Archive | July 2012

In the garden – July 22nd 2012


I had to reach up really high to grab this beautiful climbing rose so I could take a picture of him. Holding him steady with one hand and taking a picture with the other is not easy, believe me but I am quite pleased with the result.  He is a little bit ragged round the edges owing to the rain this week, but overall he is surviving nicely and showing off his pretty colours, don’t you agree?

Don’t you just love the contrast in the colours below? The white of the feverfew with the blood red of the Sweet Williams is just gorgeous.

The potatoes are doing ok but the true test will be when I dig them up! I hope they are not rotten in the ground.  We have had the worst summer ever in England this year and that’s not just my opinion! Apparently we are importing a lot of vegetables from abroad now because we have just had too much rain.

The runner beans (on the left) have at last got some flowers – now we need lots of pollinating insects to get them going so they set. In the front are some tomatoes – not many flowers yet!!!

The runner beans look healthy enough and most years it is hard to get enough water to their roots, but this year I don’t think I’ve had to water them at all. I can’t believe we were in a drought situation at the start of April! We even had a hosepipe ban!

These Sweet Williams are that cerise colour which looks so good in a fashion show.

…and doesn’t the yellow contrast so well with the silvery green of the dogwood?

In the next picture we’ve got purple and white. White lifts every other colour and what would have been a dark corner is now ablaze. Even some liatris has got in with the feverfew.

Balloons! – Life Should be Fun!



What is a young man to do when it keeps on raining outside and he can’t go in the garden to play?

Why, play with a balloon, of course!

He can have lots and lots of fun and forget all about the nasty weather…

If only it would keep still for a moment…

He could make a grab for it!

But then, all of a sudden…

There was a loud BANG and the balloon was no more…

In my book, ‘Murder in the School’ under my pseudonym Amanda Marigold, there is a chapter on balloons. The book is available for purchase in the Kindle Store at Amazon.com

‘Chapter 6

Balloons!

It took a long time for Miss Pink, the teacher in charge of the Nursery Unit, to get all the Nursery children back across to the Nursery after the fiasco in the hall that day.  Once they were settled she went into the Nursery kitchen to make a cup of tea and calm herself down.  While she was waiting for the kettle to boil she heard the telephone in her office ringing.  Quickly she went to answer it.

“Can I speak to the Head teacher please?” said a cheerful voice.

Miss Pink explained without going into too much detail that the Head teacher was unable to come to the phone just now and asked if she could take a message or get the Head to ring  back?

“Yes, please.  My name is Alex and she knows the number”.

Miss Pink’s heart skipped a beat.  She touched the drawer of her desk.  Inside was a letter from someone called Alex to the Headteacher, Ms. Gardner.  Miss Pink had found the letter on the floor of the Nursery on the fateful day at the start of term when Ms. Gardner had observed the Nursery.  So far Miss Pink had not had the courage to return the letter to Ms. Gardner.  You see she knew what was in the letter.  Curiosity had encouraged Miss Pink to read the letter and now that she had she was unable to give it back.  Now that she knew what the words said she would have to be very careful.  The future of the school depended on it.

Two weeks into October and a consignment of blue balloons arrived at PrimrosePrimary School.  There were 500 all together; one for each child and one for each member of staff and a few spare.  They were to be blown up, messages tied on and launched into the sky to celebrate the official opening of the new amalgamated Primary School.  Reporters from the local newspaper were going  be present taking photographs to mark the event and the local MP would cut the ribbon to release the balloons.  The children were very excited.

Mrs. Smithers (the part-time School Secretary), had a special room upstairs in her cosy cottage at Wood End.  This is where she kept her ingredients and where she made her spells.  Shelves on the walls displayed rows of round glass fish bowls.  These were ideal for holding the ingredients because they could be seen at all times and she could find what she wanted quickly.  The glass fish bowls held such natural forms as shells, feathers, rose petals and pine cones.  Mrs. Smithers reached up and took down a blue balloon and some coloured stardust.  Next she reached up to the highest shelf and took down her hazel wand.  Mrs. Smithers’ three black cats watched her.  Their names were Sparkle, Little Mo and Bast.  Sparkle was a longhaired beauty, mostly black with a white tummy and white socks.  Little Mo was a small, pretty cat, shorthaired, also with white socks.  Sparkle is her mum.  Bast was a very large male cat, mostly black but with a white bow tie.  He was very greedy.  They each had their own basket in Mrs. Smithers’ upstairs room and helped her with her spells.  When Mrs. Smithers cast her magic circle she always made sure that the three adorable black cats were inside it so that they come to no harm.

