Digging up the Past

Have you ever watched Time-team and thought ‘I’d like a go at that!’

Last year the Liskeard Poetry Group were invited – as poets – to attend an archaeological dig near St. Neot – with a view to writing poetry inspired by what we saw. So a few of us, mostly at different times and on different days, headed down the narrow (and very narrow) lanes to the site. I wrote three poems inspired by this event and which, with the poems from others, were published in a booklet.

It was expected that they would be digging in a bronze-age enclosure – as acquired archaeological wisdom said that by the iron-age these sites, on the high moorland, were abandoned.
By the time I attended – they knew they were working on what was an iron-age site.
None of this is important to today’s blog – except to say Archaeology is always turning up evidence that turns the ‘perceived’ way of the history around.
AND – whilst observing and drinking in the atmosphere – I thought ‘I’d like to do this!’

So, when I noticed that the dig at the nearby Calstock Roman fort was inviting community support in the terms of people prepared to spend anything from a week to four weeks, sitting on the ground and carefully scraping it away to reveal … whatever there was to be found.
I signed up for a week! And was accepted!

A little about this dig – to set the scene.

Twelve years ago no-one knew there was a Roman Fort in Calstock. The archaeological team from Exeter University were working on information relating to the medieval silver mines on the opposite bank of the Tamar at Bere Ferrers, when they went looking up on this hill, near the Parish Church, for the smelting works and the administrative buildings recorded in documents from the late thirteenth century. They did a geophysical survey in pasture below the churchyard – and were amazed to find a large Roman Fort!
Until then the Roman presence in Cornwall was thought to consist only of two forts one at Restomel on the Fowey and the other at Nanstallon on the Camel – guarding important river crossing points on both rivers. Both of these – though almost opposite each other on the narrower part of the peninsula – are a long, long way from Calstock, Which is just on the Cornwall side of the River Tamar … about at its highest navigable point – and a possible crossing point.

I loved the description of what you needed to bring/wear/ for the dig. Wet weather coat / trousers / stout boots / sun hat / sun-lotion  – lunch and a chair. i.e. Be equipped for anything the British summer can throw at you! Oh! And make sure you are up-to-date on your tetanus injections!

Day one – Monday: The forecast as recently as a week ago had been for a dry week. Monday dawned damp and threatening rain. I was glad had dug out two sets of wet-weather coats and trousers (one set as a back-up pair) hiking boots and water-proof gardening gloves over the weekend. 

The gaggle of newbies was introduced to the archaeologists working there – so we knew who was who, and who were other amateurs. Already the volunteers who were working more than one week were out on the ground, looking very professional and at home.

We were then given an overview of what this dig was trying to accomplish – and in this case, it was to gather all and any information from this section of land that was just outside the West wall of the Roman fort – and that was due to become the extension to the Calstock churchyard which it abutted on to.

The whole site had had the general swathe of top-soil removed and heaped around the edges. However, there was still some to remove until the, potentially, Roman remains would be found.

Quite quickly we were set in a line to begin clearing back down to the ‘grey’ – to the change in soil colour, in one un-worked corner of the site.

Our tools: Bucket, kneeling mat, small trowel, brush and shovel – and lots of elbow grease. It was my theory that we were to to work on shifting lots of ‘unimportant’ soil so that by the time we were given something else to work on, that might matter, our arms would be aching and we’d go slower  😉 (the kneeling mat supplied was the green one in this picture – I’d also brought the gardening one with ‘arms’ with me. Very useful for getting up off of your knees again!)

A hole of our own to dig in.

However – before we knew it, we were each given an area to dig ourselves. Though most of these were not thought to be something that might bear a lot of interest, as they though most were in a line of a ditch and bank created to border a field at some time, and then left to collapse or pushed down and ploughed over.

The first step was marked out by the archaeologists – who also marked it on a plan and gave it a number. We were then told to work our way down in layers, removing the infill – scraping, checking, putting the spoil in buckets and tipping the spoil way up on the heaps at the sides.

Lunchtime came, pleasant chatter in the tent-like shelter – then back to work … the dark clouds gathered … and from a few heavy drops as warning … we were soon running for shelter from a torrential downpour.

Huddling under the shelter we waited – with the archaeologists nipping out to assess the situation whenever it eased little bit

Eventually they said – that as all the holes were full of water – we’d have to call it a day and resume tomorrow. [photo shows post holes, excavated the previous week – water logged]

Tuesday.  Straight back into the work. I was amazed how much the ground had absorbed and dried up. The soil in the infill, however, was now sticky and would not brush. The whole morning went by, scraping, always watching every scrape, pushing the earth onto the shovel with the trowel, watching as it went, then last glance as I was tipping it into the bucket – repeat … empty the bucket… repeat all.

[photo shows various sections taken out along the line of the ditch and bank]
By the end of the day my knees knew what I’d been up to. As did my back. But I had essentially finished, the hole was scraped down to the dug-out bedrock from side to side, and vertically at each end of my section. Photographs were taken… and it was time to pack up for the day.

