Poetry and bookmarks

I’ve been doing a bit of crafting this week, as I haven’t had a lot of teaching appointments.

The first thing was a 18th birthday card for my niece in Canada. I’m afraid I forgot to take a photo of it.

Next week I am going on a workshopp-y conference-y thing in Munich – the publicity has described it thus: “Come and Grow: Say “Yes” to God’s Call to Service will enable lay persons to gain a fuller understanding of their personality style and God given gifts to empower them to creatively serve God’s people”

I remember  that Myers-Briggs personality profiling was quite the “thing” when I was just starting work, and I remember having a very interesting book about worship and your Myers-Briggs profile. I lent it to someone and never got it back, but I do recall it being very helpful and reassuring. I am hoping that this course, or whatever, will be equally helpful.

I decided that I wanted to take a small gift for everyone, so I have spent some time making 42 bookmarks…


Here are four of them! I drew 5 different designs, which I then printed onto glossy photo paper (which is why there’s the flash glare in the photo) Then I wrote different Bible verses – encouraging, challenging, helpful…I will ask the facilitator to hand them out randomly, trusting that the right verse will be given to the right person who needs that verse (or will need it in the future)

I have been asked to facilitate a calligraphy course (hah!) in May. It is a L-O-N-G time since I did any “proper” calligraphy, and I don’t really feel qualified to teach it, but have rather been steamrolled into it. I am hoping that people will have low expectations!

In preparation I thought I’d root out some examples of calligraphy that I’d done in the past, and I found this book:


Covered in beautiful marbled pâper, I think it was a gift from a friend when I was at College.

This is the title page:


and inside I have calligraphed various of my favourite poems. This is the first that I wrote inside:


“Love” by George Herbert

And this was the last…


“Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti

I remember doing this at my first lodgings during my first year’s teaching in Maidstone, sitting at my landlady’s big oak table. That was 34 years ago! However, inspired by the need to practise a little, and by a tutorial on “The Postman’s Knock” blog, I played about with some watercolour paints and some ink yesterday and came up with this:

IMG_2622I’m kind of pleased with it. I’m not much of an artist, so was genuinely happy with certain parts (like the rose, and the feathers) Other bits less so – the branches are a bit “meh” – but it’s quite a good thing to have tried.

Have you ever come across something that you created long ago? And have you been tempted to try your hand at it again?


Killer Katerpillars!

Isn’t it odd which posts get attention? Quite a lot of people have viewed the post about crisp flavours, & opinion is divided over the goat cheese crisps…Maybe I should try them instead of knocking them!

Otherwise life is pootling on here. We had snow yesterday morning so I set off for Clkermont in boots and thick jumper. By the afternoon the sun was out and I was more than a little warm! Today it was below freezing in the early morning but now it’s beautiful! I think I will take my friend’s dog, Marvin, for a good long walk today.

I was thinking about taking him on one of my favourite walks, but the problem is that this goes through pine woodland. You may ask why this is a problem (I hope you do, as I’m going to tell you!) This is the season for caterpillars to be out,  and one of the nastiest little caterpillars is waking up, and definitely doing its stuff….

The Thaumetopoea pityocampa or Pine processionary caterpillar is awake. We saw some of these little buggers when we were on the Isle de Pourquerolles, and, even though they look like funny, fluffy little beasties as they process nose-to-tail, they are EVIL!

These caterpillars spend winter in their nests, but come Spring, they come down from the trees to continue their life cycle. They literally process along the ground, nose to tail, following each other in a long chain. They eventually disperse and burrow underground, but it’s during this chain part of their life cycle that danger lurks for human and pet alike.

As you can see, the caterpillars have  orange brown backs with bluish grey bands and bluish grey protrusions in pairs at each segment, these protrusions have little bunches of hairs “growing” from them and it is these “hairs” that can be a danger. These irritant hairs contain a highly allergenic protein which in humans can cause reactions ranging from mild itching to anaphylactic shock, all contact with sensitive skin regions, your mouth, nose or eyes should be avoided. Show caution with your animals, dogs in particular may sniff them and this should be avoided at all cost, Necrosis of the tongue has been observed in some domestic animals and severe swelling may occur causing breathing difficulties.

Here they just look fascinating (and they are!) and cute as they bimble along, but they’re not!