Gerald was the caretaker at PrimrosePrimary School.  He wore a large bunch of keys at his belt and with these he could access every room in the building.  He had had a shady past and could always be relied upon to GET things.  He always knew the right person to ask when something unusual was needed and he could usually manage to GET things a bit cheaper.  He had purloined some canisters of gas to fill the balloons for the Grand Opening and these he put in the spare classroom with the balloons.  During the morning of the big day Mrs Wales, the General Assistant, together with some parent volunteers and a member of the Governing Body, set about filling the blue balloons with the gas.  The gas canisters were old stock and there was leakage occurring.  This caused the ladies to start giggling and when they spoke, lungs full of the laughing gas, their voices sounded just like Donald Duck.  Ms. Gardner, patrolling the corridors as was her wont in the mornings, stopped outside the spare classroom and peered in through the glass window.  What she saw were the ladies inside acting as if they were drunk; laughing and rolling about amongst a bright blue sea of balloons.  Ms. Gardner pushed the door open and stormed in “What is going on in here?” she demanded to know.

“Ah ha ha ha ah ha ha”, giggled Mrs. Wales.  “We’re blowing up balloonoohoonzzz, ahh ha ha ha.”  Try as she might she couldn’t stop laughing.

Balloons were whizzing about in all directions .

“Yes, Ms. Gardner, ha ha ha ha , we’ve nearly finished”, said a usually dignified Governor.  “only we can’t stop laughing, ha ha ha ha ha hee hee.”

Ms. Gardner, her face like thunder, exotic perfume from Marrakesh filling the air,  slammed her hand on the desk and insisted that they came to their senses.  Tears of laughter were streaming down the faces of the volunteers and then, miracle of  miracles, Ms Gardner started to smile herself.  Quickly she left the classroom, closing the door behind her and thought to herself “They’re all mad!”

That afternoon the Grand Opening of Primrose Primary School took place.  All the children were excited to see the filled balloons.  They were kept in the spare classroom until they were needed and then they were brought out carefully and secured under a net in the playground.  Four ribbons tied the net to four chairs and another ribbon was in place, ready to be cut by the MP.

Mrs. Morgan, the MP, one of the Governing Body and Ms. Gardner walked out of the staffroom and into the playground for the opening ceremony.  Parents clapped loudly.

“The children have been writing messages to send away with the balloons when we release them” said Ms Gardner.  “We are hoping that some of the balloons will travel a very long way and spread the news about our new school.”  She turned to the waiting crowd of children, reporters and parents.

“I would like to introduce you to Mrs. Morgan, our local MP, who is now going to cut the ribbon, declare the school officially open and allow the balloons to travel far and wide” said Ms. Gardner.

Mrs. Morgan stepped forward, made a short speech and used the scissors to cut the ribbon.  Ooo’s and ahh’s from the children sent the balloons on their way with lots of little message cards fluttering like butterflies underneath.

Ms Garner had been standing amongst the balloons when the ribbon was cut and some of the cords had become caught around her arms.  This coupled with a sudden gust of wind of gigantic proportions and Ms. Gardner was hoisted into the air with the balloons.  Her legs dangled down beneath her as she was whisked right up into the air and dropped a few seconds later on to the roof of the boiler house.

“My God”, said Mrs. Van Gogh,(the art teacher), “Did you see that?”

Cameras were clicking away in gay abandon, taking full advantage of Ms. Gardner’s undignified landing, legs akimbo, either side of a chimney pot.

The smallest child in the Reception Class was the only one to see Mrs. Smithers clicking her fingers just before Ms. Gardner “took off” into the sky.

“How do you do that?”, she asked.

“I’ll show you tomorrow”, said Mrs. Smithers and the corners of her mouth turned ever so slightly upwards.

“She’ll be furious when she gets down”, said another voice, hiding her giggles behind her handkerchief.

“Fetch Gerald!” said someone else.  “Fetch the caretaker”, “Gerald, Gerald, Gerald.”

Two days later a blue balloon came to rest in a market in Marrakesh, which was the very place where Ms Gardner had purchased the exotic perfume, which gave her such a distinct aroma when she passed by.  Tied to the blue balloon was a small ticket which said “A. Gardner,  Langwitch, England.”’

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and just before you go, I want to bring you some real joy, although you might want a hankie close by! Please click here to watch a wonderful film called ‘The Red Balloon’, made in 1956.

I told you it was good, didn’t I.

I hope my post today has brought you much happiness.

Cleaning the oven


That’s a strange title for a post, you might be thinking, but since it takes up almost 1/3rd of a day, I thought it was worth writing about it.

I cleaned my oven on Tuesday morning. It’s a weekly task! I was brought up in the 1950’s when things were very different, but are they any better now? I doubt it, to be honest. My mum was a stay-at-home mum and naturally I benefited from that.  Now before all you 30 somethings start hollering, I know things are different now, but are they really? I wonder.

If you could, would you stay at home to look after your house and your children? Would you enjoy it or would you be bored?

I brought up my boys in the 1970’s and yes, I stayed at home to do it. I considered it a full-time job. They tell me now that they had a brilliant upbringing and a very happy childhood. I didn’t so perhaps I was making sure that they did. That’s another story.

When the youngest one was five year’s old, I went out to work, part-time. The first thing I bought with my wages was a vacuum cleaner! Are you laughing?