Wednesday. I was introduced to how to draw and measure the section that had been taken out.

The line was place taut and straight with the top of the soil. On this was hung a level, and the nails holding the line adjusted until it showed it was level.

Then came ‘the taking of the measurement above sea-level’. This was done using a theodolite which had already been zeroed on a peg set in at the edge of the site. With one person supporting the measuring pole, keeping it vertical by means of a bubble in a ring-sight – and the other sighting on it using the binocular sights – and within those the centre cross of three – the number was read off. Once it had been assured the theodolite had not been moved since it was set up – the person carrying the measuring pole moved to ‘balance’ the pole on the string line above the soil at the site of the hole. Readings taken – and some mathematical jiggery-pokery – and they could pinpoint the height above sea level of the top of my section of the digging. From this line I then had to write down the measurements to the top of the soil – at 10 cm distances. Then repeat the exercise – this time measuring the bottom of the hole at each point – or sometimes more frequently, if the line was a steep decline or incline.

This made a profile of the face of the infill. If there had been stones, or anything of note (except roots) these would have been sketched in.

The whole process was then repeated for the other side of the section cut. All these were cross-referenced by the section number and the sheet numbers and anything else that would mean they could link together photographs, drawings, and the plans.

This took almost all day!

Shortly before the end of the day, however, I was sent to help on a different part of the site – where a similar trench was being cleaned out – there I joined two other volunteers, one very experienced, the other, a newbie, like me – until the end of the day.

Thursday.

The other newbie, Judy, and I started on the same section in the morning, but we soon reached a point where we went off to find an archaeologist to tell us what to do – as it was obvious that the section we were working on was about to join a different feature coming in from the side.

We were then set to create a ‘relationship trench’ which would show any relationship between the two, or three, features. A ‘feature’ just meant something that showed as darker earth in the grey-slatey natural soil.

There was the original trench we were working on – which looked like it continued past these other features. Then there was a narrow, slightly curved, shallow trench coming in at almost right-angles from the side and, just before it met our wider trench, a just over semi-circular patch abutting it which they called ‘the pit’ though it was only about the size of a tea-plate. We were to cut half-way through this, across the narrow trench to the mid-point, then take a sharp right-angle and go down the length of the narrow trench and right across the full width of the wide trench.

The archaeologist scraped back the surface to see the edges of the feature before putting in the nails and strings – stopped – picked up a piece of black stone the size of my little finger-nail, rubbed it – and said – ‘Hmm, worked flint!’ And it was, a micro-lith – tiny knapped edge and all! Well, that was guaranteed to make sure we looked carefully at every scraping!

The rest of the day Judy and I worked on these sections, and left it hoping it wouldn’t rain too much and fill our work with mud – as it was in the lower part of the site.

Friday.

I couldn’t believe it was Friday already. If I hadn’t already been booked up with lots of other jobs to get done I would have gladly worked on – and apparently – I would have been welcome to do so – even though not booked in. Note this for next year!

Our relationship trench was in fairly good order in the morning – in fact it was harder to work as the ground had dried out – but easier to brush – as it wasn’t so claggy.

All the Photographs had to be taken, and listed in the book – the direction, the faces, the section numbers. An Archaeology student came and fixed the lines straight and level – as in photo above. Then the measurements, above sea –level and from the lines had to be done. Though this went quicker with two of us doing it. The drawing was slightly different as we had to show what was actually two faces at right angles to each other – in one continuous line – with a dotted line and a symbol to show where it took a right-hand turn. (drawing below)

The quality and colour of the soil in the ‘pit’ was different from the narrow trench it abutted. The narrow trench did not quite break through into the wider trench – there being a small rise as a lip between them.

There was a very narrow darker line travelling diagonally across the area ending at the tiny ‘pit’. I longed to investigate it … but our time was almost at an end.

I looked round the site at what else was being found and what else was going on. Big questions about the unusual diggings near the Roman road into the West gate of the fort were in the air … exciting possibilities … and the possibility of finding out more as the top edge of yet another one was found in an extension to the original dig site area.

Lovely bits of pottery, Samian ware – with evidence of repair, native black-ware, jug handles, bits of amphorae … two whet stones – one probably Roman from one pit – the other iron-age from a different pit.

Photo above shows items from a waste pit – including 3 pieces of samian ware.
You can see other pictures and information on their FB page  https://www.facebook.com/UnderstandingLandscapes/

Was it a good experience – Yes

Would I do it again – Yes!

Looking forward to seeing how much time I can be free for when they announce the 2020 dig now!

Have you ever joined an archaeological dig?

Did watching Time-Team make you want to join one?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you 🙂

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write,
  Thank You


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SIX things I have Learnt from forty-hour Fasting

As readers of my blog will know, I am keen on the science of nutrition and on the fascinating revelations about our gut-biome – so it may not come as a surprise that I have been dabbling in intermittent fasting. The science behind it seems pretty solid, though the evidence can seem a bit subjective unless you are part of a proper test where all functions and levels are being measured.