I have read lots and lots of horror stories about these beasties, and how smaller inquisitive dogs (that’s Marvin!) have died having sniffed or licked these caterpillars. So I’m a tad dubious about allowing Marvin off the lead while there’s a danger of meeting them. However, I do think he’d like a nice long walk, and maybe if I keep him on the lead in the pine-y parts of the walk, we’ll be okay.


Goats Cheese crisps? Really?!

Inspired by Kezzie’s post on crisps I thought I’d write my own post – on the wierd and (maybe not so wonderful) crisp flavours that seem to be on offer in French supermarkets:

Goats cheese and chilli. Really?

Perhaps these flavours float your boat: salsa…chilli…or “Parisian sandwich” – which appear, from the illustration, to be ham sandwich flavour crisps!

Or would you prefer mustard-and-gherkin? Chicken curry? Grilled-peppers-and-chorizo?

Bolognaise flavour?

These seem slightly less wierd:

cheese-and-onion (though not just any old onion, these are from Roscoff!), cheese, Garlic mayonnaise (well, okay, that one’s still a bit odd!) and grilled beef.

Luckily I can still get my ultimate favourite, which are these:

And, when I see them, and feel rich, I sometimes treat myself to a bag of Tyrrell’s crisps:

Actually, I’ve not tried these. TBH, they sound a bit odd too!

One of these two go down very nicely with a glass of chilled rosé.

Cheers, Kezzie! Thanks for the inspiration!!

Secret messages…and an intriguing mystery

FIRST SECRET MESSAGES… There has been something in the Guardian recently about the hidden/filtered messages on FaceBook.

I followed the instructions given in the article and found a lovely message from the 40 Acts team from 2014 – my first foray into 40 Acts blogging. They’d even posted a little video in French saying Thank You for blogging.

If you haven’t seen this, it might be worth looking yourself – people have posted about finding out about deaths of acquaintances years too late, plus other important (and less important) things.

NEXT, THE INTRIGUING MYSTERY (SOLVED) which is linked to our stay in the south with the cycle club. We had a good time,and here are some pictures:

IMG_2560Mr FD & me at Port Grimaud


Port Grimaud – a slightly “faux” village, built in the 60s (and after) to accommodate rich people and their gin palaces


I rest my case.


a walk in the vineyards


Mr FD arriving at the top of a climb. It doesn’t look very steep, but this is the view frrom the top:


and they climbed from sealevel!!


an ancient olive tree


And this is the mystery – on the Isle de Pourquerolles, a small island off the south coast of France, we discovered 4 Commonwealth war graves. Strangely moved by this, I left a rose on each of the graves – I thought it looked like a poppy!) One grave was for “an unknown British seaman”, and then these three, for three young men, from different regiments, all of whom died on the same day,

Name Rank Service Number Date of Death Age Regiment / Service Service Country Grave /
Memorial Reference
Cemetery / Memorial Name Docs.
MORGAN, E T Private 37096 04/05/1917 Royal Welsh Fusiliers United Kingdom PORQUEROLLES COMMUNAL CEMETERY
SMALLMAN, JAMES Private 36273 04/05/1917 29 The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment United Kingdom PORQUEROLLES COMMUNAL CEMETERY
WATERS, C H Private 41187 04/05/1917 23 Essex Regiment United Kingdom PORQUEROLLES COMMUNAL CEMETERY



We could not help but wonder why these three men died and were buried here. I decided that I would love to find out more, especially as when Mr FD did a quick bit of research over our picnic lunch, we found out that Private Smallman came from Wallasey, just across the River Mersey from Liverpool.

On our return, I read that the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment were fighting in Egypt at some stage, so maybe wondered if their deaths are related to that, and then I found this on the History of Wallasey website:


Mrs. Smallman, of 22, Rosalind Street, Poulton, has received the sad news that
her husband, Pte. James Smallman was drowned on May 4, on his voyage to
Egypt. Twenty nine years of age, he joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment on June
5, 1916, and was transferred to the Loyal North Lancashire Regt. He was drafted
to France on the 17thApril last, and sailed on May 2. He was formerly employed
by the Vacuum Oil Co., Birkenhead, and leaves a widow and one child to mourn him

I guessed that the other two named soldiers, and possibly the seaman too, died in the same torpedo attack.  So I thought I could try following up the other names.

