Sunday, October 31, 2010

Surprises 2




A little while later on, we were able to get up close and personal for some better photos on my mobile phone.Sadly, I didn't have my camera with me :-)






                            It was brilliant fun, and I enjoyed it just as much as the girls did....... and we found that this is actually Titan The Robot, with his own webpage
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Surprises



On the way down from the Cinema complex, we saw crowds. 
The reason soon became apparent :-)







It was a robot.
A very large robot, whose antics were enthralling the crowds of shoppers




Some seemed completely unaware of what was happening right behind them, which was rather funny :-)





Others couldn't wait to get closer and capture the moment.....

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Memento Mori

Remember thou shalt die.......

I was so sad to hear of the death of Eva Ibbotson, one of the most original and wonderful children's authors of all time. Between the older three girls and myself, we have virtually everything she has written, and we have loved all her books.
May her Memory be Eternal !


Obituary from the Daily Telegraph   {quoted verbatim}

Eva Ibbotson published her first children's book at the age of 50 and over the next 35 years produced a series of novels which became almost as popular with parents as with children. As well as including wizards, witches, ghouls and banshees, she invented any number of fantastic creatures, from dragworms to mistmakers, setting them in beautifully-imagined supernatural worlds.


But it was her offbeat, observant wit that put her stories in a class of their own. The ghostly parents in Dial a Ghost (1996) "weren't just violent and cruel and fiendish; they were snobbish as well". Mildly eccentric female relatives wear their skirts back to front or are seen to have a "small but not at all unpleasant moustache". "When I get stuck in a book," Eva Ibbotson confessed, "I usually try putting an aunt in." All her stories had happy endings.

Her writing took a new direction from the late 1990s when she began to move away from magic tales towards adventure stories, often featuring wronged orphans finding happiness after suffering at the hands of cruel guardians. In all her works, however, Eva Ibbotson drew on her memories of a childhood spent in Vienna and as a refugee in Britain surrounded by "fruity" female relations who "cut the sides out of slippers to let their bunions out, and were always stirring things".


Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner was born in Vienna on January 21 1925 into a non-observant Jewish family. Her father, Berthold Wiesner, was a pioneer of human artificial insemination. Her mother, Anna Gmeyner, was a charismatic writer who had worked with Brecht. Her parents separated when she was two but came together again briefly as refugees in 1933 after Hitler had risen to power in Germany and her father was offered a job in Edinburgh.

Her mother moved to Paris, where she began a relationship with an aristocratic Russian philosopher, while Eva stayed in Edinburgh with her father. In 1934, Eva's mother arrived in Britain and set up house in Belsize Park, north London. As a child Eva would shuttle, unwelcome, between the two households: "I remember trying to change my hairstyle and clothes in a pathetic attempt to please each parent," she recalled. When she came to write, she always felt a desire to "make things right" for her hero or heroine.

In the late 1930s the family was joined by a colourful troupe of aunts and older cousins. She recalled "the din they used to make when they were together, the strange clothes they wore, the small moustaches some of the older ladies had and the impression they all gave of perpetually wandering about with no true home to go to". Many of them would serve as characters in her fantasy tales.

Eva attended Dartington Hall school in Devon which she loved and which she fictionalised as Delderton Hall, the progressive boarding school in The Dragonfly Pool (2008). Then, at her father's suggestion, she studied Physiology at Bedford College, London, and went on to do postgraduate work at Cambridge. But the thought of spending her life conducting experiments on animals appalled her, and after marrying Alan Ibbotson, an ecologist, in 1947, she turned her back on science with some relief.

The Ibbotsons moved first to Bristol and then to Newcastle, where Eva had four children and worked for a time as a teacher. She began writing short stories for The Lady and went on to write several works of romantic fiction for adults, more popular on the Continent than in Britain, of which Magic Flutes (1982) won the Romantic Novelists' Association award.

A new agent suggested she try her hand at children's fiction and the first of 10 children's novels, The Great Ghost Rescue, about a schoolboy who seeks to save Britain's spectres from homelessness, was published in 1975. Which Witch? (1979), the story of a wizard in search of a wife, was runner-up for the Carnegie Medal; The Secret of Platform 13 (1994), in which (anticipating Harry Potter) she created a mysterious additional platform at King's Cross station that leads to a magical world, was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize. Monster Mission (1999), in which three dotty aunts kidnap three children and release them into a magical adventure on an island, was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award.