So I have been doing the easiest of fasts to achieve, that is still shown to be effective in triggering the benefits, that is: 16 – 18 hours. My chosen day to begin is a Sunday, after a good lunch-time Roast dinner with dessert, and a lighter tea-time meal. So, from 6pm Sunday evening – no food until at least 10am on Monday – but often it runs to noon. Easy – as for half of it you are asleep!

No food – but I allow myself drinks – water, obviously, but also a very small glass of Kombucha and cups of milky tea – only, sometimes I do not put the tea in so then it is watery-milk aka ‘silver-tea’ – apparently). The watery-milk/tea may be ‘cheating’ but the Venerable Bede, writing in the late 600s – early 700s* records an exceedingly pious bishop as fasting ‘eating only a small piece of bread rarely and drinking watered milk’, so there is a precedent – even if I am only doing 16 – 18 hours – and he was doing the whole six weeks of Lent. [*I’ve been reading Bede’s ‘The Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ as part of my research for Dominica – my first historical novel set in late AD600 early AD700 Cornwall]

Which brings me neatly to Lent. This year I thought I might try to fast once a week – but for forty hours at a time. (You can see my thinking?) My plan was to begin the same way – 6pm, replete from a good Sunday fill-up – and keep going until Tuesday 10am. However, quite often I carried it on to noon – making it a 42 hour fast.

The first thing I learnt from a 40 hour fast was that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be!

The worst time, each time, was around 3pm on the Monday. After that was beaten – it returned to being easy. I have to say – I had pre-prepared meals for my OH – so I only had to heat them through and present them to him. I’m not sure it would have been so easy if I was preparing and cooking each time when I wasn’t eating – I love raw veg so much I’m sure I would have snacked a piece or two!

The second thing I learnt from a 40 hour fast was that sometimes when we are ‘peckish’ we really are not hungry – we are THIRSTY! 

Oh yes, there were hunger pangs – but generally a cup of hot watered milk and they went away – or, when the weather was hot, just a glass of water and that would do. It is a fact that – when we feel hungry we are often actually thirsty – but our brain is really not very good at telling the difference and telling us what we actually need.

The third thing I learnt from a 40 hour fast was that my mind seemed far more focussed – I got stuff done that I’d been procrastinating over for ages.

To begin with I thought it was because I wasn’t having to prepare and cook on the Monday – which gave me more time … (as I’d made a cook-chill roast for the OH at the same time as the Sunday dinner and opted to do him a kipper and grilled tomatoes at tea-time – which isn’t my favourite anyway) BUT there was more to it than that – when I set to a task I just got it done quicker – whether working on the computer or weeding the garden.

The fourth thing I learnt from a 40 hour fast was that it altered my sensing of the food in my mouth … and my speed of eating.

My dear OH eats fast! He always has. He likes to eat his food while it is still piping hot. No, really, you cannot imagine how hot food still is when he can happily eat it – I’m still blowing on a forkful to get it cool enough to put in. However, over the forty plus years we have been married I have become faster at eating too – sort of sympathetic speed-eating
After the second forty-hour fast I found I just couldn’t eat that speedily any more. The flavours and textures of the food were almost a little overwhelming – they needed savouring, each mouthful slowly and separately.

The fifth thing I learnt from a 40 hour fast was that I had more energy!?!?

WHAT – no food – but more energy?! I know. Weird – and totally unexpected! I, like others I have spoken to, thought that I would naturally feel lacklustre and sluggish, but the opposite was true! I suddenly found myself thinking – ‘Yes, I will walk there!’ (where-ever there was) rather than hop in the car. (I’m only talking short distances here – a couple of miles round trip generally) And then, when the OH was away for a while, I found that taking the dog for good-length walks was a pleasure – rather than a chore! Same goes for tackling some of the heavier garden jobs I’d been putting off.

The sixth thing I learnt from a 40 hour fast was that it had re-educated my appetite.

I suddenly noticed that I was getting proper ‘FULL!’ signals … and they were easy to recognise. I began listening and acting on them – so, for instance, my post Lunch yoghurt – became my tea (with a few added nuts and fresh berries) if my lunch had filled me up. Some meals I would normally have eaten, were just too much – so I was careful not to overload my plate next time. (can’t abide food waste – better not to put it on the plate)

I found these last two changes odd, and have since looked for a reason. According to Dr. Jason Fung, talking about 42 hour fasts – “There’s a very good reason for this decrease in appetite. As you start to break the insulin resistance cycle, insulin levels start to decrease. Since insulin is the major regulator of the body set weight (BSW) your body now ‘wants’ to go lower. In response, hunger is suppressed and Total Energy Expenditure is maintained. So – appetite goes down and TEE stays same or goes up. “

Lent is over … and I have resumed my weekly 16 – 18 hour fasts – but the legacy of the 40 hour fasts persists. Lowered appetite – heightened focus and energy – and, incidentally (as this wasn’t the object of the original exercise) noticeable weight-loss, even with the resurgence of my regular weights exercises to keep my muscle mass up – that is – losing weight even with putting on increased muscle weight!