Googling Private Morgan, I find this:

Décédé lors du naufrage du SS Transylvania qui faisant route de Marseille vers Alexandrie, coulé à 10h par le sous-marin U-63 à 2,2 miles au sud de Savona. Dix hommes d’équipage, 29 officiers et 373 soldats perdirent la vie. Si la plupart des victimes furent inhumées dans un carré spécial du cimetière de la ville, d’autres furent enterrées ailleurs en Italie, France, Monaco et Espagne

(Killed during a shpwreck of SS Transylvania which occurred en route from Marseilles to Alexandria, torpedoed at 10h by the submarine U-63 2.2 miles south of Savona. 10 crewmembers, 29 officers and 373 soldiers lost their lives. While most of the victims were buried in a special area of the town’s cemetary, others were buried elsewhere in Italy, France, Monaco and Spain)


The islands you can see just at the very left of the map include (I think) the island of Pourquerolles. Presumably they were buried where their bodies were washed up.

Isn’t it strange how the deaths of four people one knew nothing about beforehand, could affect you so much that you want to find out more like this…


Mr FD does research; Giselle and Albert enjoy their lunch. Cemetary in the background.


The windmill of happiness (really, that’s what it’s called!)



March in Books

It seems to be that three books a month is my rhythm – although, as one of March’s books was very short, I am almost through a fourth that I started in March.

But I started the month with


I first read this book when I was about 15. I can see almost the exact shelf in Aintree Library (sadly now defunct) where I found it – right at the back of the big room, almost central to the aisle. I used to go there every Saturday morning, after doing Mum’s shopping, to change my books which I’d devoured during the week.

I “rediscovered” this book while reading someone else’s blog. She was talking about enjoying ghost stories, but not the frightening kind, but rather gentle romantic ones. And she mentioned this book, and memories came flooding back. I went rushing to Amùazon, and bought the Kindle edition. The Amazon site sums it up thus:

Eben Adams is a young painter in Depression-era New York just looking to make a living. His work has thus far left influential art dealers unimpressed. Then Eben happens upon a young schoolgirl named Jennie in Central Park. Intrigued by her mystical quality and her knowledge of things that happened well before her time, Eben begins to sketch a portrait of the young girl. The drawing turns out to be the most emotional piece Eben has ever done, and he finally gets the boost in his career he’s been seeking. But before he can finish the portrait, Jennie vanishes. — Saddened by the loss of his muse, he begins to scour the city for her, and when he does find her again, he is shocked to discover that she has aged several years since their last meeting. Who is this girl, and where did she come from?

My own comment in my notebook “As good as I remembered”.

Another ghost story which I loved, and must read again, is “Jenny Villiers” by JB Priestly. It doesn’t appear to be on Amazon, but I’m pretty sure we still have the book edition in the hoiuse. I don’t think I would have thrown it away. Wikipedia sums it up: A successful but dispirited playwright is supervising the rehearsals of his new play, The Glass Door, at an old theatre in North England. The actors are irritated by his cynical attitude, but when left alone in the darkened green room he experiences visions of a 19th-century tragedy which alter his outlook on his profession.


I wrote in my notebook “An OK detective novel, with an interesting theme. Didn’t guess “who dunnit” & engaged with the main protagonist.” I wasn’t totally gripped by this, but it was certainly an enjoyable read.

Amazon says “A man’s body is found on a canal towpath. In his pocket, a magnetic letter in the shape of an E. Days later, a second victim is found, this time with the letter V tucked into her clothing. As the body count rises, the eerie, childlike clues point to a pattern that sends DS Allie Shenton and her colleagues into full alert. The race is on. Allie and the team must work quickly to determine where the killer will strike next. The rules are simple but deadly—to catch the killer, they must follow the leader.”

I tried to make the story more complicated than it actually was with my thinking, but never mind. There was an interesting set up for a sequel too.

BURIED by GRAHAM MASTERSTON (A Katie MacGuire novel)

I’d read one of this series  before and had quite enjoyed it, but had skipped bits because of the violence described in the book. When I ordered this I forgot that. About a third (if that!) of the way through I realised that, although I was finding the story interesting, I really wasn’t enjoying the almost voyeuristic descriptions of violence done. And so I stopped reading it. If you need to skip fairly vast swathes of a book it doesn’t seem worth carrying on.

