Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Faleminderit, Andrew

These are Albanian men in their national costume. The picture below is Andrew, an English Baptist Minister in Beckenham, Kent. Our families have been friends for over 30 years. 
Our families have much in common [ministry, teaching, maths, bicycles...] About 20 years ago they generously let us have a week's holiday in their house whilst they were away. 
There are quite a few Albanian people living in Beckenham.  So about 10 years ago,  Andrew decided to spend a sabbatical in Albania,  learning their language.  He has grown to love this nation and goes back every year to visit the 10 Baptist churches there. He is fluent in Albanian. 
His wife Eleanor reads the blog,  and emailed to suggest I rang them last weekend. 
So now I can say "faleminderit" "ju lutem" "si jeni" "shume mire" and "Zoti ju bekofte"
That is thank you,  please,  how are you? Very good,  and God bless you. 
Also" nuk mund  te ha djathe ose gjize" which is I cannot eat cheese. 
That last phrase is quite important for me. 
Thank you Andrew and Eleanor,  for all the information you shared with me.  I  wish you could both come on the trip.  Zoti ju bekofte! 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Bowled Over

I think I may start a Pointless Gadget of the Month post. Bob and I both admit to a fondness for useful gadgets. But they must be useful and earn their keep. I was interested to read about the Full Stop Bowl which is supposed to help dieters. The idea is that it represents a normal human stomach.  So you fill it with food and that regulates the size of your meal.  You just eat enough to fill your stomach, and aim to take around 20 minutes over this. You are allowed 3 meals a day. No more. 

There is an explanatory website here.  I looked at the empty bowl 
The website says it is 24cm in diameter. I've estimated the volume to be around 950ml. A normal stomach-full is reckoned to be about 1litre. The review in the Guardian was not very complimentary  -  read it here
Personally, I don't see the point of spending the best part of twenty quid on a plastic dish with its own sphincter.
Our day-to-day crockery is IKEA Dinera. The cereal bowl holds 450ml, and the shallow large bowl holds twice that. 

We frequently have our meals in these bowls,  and I am happy with them and their capacity is usually appropriate for our needs.  I do not need to be reminded of my innards quite so graphically. Furthermore,  that large flat rim of the Full Stop Bowl is just crying out for a triangle or two of bread and butter,  or fingers of toast, or a small banana,  or pot of fromage frais...  Which rather defeats the object of the exercise. 
The bizarre shape would not accommodate certain foods very easily. A Cornish pasty, large pork chop, slice of pizza... 
I  am choosing the Full Stop Bowl as my January Pointless Gadget of the Month
What would you choose?

Monday, 16 January 2017

Dolly Mixture

Do you know about American Girl Dolls? 
Unlike Barbie,  who is nearly 60, these girls have only been around for 30 years or so. They are intended to represent girls aged between 8 and 11. Their wardrobe reflects that. No stilettos or bras,  just wholesome childhood playmates.  Originally the dolls wore costumes from various points in American history,  but then the range expanded with lots of contemporary outfits and a wider choice of hair colour and skin tones, enabling girls from all ethnicities to find a doll just like  themselves. 
The pukka AG dolls are carefully made, with prices to match.  Even the similar ones do not come cheap, and their outfits are also beyond the range of most girls' pocket money. 
These dolls are collectibles in the USA and Canada, and increasingly in the  UK.  Many adults collect them, dress them, and fill their houses with them! 
But that doesn't help a little girl who has just one doll and would like to build up a wardrobe of clothes. 
One of my young friends at church had a Doll like this for Christmas.  She brought her to church on Christmas Morning.  I asked if she'd like me to make a her doll new outfit.  It's ages since I did any doll's clothes.  
The Internet has dozens of sites.  I found a good cardigan knitting pattern,here, and made a simple elasticated skirt to match. This could be the start of a new project for 2017 I suspect! 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Small Fry

How are you getting on with the new plastic £5 notes? When my word for the year is Hope, I find it vaguely depressing that on the reverse Winston Churchill is offering me nothing but "blood, sweat toil and tears." I am rather fond of the older note, bearing the portrait of Elizabeth Fry, and the picture of her working with the prisoners
Born Elizabeth Gurney, to a Quaker family, she grew up in Norfolk. Her mother [part of the Barclay's Bank family] died whilst she was quite young and she helped care for her siblings. She had a strong faith, and a love of needlework. [Norfolk, Nonconformist, Needlewoman...definitely one of my heroines] Elizabeth married another Quaker, Joseph Fry [from the chocolate family] and moved to London, where they had 11 children.
She is perhaps best known for her sterling work in penal reform, and especially care for women prisoners. She taught the women incarcerated in Newgate to read, write, do basic maths, and to sew. Thus they were able to find gainful employment on their release. She arranged special bags [containing fabric pieces, needles and threads] to be given to those facing Transportation to Australia. On the long voyage, the women could make themselves a patchwork quilt. On arrival the quilt could keep them warm, be sold to buy food, or used as a proof of their skills so they could obtain work in the colonies. In 1840 she opened a Training School for nurses- Florence Nightingale took a team of "Fry's Nurses" out to the Crimea. She seems to have spent her entire life in going about doing good. 
I found some extracts from her journal - one is a simple prayer appropriate for anyone [like me] with an apparently unending to-do list
O Lord, may I be directed what to do and what to leave undone
The other quotation seems particularly apt for these days when people refer to "post-truth" and nobody seems quite sure whether those in power are 'being economical' with their words
I give myself this advice - Do not fear truth, never give up the search for it - and let me take courage and try from the bottom of my heart to do that which I believe truth dictates
For number of years, I have kept a folded up fiver in the back of my diary, as "emergency cash" in case I ever find myself in need of a little cash when I am out supply teaching. This tiny packet has been my 'Small Fry'. It's never been needed, but I have taken it out now, to make sure it is spent, before these notes become obsolete.  But Elizabeth wasn't small Fry, I think she was truly great. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