I was careful to check that over the eating days – say over three eating days, my nutritional balance was right. That is, as long-time readers may recall, a low-carb balanced way of eating that I have tried to follow since the mid 1970s. It’s an omnivorous diet with nothing banned: meat, eggs, plenty of veg, nuts, home-made plain yoghurt, cheeses and a moderate amount of fruit – but very little carbohydrate-rich foods – like potatoes, pasta, bread, rice, sugary stuff etc. The only difference in my eating pattern, since back then, is that for the last few years I’ve try to cut out gluten as much as I can following the healthy gut-biome protocols (see here)

Which, also incidentally, is a way of eating Dr Fung agrees with. [remember, I’ve only just found what he says trying to work out why the energy levels and appetite seemed to act counter-intuitively]
Low-carb, whether very low to take you into a ketogenic stage, or moderately low (as I generally do) combined with fasting works to positively help your body lose stored fats. Remember, low-carb is also often fairly high in calories as good fats and proteins replace the carbohydrate elements – and Dr Fung continues the quote above by adding :-
“Note that standard ‘Caloric Reduction as Primary’ {cutting your calorie intake)} strategies produce the opposite effect – appetite goes up and TEE goes down.”  

Yes, well, we met this problem way back when I was trying to work out what to do about the menopausal weight that had crept on (see here) … the answer to that wasn’t cutting calories (as many women are advised to do) but to build muscle – because if you cut calories drastically you end up in a viscous cycle whereby, lack of calories means your body takes the extra energy from your muscles first – before your fat – meaning it would make it even harder to lose weight – as to lose weight you need muscle-mass to burn it for you!

{{{ NOTE: People who should NOT fast include those who are underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people under the age of 18. People on medication for conditions such as diabetes, should only fast with the consent of their doctors }}}

So, with that very important warning in place – I’ll leave you with the thought that maybe our bodies were designed to eat when food was plentiful – and ‘fast’ in between times. A hunter-gatherer lifestyle would create just that scenario on a regular basis.

Anyone here into fasting?
Noticed any unusual side-effects you didn’t expect?
Do share – you know I love to hear from you!

best – Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write,
  Thank You



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INVASION of the … LADYBIRDS!

On a sunny day about a week ago, I rashly decided to clean the french-windows and was in for a surprise!

Now the inside I do often as sitting in her bed, looking out from these, is the favourite position of the dog, so the insides get covered with doggy nose-prints, and even bark-bark splashes when excited by what she sees out there. However, with the sun shining, the rain-splashes and accumulated grime on the window outside was showing up badly – so I opened the windows …

The hinge was half-full of ladybirds (ladybugs if you’re USA) … and they started crawling up the frame almost immediately – so I knew they were alive!

Now my default reaction to any creature inside the house that shouldn’t be is to carefully get it to where it should be, and especially if a beneficial creature, can thrive. [I will admit that I’m not keen on clothes-moth survival inside the house] But my first reaction to ladybirds is that they are ‘GOOD THINGS’ and so require rescuing and putting where they can survive and thrive!

A little about ladybirds for those who have just admired and not thought about their life-cycle: Like all insects they under-go metamorphosis, spending some time as a larvae before pupating and emerging as the insect we recognise. In the case of the ladybird the eggs are laid in clusters on the underside of a leaf – somewhere near an infestation of aphids … because aphids are their main food (hence them being a ‘good thing’) Apparently, if there is not a huge abundance of food nearby the ladybird will lay a number of unfertilised eggs amongst the cluster to act as food in the first stage after hatching. {I learn something every day!}
Less than a week later they hatch and set about finding food. They look nothing like a ladybird, black or dark brown with spiky bits sticking out and a long shape – rather than round.
They go through four stages of growth, splitting out and growing a new skin, (instars), before sticking their tail to the underside of a leaf and pupating. About a week later the pupae, which is now large and rounded, splits and a pale ladybird pushes it’s way out.
After the wings have expanded and dried the wing-cases become their recognisable colouration, and spottiness, and it is ready to move off, to eat aphids or other small insects. Most then hibernate for the winter and only emerge to mate in the Spring. A few types, however, can have a number of generations in one year.

Now, though there are over 3,500 species of ladybird worldwide only 43 are considered native to the UK – and of those only 26 look like ladybirds! LIST HERE Our native ladybirds that we know and love, the 2 spot, 5 spot, 7 spot, 10, 11. 12,13, 14, 16, 18, 22 and 24 spot (didn’t know there were so many) as well as the striped, the eyed, the cream spot, and the kidney spot – amongst others. Download chart showing native ladybirds VS harlequins

So what of these in my window frame? Well, after I had carefully removed them to safety – this, as I said, being my default action – a little voice in my head said ‘wasn’t there something about a predator ladybird reaching our shores – one that eats the larvae of the native ladybirds?’