After the sudden death of her husband in 1998, Eva Ibbotson found herself too sad to write any more "rompy" stories and decided to try her hand at a more straightforward adventure story in which emotions previously kept at bay by humour could be given fuller expression.

The result was Journey to the River Sea (2001), in which an orphaned girl goes to stay with cruel relatives on a rubber estate near Manaus. The plot was unexceptional, but at the heart of the novel was the wild landscape of the Amazon and its colourful flora and fauna – a tribute to a husband who would "upturn stones and show me the lovely things underneath". It won the Gold Medal of the NestlĂ© Smarties Book Prize for 2001 and was runner-up for the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year and the Library Association's Carnegie Medal.

Encouraged, Eva Ibbotson began alternating her more frothy "magic" stories with longer novels. The Star of Kazan (2004) followed the fortunes of an orphaned girl in Vienna in the years before the First World War, and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Her most recent book, The Ogre of Oglefort (2010), featuring an ogre, a hag, a troll, a hen-pecked wizard and several aunts, was shortlisted for the Guardian children's prize. Another book, One Dog and His Boy, will be published next year.

Eva Ibbotson is survived by three sons and a daughter.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Recently Read

 Chris Ryan's "The Watchman" was an absolute classic. An SAS man whose family has been kidnapped by the IRA, he gets embroiled in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister in order to get his family back alive.  Gripping stuff :-)

Floella Benjamin's wonderful book details her childhood experiences of dealing with life in Britain as an immigrant. Suitable for children, and lovingly written.





"We Bought A Zoo" is the story of a family who did just that, and the problems they faced. Parts of it are desperately sad, but an enjoyable read.


"It's A Don's Life" by Professor Mary Beard is a rollicking good read, which reduced me to giggles on more than one occasion. She has a lovely writing style and such a keen wit that I was very sad indeed to reach the end of the book. The book is a compilation of posts originally from her eponymous blog and I particularly loved the decision to include the comments readers left on each blog post - these range from the sublime to the  ridiculous, but many were very informative.



  I have fond memories of watching the TV series of "Castaway" a decade ago, and was thrilled to pick this hardback book up for a song in a charity shop. The people chosen for the project came from immensely different backgrounds, and there was a great deal of conflict before the group began to work together. Conflict continued during the year, and it was interesting to read the combatants' viewpoints as to why and what really happened behind the scenes of the TV documentary.

Living on a remote Scottish island for a year with a group of people and being as self-sufficient as possible would be a fascinating  experience if you were with a group of friends, but imagine how much more stressful it would be if you were among strangers.........



"The Otterbury Incident" by C. Day Lewis  is a book I absolutely adored reading in primary school and was another seredipitous charity shop bargain. I loved it just as much reading it as an adult, but it probably would not be published now without serious editing on the grounds of being insufficiently Politically Correct.....

"Rogues' Gold" is a children's Elizabethan period mustery, which I really enjoyed although my twelve year old  struggled to get through the first chapter.



 "Fighter Boys" took me several weeks to read in small chunks. It deals with the lives and experiences of those men in the RAF who fought in the Battle of Britain in 1940. Parts of it were heartbreakingly sad, but described such heroism too.


"Payback" is another teenage - orientated Andy McNab book. A gripping read, and very informative, especially about the Dark Web.





Both of these were absolute delights!

"Wesley" is the story of a biologist who was privileged to adopt a baby owl, and her subsequent life with Wesley.

Martin Clunes' "A Dog's Life"  shows his great love of dogs in general and his own three in particular, and is tied in with the TV documentary series he made about man's relationships with dogs.
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Wandering



 I thought you might enjoy some photos from a recent autumnal wandering walk up to my mother's house :-)


The ancient Holy Well in its sylvan setting.




Hard to believe this is right next to a very busy main road, isn't it ?


The contrast between the berries and the blue sky was irresistible !


I just liked it......

This one is a little washed out, but at present I have no photo-editing software on my computer ....