RIP Mr Jones

Yesterday the death was announced of Lord Snowdon - born Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones in 1930. You can read his full obituary on the BBC Website here. In his teens, he developed polio and had to lie flat on his back for a year. His Uncle, theatre designer Oliver Messel, helped alleviate the boredom by arranging for visits from celebrity friends [Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich] and also getting Tony interested in photography.
By the end of the 1950s, Tony was acknowledged as one of the foremost photographers of his generation, taking pictures of the rich and famous.
Through this, he got to meet our Queen's sister, Princess Margaret. Both possessed a strong rebellious streak, and they got engaged, and then were married in 1960.

This is the first "Royal Wedding" I remember - it was so exciting seeing this glamorous princess in her elegant gown. I'd not been at school very long, but avidly read newspaper reports. And wished I could be a royal bridesmaid like Princess Anne [and I pitied Charles and his awful haircut]
Sadly the wedding ended after 18 years and my Mum always maintained that if Margaret had been allowed, back in 1952, to marry her first love [Group Captain Peter Townsend] then life would have been very different for them all. Who knows?
I imagine the media will have much to say over the next few days about the behaviour of Margaret and Tony - they did not always conduct themselves with the decorum expected of Royals. Maybe they wished they could be ordinary 'Mr and Mrs Jones'
But that could never be. After the divorce, Lord Snowdon married again, twice, and had many other relationships - lasting happiness seemed to elude him. But he was undoubtedly very skilled with a camera
Because of his polio, he was trouble by a limp for the remainder of his life - and did a phenomenal amount to ensure good facilities and proper access for disabled people - including a famous row over the Chelsea Flower Show which resulted in admission for guide dogs, and eventually a purpose built garden for those with mobility issues.

He leaves five children - siblings and half-siblings 

David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl Of Snowdon 
Lady Sarah Chatto
Lady Frances von Hofmannsthal
Jasper Cable-Alexander and Polly Fry

Friday, 13 January 2017

Ang Is Off On A Lek Trek**

I dropped hints recently on the blog about something exciting happening to me in this new year. 
Well it's this...
I am going to Albania!

No, I still cannot quite believe it either, but in two weeks from now I shall be starting my journey down to southern Europe, for a weekend in this small country about whose history and personalities I know very little [other than King Zog, Mother Theresa and Norman Wisdom.. I shall speak more of these three later]
Our WWDP here is twinned with the Albanian WWDP, and I am going with another committee member at the invitation of the ladies there, to join them for a special weekend conference.
If you have ever visited, do please share any useful travel advice ASAP!!
[**the lek is the main unit of Albanian currency]

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Oh My Darling, Oh My Dahling, Oh My Dhaling, Clementine...

My banting also seems to include dhal-ing. Lentils are a very good part of your diet if you want to eat foods with a low Glycaemic Load. GL is a measure that takes into account the amount of carbohydrate in a portion of food together with how quickly it raises blood glucose levels. Dhal, made from lentils, is a nourishing, sustaining food - as people in the Indian Sub Continent have known forever.
Do not confuse Dhal with Dahl! The first is the lentil dish, the second is the Norwegian surname of Roald [the writer] and his granddaughter Sophie [the cook] She has actually published a recipe called Sophie's Dhal. The clementine** is simply there so you can look at the pictures and sing the song!
On Monday I cooked up a batch of green lentils and kept them in the fridge. That way I could sprinkle some into a salad and serve the remainder with chicken breasts and green beans for our evening meal. I have green lentils, red lentils and yellow split peas in the pantry [all dried] My new Fresh India Cookbook has a number of lentil recipes - as does the Ottolenghi 'Plenty More' book which I gave Bob.
Did you know that the word lens comes from the double convex/circular shape of the lentil?
In Italy and Hungary they eat lentils on New Years Eve - their round shape is reminiscent of coins, and symbolises hope for a prosperous year ahead.
Jewish people eat lentils as part of their mourning tradition - for them, the shape is symbolic of the cycle of birth, life and death.
**I just realised whilst singing 'Clementine' to myself that I took a photograph of "Herring boxes without topses" last week.
In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Lived a miner, forty-niner
And his daughter Clementine

Oh my Darling, Oh my Darling,
Oh my Darling Clementine.
You are lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry, Clementine.

Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine
Herring boxes without topses
Did for shoes for Clementine.

[In another interesting plot twist, I have just discovered a friend here in Ferndown is actually a descendant of Mr Banting!!]