Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The House of Three Milks - the Sequel

"Sensible milk, silly milk and even sillier milk" snapped Captain Coffee as he juggled all our milks and the coffee machine this morning.  Once again, we are The House of Three Milks, as Bea is here for the week.

We are all invited to Tom and Jill's on Saturday night and will pick up Jacks en route.

As my knees have more or less come back online, I was out on the field service with Audrey this morning.  I took her to the bank first, and Bea hitched a lift to the shops with us. We then did about half of my May magazine route. I now have a couple of days to finish it before the next month.

The days, weeks, months, are hurtling past.  

Both Bea and I came back with strawberries, so i am making an Eton Mess tonight.  Although I will use greek yoghourt and not cream.  Cream is not kind to my arthritic joints.

It is so hot, I am exhausted after a morning out in the sun, and am struggling to keep awake.

Bea has bought us one of her beautiful silk paintings.  Its is all glowing greens and golds and makes me want to redecorate the whole flat around it.  

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Back home and busy

Holidays are odd when you are retired.  I feel as if I am on holiday already, so why am I going away?

Got my legs back on the very last day in Wales...   Anyway, i am very grateful to have them. I am walking about slowly but much more easily.  We had a good journey down yesterday, under six hours. Spoke to Audrey and Jackie and emailed them oop North to say we were back.  Very hot. Beach and green is packed with holidaymakers.

Did 3 loads of washing, some ironing, a load of butterfly paperwork that had flown through the letterbox while we were away, caught up (more or less) on emails, drove myself to the Meeting (first time in weeks I have been able to drive) and hope to be back on the work with Audrey on Tuesday.  And we did a big shop - only just making it to the supermarket before it closed. Don't really like to do that, as the staff must be longing to shut up shop and get home, but we were too tired yesterday when we got back.

Aunt Bea arrives tomorrow.

I want to blog about Rosemoor when I catch up a bit, as it was such a lovely place.  And I want to recommend it.  It is run by a Dutch couple and beautifully organised.   It runs like clockwork and is so quiet and charming and smells of green grass and blossom.

The realtime Poetry Book has arrived at our publishers!   I have emailed them to say how many copies I want. I am longing to see it.

Friday, 25 May 2012

What I did in my holidays - Wales and K2

We are in the beautiful Welsh countryside at the moment, with the Metal Detectors.  Col is off detecting, plus they had a day on Skomer Island – there should be some great pictures in The Captains Log in time. I would love to have gone but my holiday has consisted of a lot of lying on a bed groaning “Oh my knees” every time I move – but doing it in Wales instead of Sussex.  We have had some drives, and I have tottered down to the reserve and the lake.

And I have managed the cottage stairs – though on my hands and knees, which is a bit undignified.

The hedgerows are lovely – like the Cornish hedgerows.  Rosemoor is so quiet, and the air smells green and full of the fragrance of bluebells.  I was sitting out in the grounds studying my Watchtower – which is reminding us not to look back at the things behind, but to look ahead to the Paradise earth to come. And was greatly helped by the beauty of my surroundings, and the pollen-laden bees working happily among the buttercups. Bees and buttercups are surely a part of the original Paradise arrangement.

I brought some books with me – hastily gathered from the library the day before we left.  So I have been climbing K2.  Which is not something anybody should ever do –  not even by sofa.

The book – “No Way Down” - is by Graham Bowley and must have involved some meticulous research given how many expeditions were involved in the August 2008 disaster – and how many people died and could not tell their story.

Reading the book made me uneasy… almost as if I was watching a gladiatorial spectacle.  And I have been trying to analyse what makes this book so different from “Into Thin Air”.  Perhaps it was because John Krakauer was caught up in the disaster himself?   You can feel his anguish. Though I do wish he hadn’t been so judgemental about his some of his fellow climbers. 

This book is heartbreaking, and must have been very difficult to put together.  But…perhaps it makes it too clear that not only were no lessons learnt from the 1996 disaster on Everest, but climbers seem to be going in for more of the same. 