Little voices can often be right – and yes, a fuss was made back in 2004! when the first of these were spotted in the UK. They are an Asian ladybird, the Harlequin ladybird – as they come in so many shades and spot-levels – and were first introduced to America and then to some European countries to biologically control aphids. How to identify harlequins. They appear to have arrived in the UK just by accident, and like it here, multiplying exponentially! They are voracious eaters … unfortunately they also eat the eggs and larvae of other ladybirds, including our native ones, especially the two-spot ladybird that shares a liking for the same environments.

So, having rescued these and popped them into the greenhouse … I am now at a quandary as to what to do with the others.

Oh, yes, the others! Every sunny day more appear marching around the inside of my window. I’m not sure where these are hiding, but in a converted barn there are plenty of cracks in timbers that could offer a nice snug hiding place for ladybirds. Right now there’s 14!

It must have seemed a good idea at the time to use this biological control … When will start learning not to mess with nature?

but they are quite pretty – with their myriad shades and spots…

… and they do eat aphids …

… like I said, not sure what to do with the ones traipsing round the inside of my window now …

Any suggestions?

love to hear from you!

best – Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write,
  Thank You

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Here’s to 2019 … may it be Kind to You and Yours

New Year – weird how we treat the turning of one PARTICULAR DAY over to the next as something special.

janus
Head of Janus (Vatican Museum) (CC wikimedia – Louden Dodd)

We all know this is a man-made construct – if it were nature-made New Year would begin the day that the daylight begins to lengthen. But no, here we are looking at the last day of December and the First of January – named for that old god whose visage faces both ways – Janus. (hint – it’s all the Roman’s fault)

Yet – yet – New Year’s resolutions abound. New hopes spring up, that THIS year we will achieve something different, THIS year we will manage to keep one of our resolutions (see Hint on how to KEEP a resolution, here) , THIS year will be better!

After last year – all I am wishing for, is that THIS year will be KINDER – to everyone.

We all need kindness in our lives. Being kind and receiving kindness, assumes a love for everyone, a ‘getting-on’ together. What is not to like? But it isn’t enough to just wish, is it? We need to do something about it, so, how can I do my part in the generation of this KIND YEAR that I want to see?

My resolution this year will be to join the many, many others who already actively seek opportunities for random acts of kindness (ideas here). Not that I don’t do some already, I have my ‘set of  kindnesses’ – they are my base-line, but I don’t make it a habit, I’m not always looking for the opportunities  – my resolution means I intend to look, everyday, for more – and every random act of kindness above my base-line is a winner. (It is a firm and flexible resolution = achievable)

Kindness costs little or nothing, a smile or a helping hand, but ranges up to whatever you feel you can afford or do in a given situation.

So, right now I am wishing YOU ALL, dear readers, a wonderful and KIND 2019.

What resolutions did you make?

Or, why you did not make any resolutions this year!

Do tell – it’s good to share

best – Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again, please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write  🙂 Thank You

 

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My Christmas Card to You

Here we are – Christmas is right upon us!

wp_20181215_002At last I sorted out some decorations – from the boxes labelled up to fit the old house – to find I used a fraction of them in this new smaller space.

The tree is much the same though, even if it has to stand on a small table and hide behind the sofa.

I have only to make my Christmas puds (as per the recipe given last blog – ideal for Last Minute Christmas Puddings!), cook the gammon and attend Christingle and I’m ready for the big day!

So here is my Christmas Card to you all, dear readers, wishing you a HAPPY CHRISTMAS …

Christmas Cardwp_20181223_009

This is my Christmas card,
filled with bonhomie,
hiding complexities.
In a winter world,
who wouldn’t want
the sun to rise again,
grow stronger every day,
to feast and make merry
to stave off the dark?

We know that it may be
that His birth was not
in the winter months,
no deep, crisp snow lay
round about the stable,
or else the shepherds
would have been home,
not out upon the hills
watching for angels.

We know that the date
was stolen from wilder
gods, man chosen,
powerful, implacable,
impressive, logical.
So how strange to find
God in a baby’s guise
weak and vulnerable,
born to teach love – and die.

 

… And a VERY PEACEFUL and JOYOUS NEW YEAR

Thank You so much for reading, commenting and staying with me through this past erratic year – much love to you ALL – Ann

 

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again, please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write  🙂 Thank You

 

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Stir-Up Sunday and my MW Christmas Pud recipe

As it happens, I was taking a service at our local church today. Today being the last Sunday before Advent, known as Christ the King but also known, for longer, as Stir-Up Sunday (after the collect for the day which begins ‘Stir-Up, O Lord’) It also became the traditional day to Stir-Up the Christmas Pudding or, for some, the cake.

Taking a service??  No, I’ve not become a vicar overnight – but I have been a Worship Leader for almost a year – well – eleven months – ish.

wp_20181125_005

Anyway – back to the story … my idea was to get the congregation to bring up the ingredients and stir each one in – and to (here’s the difference to hundreds of other stir-up sundays) COOK the pudding to be eaten at the end of the service.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time know that I end up sharing my recipes with you – some of these are really popular – especially the microwave jam. You already have the Christmas – very rich fruit cake adaptable to any size or shape tin – cake) here  so today, after the response from those who ate the Christmas Pudding after the service – I’m going to share my recipe for a Microwave Christmas Pudding.

