Book of Shadows

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frontspieceFive years ago I was approached by the “High Priestess” (eh?) of a nearby coven because someone had told her of my prowess with the quill and my unique illustrating abilities. She forced a vast quantity of money into my hand and asked me to make her a Book of Shadows in “nice” lettering from a big heap of dog-eared papers with all her magick spells on them, otherwise she would turn me into a frog! (Not really, I’m just being silly).

After I had finished it, it took me about six months to complete, she was so pleased with it that she turned me back into a human again!

If you don’t know what a Book of Shadows is then search on the Internet, because I cant be ars… bothered to explain here.

I enjoyed making it so much I decided to make my own version of a Book of Shadows, but without the spells and other chants in it. Who believes all that tosh anyway? *ribbit, ribbit* I decided to include all my favourite quotes, poems and sayings that have inspired me over the years.

proverbsA friend who is very good at leatherwork made the cover for me, a tad too big really but no matter, I didn’t pay him for it anyway!

Next I painted a dragons head on the front to scare away any evil spirits who might try to steal it. I bought an artists sketchbook with nice paper that resembles handmade paper. Pity about the spiral binding, but that seems to be the trend now. I set to work copying all my dog-eared notes into the book, in between other jobs of course and I only finished it last December before I was stricken down with the deadly arthritis. Do you think it was some sort of curse on me from Him upstairs for writing that book?

solitudeThere’s a few random pages for you to admire.

Posted in Calligraphy & Lettering, Handwriting, Wiccan & Pagan | 1 Comment

The Vetting and Barring Scheme 2

CRB-logoBefore you read this post you should go to The Vetting and Barring Scheme 1 posted on 20 March 2011 in this blog. I know it was a long time ago, but go and read it first to refresh your memory, or if you didn’t see it initially it will provide you with the background for this post.

The links in that post don’t work anymore because the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) have merged to become the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). CRB checks are now called DBS checks.

To quote a line from that post,

“I flatly refused to be checked by the faceless wonders in Whitehall who probably have murky past histories themselves.”

I realise that there was an element of truth in it now. Recently the media have exposed the fact that there could be a few members of Parliament who are not as squeaky clean as we thought. Then it was announced that someone had compiled a folder on their dubious activities, but somehow it had been “mislaid” or “lost”. How convenient. Now the matter seems to have been forgotten by the media.

Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were not so lucky. I wonder if they were checked out by the CRB and ISA when they worked with children? I very much doubt it, because being famous it was taken as read they would ‘play the white man’ when with children, and could be trusted.

“If a person is scrutinised and found to be as white as the driven snow, and then allowed to work with children, what’s to stop him/her from going off the rails and molesting a child in the future? The Vetting and Barring Scheme is flawed from the start. Anyone with money, influence and a dubious past can probably get round it anyway”.

I posted the first part of the article in March 2011 and the poo hit the fan just after J Savile’s funeral, just 8 months later, when the doubts about his activities began to surface.

Now another body of do-gooders has entered the arena, namely Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) who now decides who can be near to children and when.

Every Tuesday morning we had a coffee morning in the back room of the local church hall, attended mainly by Senior Citizens, made up mostly of ladies, with two or three elderly men.

In the main hall of the building there is a child care or pre-school group called ‘The Pelican’, which is in session every day in school hours during term time. This group has been there ever since I started going to the coffee morning and as far as I know there has never been the slightest hint of anything improper going on.

Now the Ofsted inspector has decreed that in order for The Pelican to continue, there must strict security at all times. The only reference to that situation in the report was “The inspector found that you have taken steps to improve the safety of the children and ensure their ongoing well-being” Apparently we “posed a danger to the children” because sometimes strangers call in of the street for a drink.

The children are protected by a locked gate into the main hall and there is a passageway between the two rooms. They also have several adult supervisors with them at all times, and I’m not sure, but I think the fire door is kept locked (I hope not!). Admittedly they share the toilets with us, but when they have to go one of the teachers accompanies them.

I think that the banning of anyone else being in the building is a decision taken by the head of the Play Group, because I have read the Ofsted Reports, both of them, about their recent inspection and recommendations to ensure the safety of the children and I cannot find anything about the banning of the coffee mornings. I have been assured it was nothing to do with the Church Committee.

A link to the reports EY362428_3.PDF. if you are interested, which I doubt. A boring report written by boring people trying to justify their existence.