So many climbers die – and so many have already died on K2 – that it gets to a point in the book when one climber, lost, freezing, losing brain cells by the minute, is realising he is going to have to bivouac for a second night up there in the death zone, and is climbing towards rocks to find somewhere to spend the night.  There he finds two dead climbers, roped together.  He has no idea who they are.  The author doesn’t seem to have any idea who they are.  I have no idea who they are.  

If mountains can be closed, this should be closed tomorrow.  Life is too wonderful, too precious.

It was Satan in the garden of Eden who induced Adam and Eve to throw away their perfect human lives – and pass imperfection and death on to their children us.

Life is a gift of gifts, and we need to respect it out of respect for our Creator, Jehovah. 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Sparkling Apprentice

Last night's Apprentice had to re-brand (insofar as I understood the brief, which I missed as the meeting finishes at 8.45 and I have to get back from Bognor) - anyway they had to re-brand English Sparkling Wine.

The obvious thing is to find a name for it as good as Champagne is for French Sparkling Wine.  Sadly, they didn't.

I would have called it "I Can't Believe Its Not Champagne!!"  

And my team probably would have won, especially if the other team could have been persuaded into an unfortunate anacronym on the lines of:  Sparkling Perfect English Wines.

Got to the meeting last night, as Captain Chauffeur was kind enough to fetch and carry me. And I have an emergency appointment at the hospital this afternoon which I am hoping might get me back on my feet.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Into the Surrey Wilderness

Old Lodge nature reserve, Ashdown Forest
Can I get an adventure book out of this?  And win the Boardman Tasker award?  Or is that just for books about mountain climbing?

Anyway, our nail biting adventure went like this.   Col drove me to Haysbridge - got there in good time - he left me at the gates, to avoid the queues - and I hobbled slowly and painfully into the auditorium.  It is very depressing to think how much I have deteriorated over the last year.   I found Maggie straight away and there was a spare seat right by her.

A morning of lovely and perfect teaching followed, and two young sisters were baptised.   Then I hobbled slowly and painfully back to the gate, and was very relieved to see our car, with Captain B in it, eating his sandwich lunch.
Common Heath, Ematurga atomaria
He had spent the morning at The Old Lodge Nature Reserve - braving herds of moths and suchlike. And got some great photos.  It was a perfect May day, as I hope the photo shows.

Then Janet came to stay the night.  A lovely surprise.  We had a Thai takeway (thank you The Lemon Grass for your usual prompt service and tasty food), followed by choc ices.

She has put an interesting thought in my head.  And whoever it was just said, "Well, there's plenty of room for it", can go and stand outside the blog door.

She was saying how politically minded they were at her school.  Now she is about 10 years younger than me... and, I know it was a long time ago, but I can't remember politics ever being mentioned in my Convent schooldays.

Perhaps they were, and I have just forgotten?

Friday, 11 May 2012

The Totem Pole

More climbing, this time, in Tasmania, on the Totem Pole, with Paul Pritchard.  Paul wrote "The Totem Pole", which tells of his climb and his ongoing fight for recovery from the terrible injuries he received there.

We went to Tasmania many years ago - in Autumn.  And how lovely it is.  It was the perfection of Autumn.  So quiet, so peaceful, so beautiful.  And the night sky!  For the first time we understood why the Milky Way is called The Milky Way.

"The Totem Pole" is unputdownable.  A very good read.   Paul, in his fight to recover from his terrible head injuries studies the brain, trying to understand what has happened to him.  And I want to quote this for today's blog.

He lists some of the textbooks he is reading and says:  "I find that I am in a much better position to get a handle on my predicament if I can begin to understand it.  The human brain is the most complicated of organs with over a hundred billion cells and more possible connections than there are atoms in the whole universe, so no-one can truly understand it. But you can have a pretty good go."

The human brain is such a complex computer that it has more possible connections than there are atoms in the whole universe.