Old and new - a medieval cottage with a very modern satellite dish above the porch roof !
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Last Airbender

We took the girls to see The Last Airbender on Saturday. I went, not expecting to enjoy it, but after the first five minutes, I was spellbound, transfixed and utterly hooked by the amazing special effects.

The girls had seen and enjoyed the cartoon tv series, but I knew nothing about it, which is perhaps why I enjoyed it so much - many people who have seen and loved the TV series found the film disappointing, according to the reviews.

I rather like fanstasy/action genre films, and found it great fun, though the ending was rather contrived, setting the scene for the necessary sequel film.....

Don't be put off by the glowing eyes !

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Some Good News

I am pleased to be able to report that Mum has had one of her eyes operated on this morning and the surgeon is hopeful that it will prove to be a success. There should be a massive improvement in her vision when she removes the protective eyepatch on Tuesday morning :-)

We had a busy weekend celebrating DD4's 9th birthday, which was great fun but we are all plum tuckered-out, LOL. I have lost my voice as a result of a sore throat/cold from the end of last week, which made singing "Happy Birthday" a bit difficult in anything louder than a whisper !!

I will endeavour to be rather more timely in my blog-reporting in the future, now that life seems to have returned to some semblance of equilibrium :-)
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Monday, October 11, 2010

National Chocolate Week !

This week is National Chocolate Week

I am currently participating by indulging myself with Turkish Delight filled chocolate biscuits......yum !
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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Asking For Prayers

....for my dear blog friend Susie and her sweet and beloved husband Hamada.

They have had bad news this week about Hamada's health; he has been valiantly fighting the vile blood cancer Multiple Myeloma for several years.

Please pray for them and their family as they make hard decisions about the immediate future.
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Progress

I took Mum to the hospital yesterday, and after a marathon three hour visit, it has been decided she needs urgent cataract surgery, which will hopefully be done within six weeks. And that's NHS urgent for you :-)

If, of course, she just happened to have a spare £2,000 in savings, she could have one eye done within a few days..... and then another £2,000 for the other eye a few weeks later. It is such a shame that DH's company private medical cover does not include the extended family.
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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Waaah !

Someone has "eaten" my 2009 NaNoWriMo word count from my widget ! (Which is not something you get to say very often , LOL! )

Panic was called off when I realised that it is most likely because they have introduced all new widgets and things for the start of NaNo 2010, powering up in November and have re-set everyone's word counters back to zero.

I will have to get my new widgets forthwith :-)

I am not sure yet what I am going to write about this year, as last year was a Chalet School spin-off and I don't have the inspiration to write a sequel...............
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Recently Read

Maryb,

A further reply has been added below your comment :-)


{Edited to correct several typing errors. It doesn't seem to make any difference whether I am wearing my glasses or not, so I think I need to get my eyes tested again soon.....}



This list does include several books that have actually slowly been read over a period of months, and some that didn't make it into the last list because I hadn't taken photos of them, so do not worry, I have not been reading for 18 hours a day since the last update !




Frost On My Moustache describes how Tim Moore researched and followed in the footsteps of the Victorian aristocrat Lord Dufferin who sailed from Ireland to the Arctic Circle in 1856. The recreation of the voyage part of the book was highly amusing; I did take issue with the author's inability to get his head out of the gutter when he was trying very hard to read into  Lord Dufferin's devotion to his mother some bizarre form of incestuous relationship. If I had been the elderly person allowing a researcher access to treasured family documents and homes, thinking that a serious book was to be written, I would be very sad to think that my family's name was being besmirched in this way.



Santa - A Life  was completely bizarre. It ranged from being utterly engrossing to infuriating me to the point of wanting to throw the book across the room and scream. The author is obviously not a particular churchgoer, and makes the most ludicrous comments, such as when the Italians stole  "rescued"  St Nicholas' relics from  Turkey , that the Saint was "showing" he had converted from Orthodoxy to Catholicism. Puhlease ! Get a grip - and some common sense of historical and theological  issues.
Having said that, there is much of interest in the book about the depictions and history of how traditions about the Saint have arisen.
But would I recommend it ? No, unless you can get it very cheaply indeed, as I did.