THE LAST KINGDOM Book 1 by BERNARD CORNWELL (started in March)

This was a free Kindle copy. I really enjoyed it to begin with and found it difficult to put down. However, as I continued to read it, I found that I was getting a bit bogged down and bored. The story-line is interesting, and it is good to see the “Viking” raiders in a different light, and yet..and yet… Somehow it has lost its grip on me. According to my Kindle I’m 83% of the way through, so I will finish it, but I am looking forward to moving onto another book.

Amazon tells us: Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of ninth-century Northumbria. Orphaned at ten, he is captured and adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred’s fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the only English kingdom to survive the Danish assault.

The struggle between the English and the Danes and the strife between christianity and paganism is the background to Uhtred’s growing up. He is left uncertain of his loyalties but a slaughter in a winter dawn propels him to the English side and he will become a man just as the Danes launch their fiercest attack yet on Alfred’s kingdom. Marriage ties him further still to the West Saxon cause but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of the Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea. There, in the horror of the shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance.

I hadn’t realised it had been made into a TV series. I think I would have been interested to see it.

After the Acts

Now that 40 Acts is over I have stopped regular blogging- though, to be honest, I stopped regular blogging when we went away with the Cycle Club, a week before Easter. (more about that later) I also stopped thinking about “doing” the Acts, although I still received the emails while we were away. But like I said in my last post, 40 Acts wasn’t just about doing 40 Acts in Lent, and then stopping being generous. It’s about changing attitudes and mindsets. And I think I’ve seen a little bit of a shift in mine – there have been various “incidents” where I’ve initially taken one stance or started to behave in one way and then stopped, and thought Is this what 40 Acts was about?

I do still want to try to complete the Acts I didn’t do, but it will be gradual. I won’t worry about it every day…but I’m left with

32 : ANON: Anonymous generosity can often be the most fun and freeing. No need for explanations, no expectations of grand thank yous: just a simple act of kindness.

I have a plan for this one, but it needs to wait until half term is over in the UK.

33: HATS OFF: You’ve got a brain the size of a planet. Your shirt matches your eyes! You’re so good with numbers/animals/children/words/taxidermy! It’s good to let folks know why they’re great. Go and pay them a compliment today.

This is quite tricky – I’m worried that my compliments sound sly or patronising. But I am trying to thank people sincerely when they help me. In fact that reminds me of a Thank You I want to do over on FB. I was asked to prepare the Communion table during the Eucharist today, and there was one young acolyte who was very helpful & calm when I went into frozen rabbit in the headlights mode when something didn’t quite go as planned. So Thank You to Malaya on the Christ Church FB page.

34: INCLUDE: Invitations are the fun bits of mail that come in the post, once in a blue moon, in amongst the bills. Everyone likes to be included and invited, so extend a warm invitation to someone today, especially to someone who doesn’t normally make the guest list.

This is about inviting people round for cups of tea and so on.  Oo-er. I will shift uncomfortably in my seat. Not sure if I can do this one. Not sure how to do this one. I’m going to have to wait for inspiration.

35: BUOYANCY AID: We all live in the centre of our own narrative, but it’s helpful to remember that everyone around us has their own story too. It has highs and lows, and sometimes those lows are seemingly invisible. Today we’re each going to be a lifesaver for someone going through a tough time at the moment. Ask their friends and family what that person needs instead of asking them, and be sensitive to the person’s privacy and dignity.

I really wasn’t sure about this one, when it came up…What could I do here? But I was out shopping later on in the week and saw the guy who is often begging outside Lidl. Mr FD is a bit dismissive, but I always think he seems genuine, with his sign saying “Looking for work: will do anything”. So, being sans Mr FD, I asked him what he’d like me to buy for him, and he asked for “Bread…milk…anything really…” So I bought some bread, and milk, and biscuits, and a ready meal. Then as I handed over the bag, something inside said “Talk to him…” So I did. If you’ve read these 40 Acts blog posts you’ll know that I’m not too good at talking to people, but I think I said something like “Where are you from?” and his story came flooding out. I was there for about 10 minutes, as he told me about his family, about his children, where they were living, how difficult it was to find work… I only made noises, or asked a leading question for him to speak more. Yes, he needed the food, I don’t doubt that, but I think, at that moment, he needed someone to acknowledge him, to speak to him and to make him feel visible. I hope I did that.

