Photo Friday – Old

The Photo Friday challenge for Friday 17th August is old. I’m about an hour late (UK time) but it’s still the 17th August for most of America so I’m posting it!

This is a fossil ammonite on the beach at Charmouth near Lyme Regis on the South Coast of England. Charmouth and Lyme Regis are famous for the fossils found there some of the first dinosaurs ever found were found at Lyme Regis. One of the most famous collectors was Mary Anning born in Lyme Regis in 1799, she was an amateur fossil collector, picking up fossils on the beach to sell to visitors. She found the first complete icthyosaur and plesiosaur.

These huge ammonites are all over the beach and other fossils can be picked up easily

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D is for Didcot

Didcot is a small town in South Oxfordshire and is the place I grew up and lived for the first 23 years of my life. The town and it’s people and places shaped my life and made me the person I am today. The town today is nothing like the town I grew up in however as it is now at least 3 times the size it was….

Didcot was probably one of the oldest settlements in the area of South Oxfordshire dating back to about 200-600BC, it is only a few miles away from the Iron Age hill fort of Wittenham Clumps (recently excavated on Time Team) situated in the fertile Thames Valley below the ancient trackway of The Ridgeway which crosses the chalk downland through ancient Wessex.

The name “Didcot” is Saxon, deriving from “Dydda’s or Dudda’s Cot” literally the cottage of Dudda until relatively recent times (the 19th century) the village was known as Dudcot or Dudcote. In Saxon times there was a fortified farm on the site and the village remained small until the arrival of Brunel’s Great Western Railway- or God’s Wonderful Railway – in 1844 when the population exploded.

Old Didcot still remains centered around All Saints Church with several streets of thatched cottages, the streets further out – around the railway and up to the area known as Northbourne are red-brick Victorian terraces built for the railway workers. This area was a “new village” created for the railway workers apart from the old village of Didcot.

Didcot expanded again in 1915 when the Didcot Arsenal was built to support World War 1 and another huge influx of labour needed housing. Since World War 1 Didcot hasn’t stopped and by 2005 it became the largest town in South Oxfordshire with the building of the huge Ladygrove housing development- the first housing in Didcot to be on the North side of the railway line.

I myself grew up in a new housing development built in the mid 1960’s –  the Brasenose estate – my parent bought our house as a plot and moved in as soon as it was built. My first school, Stephen Freeman, was built along with the housing estate for the new families moving in.

In the mid 1960’s Didcot Power Station was built just outside the edge of the town where my home was – to me it seems incredible that when my parents first moved to Didcot they went for a walk to Wittenham Clumps and then didn’t know which way to walk to get back…..all my life Didcot Power Station has been visible for miles in any direction along the flat, wide Thames Valley.

There are 2 secondary schools (High Schools) in Didcot, unusually they are both single sex – Didcot Girls School and St Birinus for the boys. St Frideswides school was built in 1931 and was a mixed school, St Birinus was built in 1935 and when it opened St Frideswides split with the girls remaining there and the boys going to St Birinus. Any girls and boys who passed the 11+ exam went to Wallingford Grammar School until 1958 when Didcot Girls’ Grammar School opened in what is now called the Cockcroft Building.

 In the 1970’s when comprehensive education was rolled out Didcot Girl’s Grammar and St Frideswides combined to become Didcot Girls’ School – which I attended from 1980 to 1987. Going to a Girl’s school means that whenever I tell people this they always assume I went to a public school (for those of you in the US – a public school is exactly the opposite of that, its a private fee paying school!!)

Amongst Didcot’s claims to fame – one of the Gunpowder plotters, Robert Wintour or Winter, held a mortgage on the manor – Manor Farm on the corner of Brasenose Road and Foxhall Road is the only remaining building of this manor. There is no evidence that the plotters ever actually met there however.

The church of All Saints, which is on the highest point of the old town, may have been one of the places that St Birinus preached when he brought Christianity to this area in 634. The area around the church was certainly a place of worship as far back as the Romans. The yew tree beside the church door is said to have been planted soon after Birinus preached here and it is certainly over 1,000 years old.

I was baptised at All Saints as a baby, attended Sunday school, was in the choir from age 7 till about 17, confirmed their aged 15 and so when I got married in 2001 there was only one place I could have my wedding, despite moving from Didcot about 9 years before!

My parents and brothers still live in Didcot as to many of my friends from school and so I visit the town regularly.

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C is for….

I’ve had real difficulty pinning down a topic for C, there are so many things it could be –

Chickens

(I’m preparing for their arrival next week)

 Chocolate

 

(I am seriously addicted)

Crochet

(which I’ve finally mastered after years of not being able to do it)

Cat

(isn’t he gorgeous? my little baby…)

but I finally settled on  –

Camping

Camping is something that has always been part of my life. As a child, our family holidays were always camping holidays – me, my two brothers and our parents camping in Pembrokeshire or Yorkshire or the Isle of Skye.

