Archive | November 2013

Goodbye Patch ! R.I.P April 2000 – November 2013.


I had to have my beautiful cat, Patch, put to sleep this morning! Yesterday we took her in for a check-up at the vet’s office. He diagnosed a crumbling tooth so we took her back this morning for the extraction, but while she was under the anaesthetic, he found a lump in her bowel. He phoned me from the operating theatre and told me the bad news and I made the decision, which no pet lover likes to make. She was nearly fourteen years old – a good age for a cat.

We had suspected for a while that all was not well with Patch. Her tummy had been making some very odd noises and she had been sick more often and had ‘other’ problems of a dietary nature. I wondered if it was getting used to Millie being here that had upset her tummy, but now we know better. Millie and Patch tolerated each other, but they weren’t exactly friends. Patch just wanted to lie about sleeping most of the time, but Millie, being younger, liked to chase and play much more. Patch just wasn’t interested.

I think the vet had his suspicions! Perhaps he got Patch in for the tooth extraction so he could do some more in-depth investigations under the anaesthetic.

I feel bereft. That cat has been part of my life for fourteen years nearly and she will be sorely missed. When I was in America she kept J company, but she was always pleased to see me back. She was very loyal. I had her from a kitten, together with her mum and four brothers and sisters so I knew the history of her. For a while she lived next door because my neighbour wanted her and in those days she was called ‘Taz’, but then they bought a large collie dog and then another. The first dog was kind to cats, but the second one wasn’t and bit Patch’s leg quite badly. She, remembering where her life started off, shot through our cat-flap in the back door and never returned next door again! I nursed her back to health on that occasion.

Patch lost another of her nine lives a couple of years ago when the cat across the road, I call him ‘The Ghost’ bit a chunk out of her ear, necessitating an operation. You can see that clearly on the photo above.

She always used to sit on my suitcase when I was getting ready to go to America. It was as if she was saying ‘Please don’t go…’ now this morning, I found myself saying to her ‘Please don’t go, not yet…’

I have cleaned her chair and put away her dirt box and told Millie not to expect her playmate today.

I am left with my tears and a rather large hankie…

A new skein of yarn.


I’ve been working on some lovely, soft merino topping in a beautiful lavender shade. I had some darker shade left over from the previous spinning so I’ve combined the two into this lovely colourway.

The next spinning will be the lavender on its own with the idea of making something which starts with the two colours and ends with the one.  Should be fun, shouldn’t it! You can see the plain lavender in the next picture.

DSCF1620It’s a lovely way of spending the long, dark November evenings. It’s actually quite soporific and while I’m spinning, I go into a sort of trance, which I find very relaxing. I suppose it is my brain going into beta waves, hard to do without a trigger, but really easy once I start spinning…

The Church Christmas Bazaar – cupcakes galore!


Last Saturday we had the Christmas Bazaar at church. Larry and I had a ‘Tea-Time Stall with all things tea-time on it. Our stall wasn’t very big so we couldn’t display too much at once, but it did have the advantage of being over the heat vent so we were nice and warm throughout the proceedings. I was a bit worried about the toppings on my cup-cakes melting, but they sold so quickly that I needn’t have been concerned.

I got the recipe out of a new cook-book, which a dear friend gave me recently. Over here in England, cup-cakes are a relatively new invention (correct me if I’m wrong please). In any case they are new to me. I am more familiar with fairy cakes, which are a good deal smaller and have a lot less topping on. Here you see the completed cupcakes. I made three sorts; blueberry, chocolate chip and all chocolate. Larry was allowed to eat one of them!DSCF1628

There were lots of other stalls and I thought you might like to see some of them:


This is our ‘Tea-Time Stall’ again, this time showing how I present some of the cakes – in tea-cups. The tea cups were also for sale so the visitors could buy the cakes on their own or a cake in a cup. You can also see the tea cosies I made and the pot holders.





Next is the main cake stall with lots of attractive goodies for sale.



There was a raffle for the hamper. I bought a whole book of tickets, but I didn’t win anything.


This stall sold ‘smellies’. I bought the pink shower bag. It had some body lotion inside!


There were lots of books for sale:




These hand-made gingerbread men were beautifully made.