This is so quick to cook I have been known to stir-it-up on Christmas morning – though I prefer to make it the day before and just heat it up on Christmas day – as it takes longer to weigh the ingredients than it does to cook it! It is a light and fruity pudding – which is how we like it.

This recipe is adapted from one I found in a microwave cooking magazine many, many years ago (probably about 3o years ago!) but I have changed it so much to suit our family tastes it isn’t the same recipe any more – so I will call it ‘mine’. Note: Step 1 needs to be done the day before.

Ann’s Microwave Christmas Pud

This amount makes a One pint (550ml) Christmas pud

Ingredients in order of addition:

48g         Plain Flour
1/2 tsp    Mixed Spice
1/4 tsp    Cinnamon
1/4 tsp    Ground Ginger
pinch of  Salt
48g          Real Breadcrumbs (I prefer to use wheat-meal bread to make my breadcrumbs)
48g          Soft Dark Brown Sugar
48g          Butter (cut small)
90g          Sultanas (soaked – see step 1)
90g          Raisins (soaked – see step 1)
1/2           Apple (chopped finely)
24g          Dried Apricots (chopped finely) if you like mixed peel you could add this instead – I don’t.
24g          Honey (or you can use golden syrup)
Juice and grated rind of half a Lemon
1               Egg
1 – 2         tablespoons Milk – as required.

Step 1     THE DAY BEFORE – Wash the Sultanas and Raisins under hot water until the oil floats off – drain well, even pat dry with paper-towels. Then put in large shallow bowl, pour in about a teacup of wine or ale – or fruit juice if you don’t want alcohol (juice not flavoured drink – preferably not orange – cranberry could work well for this) Cover – but stir whenever you are passing – so the fruit all plumps up 🙂
I am assuming you will make your breadcrumbs – it’s easy enough, just make sure the loaf is not too fresh, remove crusts, cut into chunks and whizz in a food-processor.

Step 2     In a bowl mix all the ingredients in the list down to the butter.
Step 3     Add the butter – and rub in, until the mixture all looks like breadcrumbs again and the butter is evenly distributed.
Step 4    Add the soaked fruit, the chopped apples and apricots, the honey and the lemon. Stir in well together.
Step 5    Add the egg, mix really well – stirring until the egg completely coats everything.
Step 6   The mixture needs to be soft, so that the ingredients blend together. This is so hard to describe – but the gradual addition of a little milk, well mixed in, should see the texture change from a rough, lumpy texture to a smoother texture – but not wet!

Grease a 1 pint / 550 ml pyrex type pudding bowl

Fill the bowl with the mixture, pushing down to fill any air pockets
Make a slight dip in the centre of the pudding
Cover with a plate or a microwave plate cover with a steam vent is best (I do not recommend cling film)

Place in Microwave. A 900-1000 w MW will only need 6 mins – and 6 mins standing time.
therefore a 700-800 w MW will need about 7 mins – and 6 mins standing time.
The standing time is important as the centre of the top will go from looking a little sticky to dry and cooked looking in this time.
They will keep well overnight in the fridge (or outside it in a cool room)
If you are reheating from cold it will need about 3 – 4 mins (cover again to do this)

Loosen with a pliable spatula, place a plate on the top, invert, and the pudding should come out nicely.
ENJOY – with Cornish Clotted Cream – of course!!

How do you like your Christmas pudding?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

X  Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again , please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write  🙂 Thank You

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C.R.A.P. and the Joy of True Recycling

No, I don’t like the acronym either – CRAP is not a pleasant word in any way, sounds harsh, sounds coarse and creates unpleasant mental images  – however, just at the moment, I’m looking at the word a lot!

Why? Because this is the title acronym for Conserving Resources Associating People, which in the title is followed by an Area and is a Facebook page. So here, in Cornwall, there are at least eight that show if I search Facebook for C.R.A.P. – but I do not know if it is a country-wide phenomenon like Freecycle (which I don’t like for its ‘pleading your case – why you deserve this free item’ and ‘having to choose who gets it’ aspect – or is this only me) or just Cornwall and spreading. They referred back to ‘the first one set up’ Falmouth and Penryn (now with 5,400 members I see!) – so it may only be down here at this time.

Basically it is to save stuff going to landfill. Stuff that is still usable but not necessarily saleable – or stuff that’s good and usable that you’d just rather pass on than bother selling.

As we are downsizing in a major way – and have LOTS to get rid of – and then on top of that, quite a bit of the stuff I have hoarded kept safe was kept because it had been too good to throw away (to create landfill)  but not good enough to sell or to donate to charity for them to sell – this site is a blessing.