We had a huge frame tent for many, many years…my parents got this from my godparents when they went on their very first camping trip as a family. My godparents were going to Switzerland and invited my parents, they had no money having just become parents to three children in the space of three years and my mum consequently not working. However, my godparents offered to lend them an old frame tent they had, my mum got an evening bar job to raise some spending money and off they set in their old Mark 1 Cortina with me aged 3 years and a few months, my brother aged not quite 2 years and my baby brother less than 6 months old.

My dad has been a scout and then a scout leader all his life so was quite happy with camping, not sure how my mum felt that first time but it obviously didn’t put them off as they promptly bought the tent from my godparents and over the years accumulated gas stoves, kitchen shelving units, better sleeping bags and all the other bits of equipment. When I was about 7 or 8 we acquired a trailer tent which offered a little bit more luxury – sleeping off the ground on mattresses which then transformed into sofas during the day!

Shortly after this myself and my brothers decided we wanted to sleep in a tent on our own so we would have the trailer tent in which my mum and dad slept and the three of us had a little brown ridge tent we were responsible for.

As well as our family summer holiday each year, we would also accompany my dad when he took his scout troop off for their summer camp. Unsurprisingly, with my dad’s involvement in Scouting, my brothers were both Scouts and I was a Girl Guide so when they got to the right age they would be camping with the troop leaving me and my mum and dad to camp in the family tent.

Of course, I also went camping with my Guide Company and a few years into my Guide career my mum became a Guider in our Company so me and mum would be off camping with the Guides and Dad and my brothers were off with the Scouts. I loved camping as a guide, for me it was one of the best things about being in the movement. I took all my camping badges and also the “Patrol Camp Permit” which was a licence entitling me to take up to 4 other girls off camping without adult supervision.

These days, J and I have a modern dome style tent made of lightweight nylon with carbon fibre flexible poles, nylon guy-ropes and aluminium pegs – a far cry from the “Icelandic” tents I used as a Guide 25 years ago which were massively heavy canvas with huge wooden poles and wooden tent-pegs with sisal guy-ropes. We try to go camping a couple of times a year, this year we were in the Lake District and we hope to camp again some time in September or October.
 

Camping these days is much more luxurious – we go with my brother and take a huge cooler of beer and some rather nice wine, which we drink out of real wine glasses (no plastic bugs for us), we have lightweight stoves and cook sausages, eggs and beans for breakfast and we always find a campsite within easy walk of the pub for good evening meals!

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B is for……

Books!

Whilst making a cup of tea this morning and talking with J we were running through the various things that B could stand for in my life…it’s the first letter of our surname but as that’s my married name and I’ve only had it for 6 of my 38 years I don’t really think of it as “mine” yet….J threw out some rather silly suggestions “bananas!”….I pondered Bristol for a while (it’s where I went to University) before realising the obivous….Books!

Books have always been a huge part of my life..I learnt to read very early in my life probably because my parents both read and I grew up in a house full of books. Even now if I enter a house that doesn’t have any books on show it doesn’t feel like a home. When I was very small I was constantly asking my parents “what does that say” going shopping with me must have been very hard work with me demanding to read every sign and label!

As I got older books were an absolute neccessity – in the house I grew up in the bedroom doors had little “windows” above them – I guess to let light into the landing and stairs – and my brothers and I would sneak out of bed to turn on the light on the landing so that we could read in bed from the light coming through. This way we figured our parents wouldn’t know who was to blame and so couldn’t punish any one of us, whereas if we turned on our bedroom light they would know!

My bedroom in the house we grew up in was tiny – just room for a bed and a wardrobe and that was it – literally. It must have been about 7′ x 5′ as there was about a foot at the end of the bed and just room to open the door next to the bed! However I had a book shelf squeezed in at the end of the bed and my dad built me some wall-fixed shelves. I still have all my childhood books- this is one of my problems with books, I can’t get rid of them.

When I first met J I was really pleased to find that he had 3 floor standing huge bookshelves full of books. This became a problem when we got married and bought our house – we had so many books we had no where to put them. A trip to Ikea resulted in this –


we also still have 2 of J’s original huge bookcases, one in the spare room and one in the play-room. Another one of these Ikea bookcases in the study and a bookcase which my grandfather made which is also in the spare room. And we are still buying books so they are stacked up beside the bed, on top of bookcases….everywhere.