It’s true. We are now living in a Nanny State. I’m positive that the old people who go to the coffee morning to meet and socialise with their friends would not dream of interfering with the kids. We live in a large village and everybody knows everybody else (and their business as well!)

Well, I’ll just have to go to the pub to socialise from now on. At least children are barred from the bar (pun intended) so there’s no chance of them interfering with the pensioners !

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Front Room

pianoI read on a friends blog about people who collect items and just put them on display and never use them for their intended purpose. In this instance it was tea-pots, she said she bought some at an auction and was pleased to find that they all had stains and tea leaves in them, proving that the previous owner, who had died, did actually use them, and didn’t just put them on a shelf to look at.

When I was married my wife bought loads of commemorative plates, the type with fairies, flowers and animals on them and I had to put up shelving all round the room to accommodate them.

This in turn reminded me of my mother who was a house-proud freak; there’s no other way to describe her. In the 1940’s we had a small house in Hinckley (My father moved us there to get away from the bombing of Southampton) She put that little house before everything else. It was her pride and joy and she turned it from a family home into a show house, full of things that were never meant to be used for what they were intended for.

We had chipped second hand mugs to drink out off, and cracked plates to eat off, knives with broken handles etc., whilst in the “Front Room” the was an immaculate Willow pattern dinner set, a beautiful floral tea set and lots of cut-glass wine glasses and tumblers in a massive china cabinet with glass doors just to show off all this stuff that was never used, ever!

The “Front Room” was out of bounds to me and my friends, we were never allowed to step onto the highly polished floor or to actually sit on the sofa and easy chairs, they were as immaculate in 1988, when she died, as when she bought them.

Her pride and joy was a beautiful upright piano that she love to show off to family and the neighbours. It was her status symbol, and every body admired it. Every Saturday morning she unlocked the door to the front room and spent hours polishing that piano, washing the keyboard and polishing the candle sticks and pedals with “Brasso” while my sister and I looked on through the open door. Not allowed to step inside you understand.

She would then lock the lid over the keyboard “just in case”, and come out with one last admiring look at the piano, and locked the door. (I never did find out where the key was hidden, but Dad knew and he wouldn’t tell!)

As regular as clockwork every year the piano tuner came and retuned it.

The amazing thing about all this is that neither my mother or father could play the piano, and my sister and I never had the chance to learn on it. If we had been given lessons and practised on this show piece who knows, I could be playing at the Royal Albert Hall by now! [For our friends in the Colonies, that's like Carnegie Hall. . .only better. (joke!)]

There is some justice in the world though, when the removal men came to clear the parents house they found the piano was riddled with woodworm underneath and at the back. It was so bad that even the floor was infested, and on the verge of collapsing.

This is what a real piano sounds like!

Makes you want to get up and dance doesn’t it? No? Oh well, please yourself. . . .

Posted in Childhood days, During the war, When I was a lad | 11 Comments

My Little Shilton Kitchen

rachels-kitchenSome of you may know of Rachel Khoo, who is an English chef, writer and broadcaster, with her own BBC series. She had a tiny flat in Paris in which she whipped up impressive meals inside her cramped tiny kitchen. I am now a big fan of hers and I base some of my recipes on her books.

When I was in Paris for three weeks in 1997 with my partner, Pat Yeomans (she was there with an Irish Folk Group playing several gigs in some shady joints!), I attended workshops at the Cordon Bleu School of Cookery, for ‘French Regional Cuisine’ and ‘Domestic Food Preparation’ just for something to do. That changed my life, so I stopped living on frozen ready meals and started to live a little and cook my own food.

My kitchen isn’t as tiny as Rachel’s, but it is very small. Big enough for one person, two at a struggle, but I couldn’t cater for a party! Sorry, fellow bloggers, maybe another time.

The majority of the kitchen remains the same as when the first occupants moved in in 1934. It still has the red quarry tiled floor and the huge cupboards from that time, masses of storage space. I wasn’t until 2003 that I had the original gas cooker, a ‘New World 34′ taken out and bought a table top electric cooker. (couldn’t get spare parts for the old cooker any more).

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These original cupboards, made of real wood, are so much better than modern kitchen units made of vinyl-covered chipboard that are available these days. I wouldn’t dream of changing the existing ones because they are so roomy inside.

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The floor is original, except for the three relacement tiles. I like it because it is so easy to keep clean. Especially as I seem to drop more food on the floor than I eat.