The local C.R.A.P. group has been running just over a month and has over 900 members already! Some giving, some finding, some doing both, some just watching until something catches their eye! And ‘local’ is important too, as members need to be close enough to pick-up the stuff.

It also encourages Up-cycling and Community efforts using recycled goods to help where needed.

You would be AMAZED at the stuff that goes – because it is so true – one person’s unwanted junk is someone’s ‘just what I need’.wp_20180917_22_21_53_pro

Unbelievable? You want Examples? Here you are then: an assortment of mixed glasses – went to two different people – both for crafting (glass painting / glass etching) 1950’s loo & hand-basin – to a retro loving home, 1980s grey loo, to become a planter, and to someone else, the handbasin – just what was needed.

wp_20180920_11_34_42_proScrolling through the page recently I’ve seen shoes, bowls, plates, lamps, rugs, old tables, cupboards, boxes, artificial flowers, table ends, woolly hats and comfrey roots – all go!

I called this the JOY of True Recycling because it is far more joyful than the necessary recycling of the waste we bring into our homes (plastic, card, glass and paper) and especially as the sort of stuff we can gift on this site is precisely the stuff that still goes to landfill – and there is a JOY in giving things away that you no longer need and knowing someone else can use 🙂

Off to take some pictures of the next pile of ‘treasure’ to give away …

Are you into recycling in this way?

Any good schemes where you are?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

X  Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again , please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write  🙂 Thank You

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Burlesque, Deportment and Wet-Day PE lesson

burlesque-georgina
Georgina Gale

We had the fabulous Georgina Gale from Art of Dance, Plymouth, come to talk to our WI last week about Burlesque.  Not a usual topic for WI you may be thinking – but maybe you have the wrong idea about burlesque – or the wrong idea about WI ?  🙂

Burlesque is more about the suggestion of sensuality than about sex : WI is about women having fun while learning stuff together.

As Georgina talked it was noticeable that she wanted women to ‘own their space’ to be ‘certain and proud of being a woman – and show it’ and that this was aided by a few minor alterations to how we walked, how we held ourselves, and how we used whatever props came to hand.

At one point I found myself flooded with a memory. A memory that was of a lesson I learned when about thirteen or fourteen and have generally tried to follow – when I remember.

It was a wet day, a really wet day and it was not only PE but our PE teacher was away and so the HE (Home Economics) teacher was covering the lesson. Worse, with only one Gym, the boys and the girls had to take turns on these wet days and it was the boys turn – so we were relegated to the hall. The hall was used for some sports anyway – it had a badminton court marked out on it.

Back in those days teachers were not expected to have lesson plans ready for another member of staff to pick up and use if they were away – so the HE teacher was left to her own devices.

She chose to teach us a little deportment.

Now this may have been usual in some schools (maybe in the nearby Princess Margaret-Rose school for instance) but in our mixed secondary modern it was not on the general curriculum.

She started with walking – as did our Burlesque teacher last week – getting us to walk around the hall following the painted badminton lines, placing one bare foot in front of the other, on the line, as we went. Placing was a good word for it, toe – heel, toe – heel. Those who straddled the line were put right – one foot in front of the other! We were walking with grace – not clumping along.

Then she upped the stakes.

She’d brought along a pile of soft-backed old HE books and now we were to balance one on our head and continue our perambulation. Head up, eyes forward, looking at the line now in the distance. How it straightened backs and shoulders! It sounds stuffy but we had fun – it isn’t easy, that balancing the book on the head stuff – especially when you turn – so there was laughter too!

And so it was in our Burlesque evening (without the books – but with shoes) plenty of laughter but then suddenly we were looking far more confident, all looking taller. You could see how someone walking like that would draw attention, someone looking so confident somehow makes you believe that they know who they are, what they are doing and where they are going – and that confidence is attractive.

It made me think – how often do we as women duck our heads, look at our feet, slouch, unsure what to do without arms? Giving the impression that we are not confident in the world. How much of this is learnt behaviour, learnt ‘feminine’ behaviour? That maybe we have lost some indefinable female power by ignoring, or deliberately turning our backs, on elegance and grace of movement. If you ever watch dancers, off  stage, they still have it – maybe we all need a few lessons.

How often do you see young women ‘clumping’ along (as my teacher put it) like a boy – but with the rest of the body language that says, ‘don’t listen to me, don’t look at me, I don’t know what I’m doing here’ ?

Maybe a little deportment should be taught – maybe under another name? Positional empowerment?

Whereas back in the school hall the teacher finished off by teaching us how sit and how to get in and out of a car elegantly without showing your knickers no matter how short your skirt – very useful in those early mini-skirt days! Georgina added how to stand, so that you are comfortable, your back well supported, (she’s also trained in Pilates), your hands poised in a relaxed position that allowed you to stand tall and look confident – comfortably. (Plus a few cheeky poses and the removal of … gloves 😉 )

What do you think?

Positional empowerment lessons for girls?

A load of old-fashioned nonsense?