My favourite books are -

The Secret Garden – this was my favourite book as a child and I still re-read it at least once a year. I don’t know what it is about this book, the descriptions of the moors and the garden, the relationship between Mary & Colin, the wonderful moment when Colin’s father finds them in the garden….I just love it. As a child I was diagnosed with a scoliosis curve, luckily a very minor one which responded to physiotherapy but as a young teenage girl with all the hang-ups they have about their bodies anyway I used to get very depressed thinking about it so I probably empathised with Colin and his father…the hunchback was probably a scoliosis curve.

The Lord of the Rings – as a child my grandfather gave me a copy of The Hobbit which introduced me to Tolkein. He was a Tolkein fan but my dad was not so I think he saw me as a fresh mind to indoctrinate…whatever it worked and I was hooked. The Lord of the Rings is another book which I’ve read again and again and it always makes me think of my grandfather and the wonderful conversations we used to have.

The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo – this book was given to me at a time in my life when I needed to regain a sense of self and some purpose in my life. It gave me the final push I needed to go out and do things for myself, I went to Egypt on my own and had my own voyage of discovery and came back a stronger person. Everybody should read this book – I passed it on to another friend who needed some guidance. I think it’s one of those books , a “pay it forward” book.

There are loads more but they are the three that mean most to me.

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A is for…..

In a bid to make me blog every day I’m picking up this meme from <a href=”http://belladia.typepad.com/bella_dia/2007/07/encylopedia-of-.html”>BellaDia </a>to make an “Encyclopedia of Me”. Every day I post something about me based on the next letter of the alphabet so here we go with A

A is for Adoption&nbsp;&nbsp; 

This word seems to have been dominating the lives of my DH and I for ever. We first enquired about the possibility of adopting in February 2006 and since that time we have been on preparation courses, had our house assessed, been interviewed about every aspect of our lives and attitudes to parenting, had our friends and family complete references and be interviewed and we finally feel like we are getting near the end of the process.

We have one more interview with our social worker and then she has to write a report based on all the information gathered to go to a panel of experts (social workers, doctors, teachers, foster carers, adopters etc) who decide whether or not we are suitable.

All being well we should have our panel on 28th September and then we wait to be matched with suitable children. It;s starting to feel a little more real now and we’ve even begun to decorate rooms and child-proof the house and garden.

Wanting and hoping for a family has been such a big part of our lives for so long that it’s hard to imagine now that it might actually happen.

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Tonight I was not knitting I was….

……watching George Michael live at Wembley!

And it was Amazing, George was Fantastic, the show was Flawless and he took us all to the Edge of Heaven (ok I’ll stop with the George Michael song titles now).

I’ve seen George Michael perform live 4 times before tonight, on Christmas Eve 1984 at Wembley Arena on “The Big Tour” with Wham, on 28th June1986 I was at Wembley Stadium for “The Final”, in 1988 I was at the Earl’s Court date for “The Faith Tour” and the last time I saw him was 16 years ago on 16th January 2001 at the NEC in Birmingham on his Cover to Cover tour.

This was the night that the first Gulf War started with Operation Desert Storm and I heard that news on a bus travelling back home after the concert. Cover to Cover was the last tour George actually did, he has played live concerts since then but hasn’t toured so when I heard that George was going to be the first act to play a concert at the new Wembley Stadium I had to go.

So, I find myself standing in Wembley Stadium on a hot night in June listening to George Michael sing “The Edge of Heaven” and conducting the audience to sing the chorus in three parts “Yeah, yeah yeah – Lah, lah, lah, lah, lah – Yeah, yeah, yeah, ye-ea-ea-ah” and suddenly I flash back 21 years to another hot June night in 1986. OK, so Wembley’s changed a bit and had an amzing face lift…the Twin Towers are out and The Arch is in….but then I’ve changed a bit too, and so has George (although as far as I know neither of us has had a facelift.

The 28th June 1986 was the day before Argentina beat West Germany (yes, Germany was still 2 countries then) to win the World Cup in Mexico and the latest craze to come out of that World Cup, the Mexican Wave was in full swing at Wembley for The Final. I was 17 and had just finished the first year of my A level studies, my main worry in life was whether I’d got the grades I needed for University. George was 23, yet to tell the world he was gay and his main worry was probably whether his solo career was going to take off…..neither of us should have worried George.

Now, on June 10th 2007, it’s the day that Lewis Hamilton – who was only 3 in 1988 – won his first Grand Prix, I’m 38 and I got to University, am now married and my biggest worry at the moment is the prospect of being approved or not to adopt, George is 43 and has just been sentenced for a driving offence – yes times have changed.