I have exactly the same problems with On Being A Jewish Christian. His Grace Bishop Hugh Montefiore has absolutely no valid knowledge of Orthodoxy judging by this book, and he lumps post-Reformation Christians in one group, whereas their individual denominational beliefs vary widely and cannot easily be considered simply as Jewish Versus Christian. There was much of interest in it, however.



Pompeii by Professor Mary Beard was a bit of a slog. A very comprehensive tome about the history, excavation and preservation of Pompeii as well as the day to day minutiae of the life of the inhabitants prior to the great explosion of Vesuvius. It could have benefited from the editorial red pen, which is rather funny coming from me when I love enormous thick books :-)




This was a fascinating insight into how the CIA recruits its "agents" and trains them. I do wonder how she got away with writing this book, though :-)






I have many fond memories of borrowing the "Uncle" books from the library in my childhood, and only ever had one book of my own. I was thrilled to find a copy of the very first book in a thrift shop ! 

The Neil Gaiman book is----- interesting. Full of short stories and poems written over a long period, it covers all sorts of things.  He is also the author of Coraline, so the themes can be quite dark.....




Boomtown is a comfort re-read. I love it, and it always makes me smile.



Mad Dogs And Englishmen by Sir Ranulph Fiennes is an utterly engrossing whistle-stop tour through his family's involvement in English history. And my goodness, were they involved ! His family have lived in the same stately home for 600 years, came over with William the Conqueror and can trace their direct family tree back before Charlegmagne to Charles Martel, who died in AD 741.

Sir Ranulph is an intrepid explorer and ex-SAS soldier. 


Skellig is an interesting young teenage book, which I and  DD3 (now 12) both enjoyed. I won't spoil the plot, but it was quite clever :-)

Ode To A Banker was another thrift shop find. It took me a few false starts to "get into" the style of writing, but I really did enjoy it very much, as I love detective stories in general and historical ones in particular. I am looking out for the rest of the series now !


This brilliant book took me ages to read, purely because of the enormous amount of information it contained about how leisure activities developed in Victorian times to the way we see them now. Just about everything you ever wanted to know about the development of museums, theatres, music halls, exhibitions, art galleries, days out, special events - all here !



I've managed to borrow lots of army/SAS thrillers from the library, as you can see. I enjoyed them all.











These last two Chris Ryan books are written for  teenagers, but I thoroughly enjoyed them and DD3 is working her way through them with equal evidence of enjoyment. Quite scary, though........




The Henrietta Lacks book was so desperately sad. I had heard of Henrietta many years ago, when doing my midwifery training, as the cancer cells from the cervical tumour which killed her were the first ever to outlast the Hayflick limit of cell division and reproduction.  Her cells are still used in medical research to this day, as they have been easily and successfully cultured for over fifty years. This is the story of the woman who has made such an enormous contribution to medical knowledge, and of her family, who struggled to come to terms with knowing that part of their mother is still "alive" to this very day, 59 years after her death..........

Meltdown is a teenage offering by Andy McNab, and is absolutely superb.
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Friday, October 01, 2010

My Heart Is Full

............of bright sadness.

Brenda's funeral was as beautiful as a funeral can be, filled with dignified and restrained sadness at our loss, seamlessly intermingled with the joy of the Resurrection and the Christian faith - just like Brenda herself, I think.

Anastasia, you asked about Brenda - what can I say ?

She was a sweet, loving, charitable lady (in **every** true sense of the word), who had a deep and abiding Christian faith, who had an amazing sense of fun, who loved her family deeply and had that rare gift of making everyone with whom she spoke feel as if they were the most important and special person in the world to her at that exact moment.

Her home and heart and time were always available to those who needed them; she was an amazing listener, proffering advice when asked for it, and always remaining true to her high standards of morals and ethics. Life had not always been kind to Brenda, but she was always kindness itself to everyone.

When feeling alone and bereft, for whatever reason, we all gravitated to Brenda, who mothered us all. When there were things that as teenagers we felt we could not tell our parents, we could always confide in Brenda. Her love was unconditional; she had a heart as big as the world, and my life is all the richer for having been blessed to know her.

May God grant her rest and peace in His Kingdom !!
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