Love to hear from you

best  –  Ann

Ok, you can admit it now – you went and got a paperback or magazine and tried walking with it on your head, didn’t you?   😉

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again , please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write  🙂 Thank You

 

 

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Apples and Memories

This week, on a warm day I went into the apple store and realised, by the fermenting aroma, that it was time! Time to sort out all the remaining apples and chuck out all the mouldy ones.

Now a really organised person would have been doing this all along – they’d have done this every time they collected apples – not dashing in, grabbing a few and flying out again, often at twilight, when sorting apples in an unlit shed is not easy.

Red admiral - telling us the apples are ready!
Red admiral – telling us the apples were ready!

As I stood turning over each of the apples that still looked good to check for damage, and chucking the obviously past-it apples into the bucket, I remembered picking this crop. We did it over a number of warm days, the butterflies dancing and tasting apples that had already fallen.

In past years Dad has always been the most assiduous fruit-picker in the family, he’d check the fruit, wait for the dew to dry and then set off into the orchard with a wheelbarrow full of boxes, and steadily pick apples and lay them out in the apple store all day, or until the apples that were ripe were all gathered in.dad-picking-apples-holding-on-2017

This year, ill as he was, he still wanted to help. So, over a few days, he did. I helped him walk down to the trees we were going to pick, and he held tightly to a branch and picked with his free hand, or propped himself against the trunk, and did the same. An hour or so of this and he was exhausted, but happy to have done his bit for that day, and after I’d helped him back he’d settle down in his armchair, feet up, and would swiftly be asleep. wheelbarrow-apples

trug-apples

 

 

 

 

dad-with-howgate-wonderThere had been an excellent crop, with some real whoppers from the Howgate Wonders – an apple I love to recommend as it is sweet enough for an eater, mushes down like a cooker (needing no added sugar) is a heavy cropper and keeps really well! Here’s a snap of Dad holding one, though not the biggest, of these lovely apples.

All this is going through my mind as I sort the apples, and here we are, the second week of April and I still have a range of apples left.wp_20180408_15_17_11_pro
They do not look as pretty as the chilled, native and imported, apples in the supermarket, but they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.wp_20180408_15_16_56_pro

They haven’t been waxed or coated in shellac . . . and if you don’t like the sound of these ‘old apples’ please note that *’apples you buy from the shops are usually anything from a few months to a year old’ * Times Newspaper 10/4/18

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Yet even after all these months, peeled, they still taste wonderful, are free – wp_20180408_15_17_23_pro

 

 

and I reckon I have at least nine kilos left!

 

 

The mouldy and too-damaged-to-eat apples I’ve spread out on our open-top compost heap – where it won’t take long for birds to find them to have nice, unexpected, spring feast.

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What have you been up to this past week?

What annual jobs in the home or garden are you tackling?

Do let me know in the comments – I love to hear from you 🙂

 

ps If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

 

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Belly Dance Hafla & at the Edge

Many of you know that one of my passions is the belly-dance classes I attend. I’ve been shaking it all about for nigh on seventeen years now.

The first time I was introduced to belly-dance, however, must be more than twenty years ago – when a belly-dancer came to our village WI, told us of the true history of the dances (celebratory or in commiseration, by women – for women) and got us all up and shimmying. Unfortunately she wasn’t running classes, and it wasn’t until a number of years later than I discovered Jules. I had been learning Cornish Dance for a millennium event, but that finished and my friend asked if I would be interested in going to belly-dance instead! Was I? Too right I was!

Our group holds an annual Hafla ( a belly-dance party) with which we raise funds for MacMillan Cancer support (in memory of one of our members). Belly-dance groups come to perform from all over Devon, Cornwall and beyond and great fun is had by all while raising a goodly sum for the charity! For this one we did a veil dance – lots of swishing of gauzy fabric! a youtube video can be found here

Our group, known as Shimmying Jewels, also dances out a few times a year, sometimes at Calstock Festival, sometimes at the Tavistock Edge Festival.  A couple of weekends ago it was the latter. We were all set with two performances and two dances in each part of the town (though the second dance was more as backing-dancers to a dance duet by two of our members)

The first dance was to a lively tune with a refrain that extols the ample virtues of Egyptian Ella – a belly-dancer. (And that’s almost a truism, some of the best belly-dancers are of very ample proportions, but with fantastic control over their sinuous movements!) Jules choreographed a stick dance to this – which means that a brightly coloured stick is used to enhance the moves.

I was hoping a video of this was going up on youtube – but it hasn’t arrived yet (I will link to it when it does) In the meantime here are a few stills. wp_20170708_12_08_06_prowp_20170708_12_08_28_prowp_20170708_12_10_32_prowp_20170708_12_08_32_prowp_20170708_12_10_40_pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, if you fancy belly-dancing – and know where you can join a class but are wondering what to wear – I may have just the blog for your right here  which also goes a long way to explaining what I love about belly-dance.

Though I just love to dance … any dance really … belly-dance has a special place in my heart!

Do you love to dance?

What type of dancing do you do?

Do share- you know I love to hear from you!

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