our lives with homeworks and military timed days and action plans and worry, I believed that hospitality was a sign of the kingdom. It has been very good to rediscover the blessings of an open home and hearts spilling into it. Angela, you have now been to the Land of the (sometimes tearful) Strawberries twice in two years- here's the link for your hat-trick!

Friday, 17 August 2012

A weekend of almonds

Prince Charming has repainted our bedroom in duck egg blue. It looks a different colour at different times of the day, actually, but it is very lovely. He had absolutely no help from me. Whatsoever.

The Almonds are coming tomorrow! Also the Willows Wanderers have surfaced with Floss. We are very excited...

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Greatitudes 621 - 630

This is deep and hurting thanks for the woman who stayed home to bring up four siblings, and keep contact with the one who went elsewhere, being too young after their mother's death to stay. Later she didn't sit in the wistful Mill thinking about life's parallel potentials, but went back to school, and then to Art College and then to work in days when Sailorstown girls didn't fly in the face of convention on gold-coloured Vespas, clinking heavy amber rings on the lightly touched brakes. She decided with the irony of arthritis setting in just as her true life set out that they would journey together.

Thanking the God not quite trusted by her that she would pack up the thin small namesake and travel her along too, not overly concerned that Macbeth at the Southbank might be frightening to an eleven year old or that forming a critical opinion on Rembrandt and Picasso could ever be expecting too much. For sunsets over Florence and boat trips on the Rhein.

For all the books for my literature degree that were already on her shelves and in her head, for the long talks and walks and dreams, for the huge picture window that poured hot sun, for thoughts and thinking and wrestling and truth. Freedom.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Reading along the map book

I did pack two books when we went on holiday. More of them if I ever get around to finishing one and starting the other. What happened, in fact, was that as we drove across Bodmin Moor and found ourselves ensconced in a hidden Cornish cove for a week I wanted to read stories that recorded the crashing sea outside my window, reflected the beauty edged with awe, and that were maybe even a little bit scary after dark with strawberries abed and PC across the Bay for his nightly tipple. The cottage had no phone signal, adding to the sense of timelessness, but did boast Kindle-friendly wi-fi, so down the Whispernet came Jamaica Inn. It actually came second, but we're going in the order in which I physically encountered the setting of the books that became my perfect holiday reading!
I read Notes from an Exhibition a long while ago, but because we were visiting Tate St Ives and the Hepworth House and Garden this was such an apt book. Gale's description of Hepworth felt sacreligiously irreverent compared to the hushed respect of a visit to her home. But this is an exquisite tale of families and love and emotional distress. Of the damage that we can do to each other and ourselves. I love many things about this book, but the tender importance of the peace found by all the characters in their Quaker connections is very moving. At the minute I'm reading a book of Gale's short stories, Gentleman's Relish. I lifted it off the library shelf as soon as I saw that it included a story of a bored housewife. I wasn't disappointed!
Our journey from Cornwall into Surrey took forever and a half because of a flooded road. So I had lots of time, not driving I hasten to add, to look in detail at the map. And decided that the great and most surprising length of Chesil Beach merited a dip into the prolific McEwan library. If you have been reading Fifty Shades of Grey*, well, this is the book for you. It will purge you of all those images immediately! This is the third McEwan book that I have read. I very much enjoyed Enduring Love but having endured Solar to the very end couldn't say the same of it. Chesil Beach is a gem of craftsmanship.
Finally reaching Southampton for an overnight stay we skirted the edge of the New Forest. Last week one of the BBC commentators said that the Olympic Opening ceremony was his kind of history lesson. Children of the New Forest is mine! Fans of Cromwell may not agree. I think I'll try this with the boys as a bedtime read in a while. Very strong descriptions of the wholesomeness of quiet, industrious, faithful living.

We visited Chartwell on our one rainy day in Surrey. (Betty, maybe Chartwell isn't actually in Surrey?) I haven't finished yet, but Churchill has just been thrown from power in the Election that immediately followed WWII. This is a very moving book, very interesting indeed. Mary Soames is writing from her diaries, and from the letters and diaries of her father, mother and friends, and it is a fascinating insight into the life and politics of that time. I can't help imagining that the balance Mary Churchill maintained between horrified service and champagne receptions was not the experience of my maternal grandmother, racing with two babies to her bomb shelter which lay right beside Belfast Docks, prime bombing site for planes wanting to blow up the many ships under construction and repair just yards from her home. But still, it's great book!

The Kindle copy was significantly cheaper than the paper copy, which is prominently displayed in the very lovely National Trust shop at Chartwell, where they also have very nice cream teas. The Kindle copy of everything I've whispernetted so far, despite the VAT, is significantly cheaper than the paper copy. Not that I think anything does replace the tactile pleasure of pages, but for spontaneous holiday reading the Kindle really came into its own. Not least because two of the books were free. I had imagined that this was because they were "classics" but last night I was able to get a handful of titles free from Amazon's list of 100 Free Kindle Books, so all in all I'm deciding that it's a useful reading tool. As is Carrickfergus Library to which I fear the strawberries will be decamping. Don't tell Diane in Grove..

* I have not been reading Fifty Shades of Grey!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Greatitudes 608 - 620

Sun, finally! And enough to be slightly sunburnt even with P20! Sand, sea, surf. Well, not enough surf actually, so on our second day at the coast we took the canoe. Having the coast only an hour's drive away. Knowing now that Portrush is the renaissance town of the north, and you don't have to avoid it as you have done for most of the suns' summers! Suns. Strawberry suns. Sunsets. Suns who will play rugby/dig holes/ stay more or less amicably awake long enough for you to see the whole sky illuminated. Samsung new surprise birthday present camera. Still much to learn thereof!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

My Olympic Heroine

Yesterday's Belfast Telegraph was unsurprisingly full to the brim with the Coleraine rowers. It is an amazing thing that three of the medallists come from the same town, the same school, the same rowing club! Even the Prime Minister obviously thought so, deciding to watch Alan Campbell from their home town instead of in London!

My favourite article ran an interview with Campbell's mother; you will understand why!

"He had two left feet at Irish Society Primary School, he had no sporting credibility whatsoever... He tried everything, running, volleyball, he loved mini rugby, nothing would put him off. But when it came to teams being picked he was always the last one picked. It just goes to show that you can't judge the potential of any child at primary school age or how they will turn out."

PC's claim to fame is that he once sent Campbell flying from a doughnut into the river bank. He'll tell you that story with very little encouragement this week!

The Tele has also worked out the medal ratio by population, and this market town of 24,000 people has won as many medals so far as South Africa, population 50 million, Denmark, 5.5 million, and Belarus, 9.5 million. Their three medals put them one ahead of India, 1.21 billion, Indonesia, 237.6 million, Sweden, 9.5 million, and Norway, 5 million. I wonder have they room for four more!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Solo Summer Surviving: Day 14

Chores. It's my latest discovery. In Cornwall Jo took on the burden of keeping the beach from the door.
And admittedly last year the strawberries became frighteningly adept at racing for the washing at the first hint of rain!
So we are full steam ahead for a summer of child labour. Gone are the lists of interesting and stimulating things to do- this year we are setting and clearing and tidying and chopping and drying. Oh yes. It's all good.

Then this morning I also discovered that if I let them plug into whatsoever they desire I can do some chores too! Win win situation. And I can go out to Hookery tonight with slightly less guilt than usual!

Happy St Patrick's Day!

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