We had a very well-designed bottle stall…


I hope you enjoyed your trip around the bazaar and if you are having your own bazaar soon, I wish you well with it.


Life in the U.K. – Larry’s update at four months.


Here is his take on the first 3-4 months.

Larry’s chair in Knoxville is empty these days because, as you know, he is now over here.

‘Three Months in England – or is it Four?

I must admit I have lost count. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Accomplishments this month include
• mastering the UK currency (which involves twice as many coins as in America),
• committing the local neighborhood to memory (it’s less than a 10 minute walk to the supermarket, dry cleaners, doctor, dentist, several restaurants, Bramingham Wood, and much more),
• rediscovering the problems caused by the U.S. Postal Service refusing to forward mail beyond U.S. borders (European countries have been doing this for decades),
• finally finding an “eagle” at Bank of America who understands how to make repetitive wire transfers to a UK Bank (although even she was unable to correct the mailing address on my Bank of America checking account),
• having minor surgery to remove a basil cell carcinoma (my 8th in the past 30 years) from the back of my neck, at no cost!

Americans have to contend with pennies (1 cent), nickels (5 cents), dimes (10 cents) and quarters (25 cents). Actually pennies are just used to fill glass jars. Hardly anyone pays with pennies anymore. In the UK there are coins for 1 pence, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, 1 pound, and 2 pounds. To help out a bit, the 20 pence and 50 pence coins aren’t round – they have seven sides. Why seven and not six sides or eight sides, you ask? No one seems to know. At least in the UK the 10 pence coin is larger than the 5 pence coin. I never did understand why dimes are smaller than nickels.

Suburban neighborhoods in the UK are designed for walking. There are paved walkways that go between houses, providing shortcuts that avoid having to walk along busy roadways with almost constant vehicular traffic (you can still choose the paths beside these roadways if you wish, but it certainly isn’t as pleasant). However, sidewalks are called “pavements” in the UK, whereas the pavement in America is the roadway itself. Obviously it’s important here to know what you are talking about.

This past month I ran across an interesting postal problem. The U.S. Postal Service will not forward mail to other countries. And Bank of America will not allow its client’s to have a mailing address outside the USA. That means that a form mailed to me from Bank of America never reached me here at my UK address. Since I didn’t receive the form (I was never told it existed) I didn’t return it. Because I didn’t return the form Bank of America deleted the information allowing me to wire transfer funds to my UK bank. Imagine my surprise when I called Bank of America and was told this little story. Fortunately, after also being told nothing could be done to fix this problem, I found an “eagle” in the Bank of America Wire Transfer Services Department who happily fixed it for me. Thank heavens for those few “eagles (I can do that for you)” in a world full of “ducks (sorry, there’s no way to do that – have a nice day!)”.

For those who believe universally available healthcare can never work, I suggest you investigate the UK National Health Service (NHS). I have seen the doctor here on several occasions, been diagnosed with skin cancer (again), had the lesion surgically removed from the back of my neck by a Russian dermatologist (she did a beautiful job of it), and I have yet to pay a single farthing! I have not had to wait for treatment nor been inconvenienced in any way. Everyone I have seen has been very professional, competent, courteous and genuinely concerned with my wellbeing. No forms to fill out and patient information is shared between doctors, hospitals, laboratories, etc. for maximum efficiency. I would highly recommend it. For those over 60 who aren’t looking forward to the healthcare issues associated with growing older, the benefits of the NHS are obvious.

One of the more obvious benefits of living in the UK involves the way the daily news is delivered, whether by radio, TV, Internet, or printed media. I find the greater focus here on the world’s news events refreshing and enlightening, although sometimes depressing. There’s a lot going on in the world that Americans don’t see. National events here receive appropriate attention to be sure, but reporting of UK events and politics is more reserved, and more time is spent on global events. Perhaps that is due more to geography than anything else, but the contrast with news reporting in the U.S. is dramatic. In the past few years I have grown particularly fatigued with the constant barrage of divisive political reporting in America, usually with obvious bias and unapologetic pandering to a select audience. Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, where are you…..?