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The window in the kitchen/hall door was just opaque glass when I moved in so I replaced it with a stained glass panel in the style of the 1930’s. It’s not an original, just a copy I made.

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The cooking corner. Not a very big oven, but it does the job and is just right for me. Notice the cup on the window sill. I saw it on an Etsy.com site and noticed it had the same pattern on it as the kitchen wall tiles, and it was in the Art Deco style so I just had to buy it

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The top section of my French Dresser, the bottom cupboard is where all my cooking utensils are stored. I don’t like have them on display, very common! I couldn’t afford to buy a dresser in France and have it transported to England, so I scrounged a load of pallets from a local builder and dismantled them, planed them up and made my own dresser. I know it looks crude, but I was a stained glass artist, not a carpenter (or wood butcher as I call them!). I did make some leaded panels for the doors with butterflies in them, but they proved to be too heavy for the frames so I put chicken wire in. This is traditional in rural French houses. Not for keeping chickens in the dresser, but to prevent the crockery from falling out during a major earthquake.

The calendar on the wall has pictures of cats on it, who bear a remarkable resemblance to Betsy’s cats.

Posted in Cookery, Food | 15 Comments

Simple dough proving box

Following on from the last post I will explain how to make a proving box with a few simple components. The cost is virtually nothing.

If you live in a cold house like me, and can’t afford to heat a whole room just to get your bread dough to rise then this is a project for you. I found it was too costly to keep the oven on a low temperature to do the job, even then the lowest temperature in the oven was just too much.

So I put my Thinking Hat on and came up with this little gem of engineering excellence. My friend Phil, who is always showing off his ingenuity at making ‘Smoking Boxes for Ham and other Things’ and ‘Gadgets for Curing Various Meats’ will be proud of me, and who knows, he might even make a copy of this ‘Dough Proving Box’ himself!

proving-box[1] Find a suitable cardboard box large enough to accommodate your bowl. If you can’t find a big box then order something large from Amazon, when it arrives throw the contents away and keep the cardboard box. Next find a room thermostat, there’s usually one on a wall in the house somewhere, remove it and fit into the box with a batten bulb holder, again there is usually one in the outside toilet or the wine cellar that is no longer in use. I use a 25 watt bulb which I find is sufficient to maintain the correct temperature. Wire the two in series and attach a mains cable with a plug on the end, and you are ready to go.

[2] Place the bowl containing the bread dough into the box and cover with a damp tea-towel. Switch on.

[3] Set the thermostat to around 20ºC and make sure the bulb is a good one. The results will be poor if you use a dud bulb, or you forget to plug the lead into a convenient power socket. Keep an eye on the thermometer and adjust to keep the temperature between 22ºC – 30ºC.

[4] Note: This step is important. Close the box! Every few minutes open the box and check to see if the dough has doubled in size. If it has, then you are on course to becoming a master baker.

After the dough has risen, take it out of the box and place it on a floured board and give it a good pounding to show it who is the boss, and then stuff the resulting mass into a bread tin and place it back into the box, again remembering to close the lid, Let it rise until it reaches the top of the tin. At this point put it into a preheated oven at 210ºC for 30 minutes.

When the loaf has cooled down take a large knife and carefully scrape the burned bits off the top crust.

Posted in Cookery, Do-it-yourself, Just kidding, Only partly true! | 6 Comments

Good Morning World

bread-01Today I had a lazy morning baking and cooking. Two loaves made with real French flour from France would you believe! They use a different variety of flour to us, which is much softer, and you can actually feel the difference when kneading it. It feels very silky and lovely to work with. It’s called T65, and the bakers in France can only use this type by law to make Baguette loaves. True. The supermarket ‘baguettes’ in this country are more often than not made from the same flour ordinary bread is made from, and tastes the same; awful.

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Just out of the oven and cooling off, and me as well, it does get a bit warm in my tiny kitchen. I always keep a glass of wine on the side and have a slurp every so often [A tip I picked up from watching Keith Floyd]

bread-03Now to try some, with my homemade butter. Although I used the specialty flour to make ordinary loaves the taste is the same as a true baton; heavenly! Even my butter tastes much better than shop bought butter, I don’t know why, perhaps it’s because I don’t put additives in it. It is expensive to make, both in the use of electricity (it takes ages in the mixer!) and double cream, so I only make it for special occasions. When I separate the buttermilk from the finished butter I use it with self-raising flour to make soda farls.