36: WILD CARD: Today you get the chance to play your ‘wild card’. It’s the act we left a big question mark over so we could let you—the 40acts community—give us direction. What you told us was (1) there were some acts you went all out on and would love to repeat and (2) there were some you bailed out on and would like another chance to try. The Bible is full of people who received second chances, and even third and fourth chances: Peter, Jonah, Mark, Samson, David, the list goes on.

So that gave us an idea: let’s make today the day of the Second Chance. Another chance to embrace the challenge you loved or another chance to step up to the one you missed first time round. So seize your moment– this is your second chance.

Earlier on in Lent, the 40 Acts team asked us to give suggestions for the Wild Card Act. I suggested something connected with the Refugee Crisis, and gave them the link to Socks for Refugees, an organisation I support. I really, really hoped that this simple organisation would be publicised across the 10,000 40 Activists, who would send socks galore to the group. It wasn’t to be… but my Wild Card is to buy more socks than I probably would have done, and to send them off.

But while we’re talking about second chances, let me link to the wonderful Rend Collective’s “Second Chance”

37: TESTIFY: Our testimonies are often the best advertisements for Jesus. You don’t have to have a perfect life. You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row. But being able to articulate how God changed your life is generous because it offers someone else hope. It says to them, ‘If he can do it for me, he’ll do it for you too.’

Still to do. I imagine that it will be via FB, but I’m not sure

…but what I have done today is reply to another FB post.  Attached to another heart rending article about the death of refugees, including children and babies, was the comment “Is there a God?”, followed by numerous “No, there isn’t” comments. So I posted:

YES!!!!!!!!! There IS a God. Sadly there are bastard people who don’t give a shit about others but there is a God. Who is in the hearts, minds and souls of every person (Christian, Muslim, Jew, agnostic or atheist, of any or no religion) who cares for others, who reaches out to help, who weeps over the death or diminishment of another. I don’t blame God for this awful situation; I blame humankind. But it is also wonderful humankind who are trying to help, who are sacrificing themselves, giving all they can, to do something about it.

38: WASHDAY: Today is Maundy Thursday, the day when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. It was a simple act that said so much about service, humility, love and much more besides. So in the spirit of that, prepare to get wet.

Not sure how to fulfil this one…Perhaps I will try washing our windows, which always seems to fall on Mr FD. I suppose the fact that, at our friend’s party over the weekend, Mr FD and I did a heck of a lot of washing up, might count…

39: HUMBLE: Humility is necessary for both forgiving someone and apologising. Don’t let your ego stand in the way of reconciliation and freedom today.

I think this is what I’m trying to focus on after 40 Acts. When Mr FD and I have a “discussion”, or when there’s something I feel he should have done that he hasn’t (or hasn’t done, that I think he should…) I’m trying hard to let it go. It’s not “me” who matters here. I don’t always have to be seen to be “right”, I don’t have to argue my corner every time. If it was Jesus who hadn’t turned the lights off for the umpteenth time how would I react? (an interesting thought…!!)

40: SACRIFICE: Lent is usually marked by giving up: chocolate, TV, social media, whatever it is—we ‘sacrifice’ those everyday pleasures as a discipline. But how much of a sacrifice have we made? How far should our sacrifice go? Today – as Lent concludes and we look forward to the new hope that Easter brings – we’re turning it up a notch. We’re going to ask you to commit to a life of sacrifice; beyond just simple abstinence. It’s time to reconnect to the ancient view of sacrifice, to offer up our very best to God. The kind of sacrifice which opens our hearts and minds to a life of true generosity.

As I said at the beginning…40 Acts is for Life, not just for Lent!!

And a quick update (upon which I will write more another time) on Act No 8 “Dirty Cash

I said I would save 2€ coins and then start a Lend With Care account. Well, I’ve just counted, and I have 31€ . For the mathematicians amongst you who spotted that if I was saving 2€ coins only 31€ would be tricky to make, I can tell you that I popped various coins into my Space Piggy Bank! This 31€ equates to just under £25. So I’ll be starting that off in the next few days.