Monday, 28 November 2011

A tale of two villages ...

Well, it's more about the squirrels in each village!

In our garden in Staffordshire we have a family of grey squirrels living in the large oak tree. We regularly see them and this afternoon Tim, who works largely from home, took some pics whilst making his afternoon cup of tea.

By contrast the squirrels that have the run of our garden in France, are red and much more petite. They do, after all, live at La Petite-Presse!!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Washday blues, whites and colours - all piled up .........

I don’t mind admitting that I have a ‘bit of a thing’ about washing in general, and dirty washing in particular. I think it stems from childhood when Monday was washing day and for the next couple of days we would be overrun with clean washing drying, whilst at the same time dirty washing was stacking up ready for the next Monday to come round!

If it was bad then, in the days when you wore clothes more than once, just imagine what the past two and a half weeks have been like Chez Brotherhood. My trusty old Hotpoint finally gave up the ghost. I got round to ordering a new machine and John (never knowingly undersold) Lewis finally got round (nearly 2 weeks later) to delivering said machine.

But what a machine it is; it does everything short of strip the beds, and therein lies the rub ……. I am finding it too difficult to understand! This machine must have been developed at Cern as an offshoot of their work on the particle accelerator. With my old machine everything was done on the 'F' programme, just changing the water temperature for different sorts of washing.  We aren't generally instruction reading people, as Tim has the kind of techy brain that can look at something and immediately figure out how it works ............ but not this time!

However, last night Tim and I went through the instructions for the new machine together as we put in the first of about 10 waiting loads. We couldn’t find a programme of less than 90 minutes and the ones we really wanted to do were over 2 hours! Even my Friday evening brain fade calculates that at 15 hours …….

Thank goodness my nest is empty at the moment. With Rhiannon and Tom still living at home I’d be looking spending at the next couple of days washing - just in time to turn up for the day job again on Monday morning.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Do you ever wish that you were young again?

Some of you have been enquiring as to how Tom is getting on in Boulder, Colorado.

Well...... he is having an absolutely amazing time if his Facebook page is anything to go by! Tom is just managing to fit his study in around his social engagements (or so he assures us) which is no mean feat! He is also enjoying all that his little bit of the USA has to offer. The first snows came at the end of October, so getting a ski pass organised has been a priority.

A few weeks ago he flew to San Francisco for the weekend and posted this photograph. He tells me that he has shaved since - and skype confirms it!

Thanksgiving takes him on a road trip to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and California again. For Christmas he plans to travel to Florida, North Carolina, New York, Boston and Chicago!

Do you ever wish that you were young again? With everything that going on in the world I'm not all that sure that I do .................
I needed some music for my virtual jukebox which I've narrowed down to a choice of five :–

  • Californication Red Hot Chilli Peppers
  • California Joni Mitchell
  • California Dreamin Mammas and Papas and
  • San Francisco Scott McKenzie
  • Or this .........

Which would you pick?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The National Memorial Arboretum .........

Today, Remembrance Sunday, seems an appropriate day to publish this post which has been in draft for a couple of weeks.

Apologies for the inconsistent font and photographs and text which seem to be in the wrong place. In the draft and post editing everything is fine but somehow (and I have spent the last hour trying to rectify it) everything jumps about! Not only does it jump about, it jumps to different places everytime I preview or publish. If I didn't know better I'd think it was April 1st ...... Is anyone else experiencing this problem?

The National Memorial Arboretum is on the edge of the National Forest at Alrewas near Lichfield. We’ve been meaning to visit for a while and a couple of weeks ago took advantage of a beautiful autumn day. We were surprised when we arrived to see that the car park was almost full so other people obviously had the same idea! We really didn’t know what to expect, although the large Armed Forces Memorial had been fairly well publicised when it was dedicated (I think there is a better word for this but it has escaped me!).

Entry is free, although donations towards the upkeep are welcomed. There is shop and a very nice café/restaurant which serves everything from carvery lunches to tea and scones.

We were amazed by the size and scale of the place. Besides the large Memorial there are over two hundred and fifty other memorial areas spread out over the 150 acre site with over 50,000 trees planted. You can find a link to the website here.

The Memorial is a stunning piece of architecture designed by Liam O'Connor. It consists of a large high earth mound with a spiralling walkway up the grassy, tree-planted slopes making it accessible to people of all ages and mobility.

At the top of the mound stands a forty three metre diameter stone structure with two curved walls and two straight walls, constructed of over two hundred thousand bricks faced with Portland stone panels. The panels have engraved on them over sixteen thousand names.

The centrepiece of the Memorial is two large bronze sculptures, representing loss and sacrifice, on either side of a central bronze laurel wreath. Created by Ian Rank-Broadley, the sculptures bear silent witness to the cost of armed conflict. The figure before the double doors points to a world beyond, where the warrior will rest as another figure chisels the name on the memorial.

The Memorial was constructed to provide recognition of the men and women of our Armed Services who have lost their lives in conflict or as a result of terrorist action or on training exercises since the end of the Second World War. Unlike the World War memorials in towns and villages across the country, there is nowhere that records the names of those who have been killed on duty since 1945, in over fifty conflicts throughout the world.

These actions have ranged from war to peacekeeping; from humanitarian assistance to fighting terrorism; from the jungles of Malaysia to the storms of the South Atlantic; from the streets of Aden to the streets of Northern Ireland.

As the information states, “it is not just Service men and women who have made sacrifices. Behind every name on the Memorial there are the wives, husbands, partners, parents, children, friends and colleagues who loved them and who live with the pain and consequences of their loss every day”.

A couple of the memorials with particular significance to us were for the RAF and Bevin Boys. My brother is a serving officer in the RAF and has completed four tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan, and Tim's parents met whilst serving in WW2.

The Bevin Boys were recruited to work in the mines from 1943. My father was one such recruit to the pits of South Wales in 1940, aged just 14, before the term had even been thought about......

Another poignant memorial was in memory of soldiers who had been shot as deserters in WW1. Many of these would have been very young, terrified and experienced the most awful happenings. Their response was to run ...... 

Many of the visitors were ex-service people, immaculately dressed and proudly wearing their medals paying their respects to lost comrades.

Surprisingly we found our visit to be uplifting rather than morbid or mawkish. We will visit again in a few years to see how the trees grow and site develops, and when I retire it is somewhere I could envisage doing some voluntary work.

Friday, 11 November 2011

A sign of Remembrance in an unlikely place ......

Today is the eleventh of November and at eleven o’clock  we will have two minutes of silence, at school, to remember those lost in conflict throughout the world. A member of the British Legion came to speak to us all in our assembly on Monday, and most of our pupils listened respectfully to what he had to say.

Today, as I wear my poppy, I am reminded of a poppy wreath that Tim and I came across as we reached the summit of the Col de Chésery between Chatel and Avoriaz in France, and Morgins in Switzerland. This was a route for the French Resistance and also for escapees from the Nazi regime.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Barneque and the owl came too .......

Last week we popped in to a barneque that George, Annie and friends were having to celebrate Halloween. It was meant to be a BBQ, but some rain in the afternoon caused a last minute change of plans.

If this happens again they really should seek permission from the sitting tenant!