I remember a time when elected politicians claimed (believably) to be representing the views of the people who elected them. American political parties now claim that when they lose an election it’s because they “failed to get their message out”. Maybe it’s the people who aren’t getting their message in! Ten’s of millions of dollars are spent by political parties in America to “win people over to their point of view”. Perhaps politicians should spend that money attempting to understand the point of view of ALL the people who elected them, rather than incessantly “selling” the extreme ideology of an over zealous minority through a news media eager to grab the attention of an increasing polarized American public.

It does appear that American politicians these days are solely interested in their own survival and total destruction of the opposition. The desperation evidenced by factions within a political party willing to furlough thousands of federal employees and default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America, just to destroy a government program they don’t agree with, is something I never imagined I would live to see! It appears now that any means to political victory is justified. Will active sabotage of government programs be the next weapon of political warfare? Those who claim their actions are “saving the nation” seem to be willing to destroy the democracy it is built upon in the process. And the American news media is offering the spotlight and center stage to help them succeed.’

Interesting, isn’t it?



My Memoirs – 1962 – I start High School

Stella starts High SchoolThis old photograph was taken in 1962 and it shows an eleven year old me in my new school uniform, ready to go to High School.

In order to get to the ‘High School’ we had to pass the 11-plus examination at the end of Junior School. My mum promised me a transistor radio if I passed! The 11-plus was more of an intelligence test than a proper exam. I passed and got the radio. I was delighted. Now I could go to the best school in the town and I was as pleased as my mum and dad were proud.

I had to be kitted out with the uniform, which was extensive and expensive. I had two sets; one for summer and one for winter. The winter uniform consisted of a felt hat, white shirt-blouses,tie, navy blue tunic,large navy blue knickers,white socks and sensible black shoes. I also needed a blazer with a badge on it, plus a badge to go on the tunic. This showed the school emblem. In the picture I am wearing my summer hat, which was a straw boater. We could choose between three colours for the summer uniform. The choice was yellow, blue or pink gingham and I have to say that the girls looked very nice in their pretty colours.

We also had to have a sports kit. The least said about that, the better. I had the same pair of black plimsolls for five years! and I was always getting into trouble because they were black, not white. I lived with my mum at the time and we were very poor. She couldn’t really afford any of it so I would never dare to ask for anything extra for fear of upsetting her.

My satchel was leather and had to hold a lot of books. Each day I had to carry the books to school and then back again afterwards. It’s a wonder my shoulder wasn’t dislocated with the weight of it all.

So I was going from being a big fish in a little pond to being a little fish in a big pond. What would life hold for me? You’ll have to wait for the next instalment…

Can you remember getting your school uniform at High School?

In a field near me…

A2PLNT38 I have been watching the plots in a field near me, over the last few months in order to see what is growing and doing well and what is struggling. Unfortunately, I cannot give you the names of the plants yet, but I can tell you a bit more about the project, taken from their website here.Quote,In November (2012) we had a meeting with partners from Councils in Bedford and Luton, and the Parks Trust in Milton Keynes, to identify sites for the experimental meadow plantings which are a part of workpackage 4 of the project: experimental manipulations of biodiversity and ecosystem function. We are identifying sites in which up to 9 different mixtures of grasses and herbaceous plants – creating different structures and species diversity – can be established, to examine their effect on invertebrate biodiversity, aesthetic value, and soil performance compared to the mown amenity grassland which would otherwise be there, and at the same time, their sustainability from a land management perspective. Can biodiversity and function be improved, while also being more cost effective to maintain? +++ f3ues-meadow-1-2013 Overall, the plots have been very well received by the local public which has been reflected in comments from interested people coming to ask questions and from a series of surveys that have been undertaken by the F3UES team. People seem to particularly appreciate the conversion from cut-grass to colourful flower displays. Comments include: “I love the flowers; better than cut grass” and “Nice to see flowers; a bit of colour”. More detailed examinations of people’s responses to the plots will be explored in the coming months through discussion groups, and we look forward to seeing the plots develop their full potential over the next year. Progress and preliminary results were shared at a gathering of the principal local partners at a stakeholder meeting at Cranfield University in September where there was very positive feedback and productive discussions. The active involvement, interest and enthusiasm brought to the project by partners – in particular the Councils’ involvement with the meadow experiments – has been invaluable, and we look forward to sharing the results with them.’ end of quote

Recently the plots near me have been ploughed up. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

By the way, I think you are right about the wild carrot, Loren. It looks like one to me too.