Is that in accord with the theory of Evolution, or with the Hebrew Scriptures which tell us that we were created - and created to live forever and go on learning forever?

In fairness, I think Darwin did say that the complexity of the human brain, insofar as they understood it then, was a problem for his theory.

I do feel a little better today, but very tired and want to sleep and sleep and sleep.  So I did very little today beyond getting supper, studying and catching up on some emails.  Captain B has kindly offered to take me to the Assembly at Haysbridge tomorrow, but we will leave at lunchtime so that we are back in plenty of time for Janet. And also so that i don't set back my recovery.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Die Weisse Spinne

"The White Spider
 tells the story of the first ascents (and attempts) of the Nordwand, from Max Sedlmeyer's and Karl Mehringer's disastrous try in 1935 to the 13th successful one by Kurt Diemberger and Wolfgang Stefan in July 1958.[1]  (Wikipedia)"

Late last night I watched Joe Simpson's "The Beckoning Silence" on youtube.  Fascinating, but not a good idea last thing at night.  I couldn't stop thinking about those brave young climbers as they attempted the first ascent of the North face of the Eiger.   It is a terrifying face - straight up to the top - like a child's drawing of a mountain.  The drop beneath the climbers feet is unrelieved all the way up.

The Beckoning Silence tells the story of the 1936 attempt on the North face by Edi Rainer, Willy Angerer, Andreas Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurz.  They all died. It is heartbreaking.

Especially the story of Toni Kurz who fought so hard for his life against all the odds, and died within sight and sound of his rescuers.

It was like Joe Simpson's experience in Peru, but as if, after his extraordinary struggle and survival against all the odds, Joe had got to the campsite too late.  And died there.  It would be unbearable.  And yet that is Toni Kurz' story.

There were photos of those brave and cheerful young men setting off.  And they likely would have made the ascent, only one of them was badly injured by a falling rock.. If I am understanding the situation right, The White Spider (Die Weisse Spinne) is an ice-field that funnels rocks and avalanches onto the climbers who must cross it.

They had to turn back - and found found themselves trapped.

I kept thinking about them last night.  And I also thought that maybe, given the times they lived in, they would have died young anyway, given that the nations of Christendom were yet again going to enlist their young men in a war so terrible it would be called a World war.

But i also thought that if we can remember them, and feel for them, and wish so much they could have survived, how much more does their Creator, Jehovah, feel for them and remember them and long to see them again.

"If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? All the days of my compulsory service I shall wait, Until my relief comes. You will call, and I myself shall answer you. For the work of your hands you will have a yearning." - Job 14:14,15

They were the work of Jehovah's hands, so I hope He longs for the time when He calls them out death, re-creates them from the ground of dust, and they live again.

Maybe He will wake them up in the mountains that they loved?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Penny suggested the headline for today's blog when I emailed her about the excitement on our beach. We had the bomb squad out and an explosion as something had washed up on the beach. Some kind of a phosporous shell!  We now have a big new seapool when the tide is out.

Another day housebound, but I think I am feeling a tiny bit better... can the new med finally be working.

The butterfly paperwork is done, dusted, and has flown off to the Post Office in the capable hands of Captain Butterfly.

I have been reading Joe Simpson's "Touching the Void".  Its still hard to see how he got back out of a crevasse and down a mountain with a shattered leg. But he did. And what a hero Simon Yates was.  If I should ever decide to take up climbing, then Simon is the partner I would want to climb with.

However, even if there wasn't the little matter of my knees and my being 175, life is too precious.

Apparently no-one else has ever successfully climbed the West face climb of Siula Grande.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

What I read during my holidays

I can't do a lot more than read at the moment, so I have been doing a lot of re-reading.   And I have re-read the two books about J.D. Salinger - "Dream Catcher" by his daughter Margaret Salinger, and "At Home in the World" by Joyce Maynard, who had a affair with the much older Salinger when she was a young student.  And I have also read about some of the furore those books caused.