Along with the child rearing, I considered that looking after the house was my responsibility first and foremost. It was up to me to keep it clean and make the meals ready. My husband had different jobs to do. We had one car and it was up to him to take care of that. To this day I have never put petrol in it!

I take a pride in looking after the house and the garden, although I draw the line at grass cutting.

So I clean the oven once a week. That way it stays reasonably clean. I chose a brown oven so it doesn’t show the bits I missed!

On the other hand, it will always be brown, not white. My choice.

It has an eye level grill. I like that for making toast and for keeping the plates warm while I’m cooking. That has to be cleaned too.

I doubt if I’ll even be able to get a cooker with an eye level grill next time I need one!

They are out of fashion nowadays because most people use toasters. I don’t like toasters because they take up too much room on the worktop as I only have a small kitchen.

Cleaning product of choice!

If I could afford it, I would have an expensive Aga and a bigger kitchen to put it in, but I don’t think about that very often.

I like my little old cooker.  I’m used to it and it does what I ask of it.

So how about you? Is this a job you ignore? or one you take pride in?

Sunday is Gardening Day – July 15th 2012


During last week we have had far too much rain in the cottage garden. The climbing roses have been doing their best to hang on, but today I cut them back. With luck and if the weather is kind, we may see another flush in August.

The geraniums (pelargoniums) have also taken a battering but now, at last, I see some flowers.

The vegetables have suffered even more. The next picture shows the runner beans this time last year. Notice there are lots of flowers!

Now compare this year’s photograph… too much rain, not enough flying insects to pollinate the flowers.  Flowers? What flowers. We are still waiting.

Geraniums

Ivy on the balcony.

Feverfew is abundant just now.  It has a lovely, musty smell.

The daisies are hardy and seem to take whatever comes.  This year because of the wet conditions, they have grown very leggy.

Have a great week fellow bloggers.

Fingerprints


As a writer, it is necessary to do a lot of research. For my latest book, which is a murder story, I have been researching ‘Police Procedures’ and fingerprinting and clue finding in particular.  I am currently reading an excellent book by Lee Lofland, called ‘Howdunnit, Book of Police Procedures’.  Here is an excerpt from it on the subject of fingerprinting:

‘Fingerprinting is a valuable tool for law enforcement because no two people in the world have identical prints.  Even though identical twins have identical DNA, they have markedly different fingerprints.  The basics of fingerprinting are taught to all police officers, but a fingerprint technician practises her craft daily.  It take a delicate touch and a keen eye to be the best and a good fingerprint technician can sometimes make or break a criminal case.

A Brief History of Fingerprinting

The ridges that cover the surface of fingertips and palms first caught the eye of University of Bologna professor Marcello Malpighi in the late 1600’s.  The worth of those looping crests was of no importance to him at the time, however, so he conducted no further research and more than one hundred years passed before the subject of finger ridge patterns was addressed.

In the mid 1800’s, Sir William James Herschel served as a British chief administrative officer in Bengal, India.  His method of fingerprinting for the purpose of invoking honesty among the Indian natives, would eventually spark  the idea of using fingerprints for the purpose of identification.  Herschel thought that requiring someone to place a fingerprint beside his signature, would  reduce a person’s inclination for deceitfulness because of the intimacy associated with touching the paper.

Three years after Herschel began his quest to standardize a fingerprint honour system, Dr. Henry Faulds of Tokyo, Japan, realized the importance of using fingerprints, not only for identification purposes, but as a means of solving crimes.  He also introduced the use of printer’s ink as an excellent medium for transferring prints from fingers to paper.

The late 1800’s was a busy time for those who studied fingerprinting.  Mark Twain wrote of identifying a murderer by his fingerprints and Charles Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, wrote the book ‘Finger Prints’ in 1892.  Also in 1892, Argentina claimed the first use of a fingerprint to identify a murderer.  In 1893, Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson thrilled readers with its accounts of murder, court trials and the use of fingerprint identification.

England and Wales began the first fingerprinting for criminal identification in the early 1900’s.  Shortly afterward, the New York Civil Service Commission adopted the fingerprinting process as a means of identification for job applicants.

Around the same time, the New York state prison system began using fingerprints for the identification of criminals and they officially adopted the first fingerprint system in 1903.  A year later, the U.S. penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, established its own fingerprint bureau.  The penitentiary in Leavenworth also began to exchange  fingerprint information with other law enforcement agencies and police officers.

Prior to 1903, the Leavenworth prison used an identification system designed by french anthropologist Alphonse Bertillon.  Bertillon’s system measured the bony parts of the body, inserted the measurements into a formula and calculated the results, which supposedly applied only to one person.’

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The picture in this post is my mother’s fingerprint, on the card she used during World War II when she was part of the Dutch Resistance Movement.

In the current book I am writing, the murder victim’s car has been found at the bottom of a cliff in Cornwall, England and is currently being searched and dusted for clues. It is a sequel to ‘Murder in the School’, which is available for purchase in the Kindle Store at Amazon. I wrote it under my pseudonym, Amanda Marigold.