Phil – If you are reading this I gave up making sourdough bread, it takes too long to make and it didn’t always work out.

gratinFinally I sorted through the fridge for left-overs, like pasta, parsnips, courgettes, mushrooms, etc and invented a new gratin. It tastes a bit strange, but otherwise is OK. [Yeuk!]

Posted in Cookery | 5 Comments

At the Docs

waiting-room copyAbout every two or three weeks I have to go for a blood test to have my INR (International Normalised Ratio) level checked because I take blood thinners. Don’t ask, it’s a long boring story.

Every time I go, no matter which day of the week it is, it seems there is always the same two old ladies in the waiting room. On my last two visits I noticed that one of them was missing, so naturallyI thought she had kicked the bucket. This week Maud sat busy knitting as usual when Betsy arrived.

Maud asked Betsy why she hadn’t been there for the last two weeks. “Well, I’ve not been very well dear; the old trouble you know”.

[That's not really their names.]

Posted in Medical, Only partly true! | 6 Comments

Bang, Crash. . . .gone!

I’ve lost my template! After spending a lot of time customising it my computer crashed!

It has given up the ghost big time. It is no more. It is an ex-computer now. It was due for the chop anyway, to give you an idea of how old it was when I bought it it had Windows 98E installed. Of course I updated it as newer versions came out, and I finally installed Linux Ubuntu a few years ago.

So I had to rush out and buy another all singing, all dancing modern computer and program it up. I scrapped the installed Windows 7 and put Win XP in one partition and Unbuntu 12.04 in another partition. Now I have the best of both worlds.

I tried to recover my template from WordPress, BlueOutdoors, (which I had customised to suit my needs) but to my horror I found it was no longer available so I have had to use the nearest equivalent, this one, which needs a lot of work doing on it. First I’m off to scour the net to see if I can find the right template.

Posted in General, Gone | 1 Comment

Special Christmas Day Post

old-man

Since my partner died 10 years ago I have spent every Christmas, bar one, on my own despite having a lot of relatives who always have a get together every year, but I’m never included. Not even a phone call or email to check that I’m OK.

As far as I can remember I have never done anything to warrant this. I have often wondered why I’m shunned at this time of “goodwill-to-all-men”. I found the truth on the webpage of “The Huffington Post” and I quote some facts and figures from it below.

Half a million older people will spend Christmas alone this year as relatives and neighbours shun them in favour of smaller family gatherings and shopping, a charity has revealed.

The Friends of the Elderly charity said many older people will be isolated by younger generations, who said they were too busy to include them in their plans.

In a survey commissioned by the charity, nearly one in four people (24%) said they would not be inviting any elderly relatives or local residents to their Christmas celebrations.

Only 1% of those surveyed said Christmas was a time to help others, while well over half (60%) thought it meant spending time with family and friends. About 11% said “the birth of Christ” represented the meaning of Christmas – about the same number (9%) who plumped for “shopping”.

More people would volunteer to help animals (28%) than the elderly (26%), according to the survey. Nearly half (44%) of respondents said they did not have enough time to visit the elderly, while 13% said they did not want to and 11% said they thought the older people around them got “plenty of visits already”.

More than two-thirds (68%) agreed that the worst thing they could imagine at Christmas was being alone, but only 13% said that they would consider having a lonely older person spend Christmas Day with them.

The charity said that 500,000 older people will spend Christmas alone, based on ICM research for Help the Aged in 2007.

Richard Furze, the charity’s chief executive, said: “The effects of isolation on older people – including loneliness, depression, feelings of low self-worth, poor health and diet – can be devastating, with isolated individuals being less likely to obtain the services they need or seek help.

“Small things such as simply checking in on an older neighbour regularly, popping a card through their door or having a chat with an older person at the shops is enjoyable for both young and older people, only takes a moment and can make a real difference.”

“We understand that people are incredibly busy today, and especially at Christmas, but we urge people to get more involved with the older people around them – and not just at Christmas”.

Yeah, right. Guess what I’m going to do when Christmas is over . . . . . .

Posted in Anti-Social Behaviour, but not forgotten?, Unbelievable | 6 Comments

Just an experiment


If you are interesting as to what the video is about, it was taken at “The Merrie Monk” pub several years back. It closed down.

It was taken on a Sunday lunchtime when the landlady provided lots of nibbles and other goodies for her loyal customers.

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This is a video of Dinky watching herself playing “Catch the laser” when she was a kitten, and getting bored with it.

Posted in Good Old days | Leave a comment