It makes me wonder if anyone has ever read "Catcher in The Rye"?  I know its sold in its millions, but don't people actually read it?   Surely its all there in the book anyway?

Not that i have read it for many years.

That Catcher watching the children play seemed a bit sinister to me.   Perhaps because I was a child in post war England - and all us children of the post war baby boom years used to play out all the time in the fields and the bomb sites - and so often there were men in grey raincoats lurking about watching us play.  Margaret Salinger says in her book that what worried her about the image was why these children were being allowed to run and play near such a dangerous drop.  Where were their parents.

But then it seems she was a very uncaught child - literally and figuratively.

Reading about J.D.Salinger, I did wonder if he was on the Aspegers's spectrum (on the basis of it takes one to know one.)

And it all goes to show that every time we - the imperfect, dying children of Adam - put ourselves or any one of our siblings on pedestals,  feet of clay are going to be revealed.  Same same for every one of us. We are all fatally flawed.

Yesterday I got some loving phone calls from my sisters Audrey and Maggie, concerned about my arthritis. Maggie wanted to tell me not to worry about the Assembly on Saturday - she would find another ride so that I could leave it till the day itself and decide then whether or not I was up to it.  I also got a lovely email from a Sri Lankan friend Eddie. I had emailed to thank him for sending me the Ginger tea, and to say how sorry I was I wasn't well enough to see him when he was visiting his family in London.  He says he will send me more ginger tea asap!   And I wasn't hinting in my email, just thanking him.  Ginger is, I believe, a natural anti-inflammatory, so could help my arthritis.  I had made us - El Capitano - a sort of veggie stew thingy for lunch, with lots of fresh ginger in it.  He spent the day at Rewell wood - see The Captain's Log.

I would love to have gone, but can't stand up for more than about 10 minutes at a time.  Its real Bank Holiday weather - grey and cold, so butterflies will be in short supply.  The world outside looks so beautiful though, the grey intensifying the greens of our Green, and the Channel is gleaming away like a blue-grey jewel. But enough of the poetic stuff - I must away and make another ginger tea...  I hope to get to the meeting at the Hall this afternoon, but it depends on if my knees will let me.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Janet's Poems

Janet sent me a book of poems she has put together and is thinking of publishing.

I am usually a bit apprehensive when someone sends me their poetry to comment on, but as it was Janet who wrote "Three Sisters" which ends "Old Playgrounds", I knew I would like these.  And I do.

She introduces the collection this way:

"This is a collection of poems written over the last twenty years. They are connected by being about women in some way. Most of them use the material of women in my family to reflect the times from the First World War to the present day. Others are based on my own experience and that of women I have observed."

She is giving her children and their children a window in time, a short but vivid trip in The Tardis.  For example, there is this, from The Camel: 

The Camel

My mother wore a camel coat
All winter,
And well into
It hung on her like
An animal pelt.

Had she spied the camel
Through a telescope?
A line of buttons
In a double pleat
Ran down the back.
I held it there,
Grasping as if it were
Her skin.
She could feel my every
Step and stumble,
I was safe....

The power of words - the right words.   

That brings the past alive for me, as I remember those camel coats, and I remember how people's clothes WERE them, like an animal's fur, which is the image that Janet uses. 

Nobody we knew had or needed the vast double wardrobes of today.

After my mother died, we were clearing out her room at Lilac Tree Farm - she lived with my sister and her family in her last years, which were frozen with arthritis.  Not that there was much to clear out, she had painstakingly and methodically organised  and sorted every bit of paperwork and all the family photographs to make it easy for us.  That is the kind of mother she was - a good mother, in whose care us children felt safe. The mother in the poem.  She had very little by then, as her furniture was going to stay at the Farm.  But we went to her wardrobe - her small wardrobe - opened it and shut it again.  Her clothes were so much her, we couldn't face getting rid of them. I don't know how long it took Pen to feel able to do it.

Anyway, I hope Janet's collection will be published and will keep the blog up to date with if and when.