George himself acknowledged the change in his audience this evening, when he did the standard “Good Evening Wembley are you all pleased to be here?” he then added “You’re probably all just glad you’re not in Ikea, actually I have the same customer profile. 30-somethings who want something that looks classy but is actually really cheap”

Hey – we got class that’s for sure…the voice is one thing that has changed but it has certainly not the worse for it. He’s older, as am I, and his voice still makes me go to jelly – ok so he doesn’t go for those high notes anymore but he’s always known his own range and how to use it. We got all the best songs – including (as I’m not sure I remembered them all) Too Funky, Shoot the Dog (complete with inflatable George Bush and British Bulldog)

Jesus to a Child, Everything She Wants, Faith, Amazing, Flawless, Praying for Time, Father Figure, Fast Love, Outside (which he did dressed as a policeman) Spinning the Wheel, Star People and I’m Your Man…and for an encore we got Careless Whisper and Freedom 90.

The stage show was wonderful, a huge LED screen which flowed from the back across the stage and off the front and which showed wonderful graphics and clips from the videos. The set list alternated the funky dance tracks with the ballads giving us, and George, a chance to sit down and catch our breath before jumping up to dance and scream again – and dance and scream I did.

Thank you George for making me feel 17 again.

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Today I was Not Knitting I was….

…trying to do my bit to save the planet.

This week several things have happened that have just served to highlight an issue that has been concerning me for quite some time, the issue of over-packaging.

I am a concerned world citizen who tries to do their bit to live my life making as little impact on the environment as I can – I choose to buy my electricity from a green supplier who invests in alternative energy sources, I recycle with zeal and harangue everyone around me to do the same, I practice organic gardening, I buy organic vegetables from a box scheme and I am looking into fitting solar panels. The rest of the world, and big business in particular, doesn’t seem to share my principles and I have become more and more aware of the amount of unneccessary packaging that is used on groceries and a whole range of other consumables.

This week when my shopping arrived from Ocado I was really excited to see that I’d been given a free sample of Green & Blacks chocolate. Now, Green & Blacks is my favourite chocolate and they are sold on an ethical standpoint of fairtrade and organic production. So why was the little 35g bar not only wrapped in the ordinary chocolate wrapper but also enclosed in a huge folded cardboard sleeve?

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The sleeve was obviously intended as a marketing tool to look like an envelope from the outside and as you unfolded each leaf another little sentence greeted you to introduce the new chocolate but couldn’t this have been done some other way? They could have printed the details on the Ocado receipt I got where it told me I’d been given a free chocolate bar. It could have been printed on a much smaller card enclosed with the chocolate bar?

This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg in the packaging department but it was the idea of a company with a supposedly ethical ethos doing this that got to me….of course Green & Blacks are now owned by Cadbury Scweppes who are not particularly for their ethics or environmental responsibilty so perhaps it is only to be expected but it got me thinking.

I then went through the rest of my shopping to check what other unneccessary packaging there was – and bear in mind that I am a consumer who chooses products carefully with thought for the environmental impact.

Firstly, the four cartons of apple juice are held together by a cardboard sleeve – why? They are sold as a “four-pack” so they have to be held together don’t they? So why do the supermarket sell them like this, why not just sell me four separate cartons of apple juice? When I checked the price of buying apple juice I got a real shock – a pack of four cartons of apple juice costs £2.79 which is 7p per 100ml but a single carton of apple juice costs 89p or 8.9p per 100ml so the four-pack with the extra packaging and so presumably extra packaging costs is sold for 7.6p more than four individual cartons. Ok, 7.6p isn’t much but why is it sold for more encouraging people to buy the extra packaging? Is it really that much trouble to store four cartons not held together with a cardboard sleeve?

Then there was the ready meal curry we bought, now we don’t often buy ready meals but we were late home and this was the day before my shopping order was delivered so my husband, J, bought an indian meal.

Inside the box were several plastic microwaveable containers and each one had a cardboard sleeve with cooking instructions on it. Why were the cardboard sleeves thought neccessary? It can’t be a marketing idea because they were inside a carboard box and couldn’t be seen. The cooking instructions could easily be printed on the outer box or on a label on the microwaveable dishes. This is why I don’t buy ready meals….

The worst offender for over-packaging has to be children’s toys. We don’t have children but I buy a lot of gifts for friends children and get to see all the packaging they get lumbered with after birthdays and christmas. Why is it thought necessary to package one small doll on a card backing to which it is tied with at least 100 wire ties, inside a plastic shell which is inside a cardboard box?

It’s time that we as consumers started to fight back and let these companies know that we don’t want or need all this packaging they are giving to us. So next time you’re shopping think about what you are buying and how it is packaged.

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…yes I do other things apart from knitting

I’ve been writing my knitting blog, Wendys Woolies, for over a year now and as I’ve got more involved in blogging I’ve come to realise that there are things I want to talk about that aren’t knitting.
So, this is the place for me to talk about them. I hope that sometimes I’ll write about things that other people will find interesting as well but for the moment I’ll just ramble on to myself.

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