Friday, September 23, 2011

Catch Up

The weather finally seems to have settled down a little after the high winds and days of torrential rain over the last fortnight or so. The waterfowl at the local pond are no longer hunched miserably on the pond, heads tucked down and being buffetted mercilessly by the high winds rather than being blown off the grassy banks where they normally sit and rest........

We have blue skies and sunshine today, and the last few flowers in the garden and looking pretty. The nights are drawing in and it is really chilly first thing in the mornings; autumn is definitely here even if the trees are only just starting to show signs that the leaves are getting ready to change colours.

When I was in my fave thrift shop on Tuesday, I noticed that they had a few of the Agatha Christie Collection of magazines; DoomHamster has the complete set of books from several years ago but is missing a few of the mags, so I sent her a text message to ask which ones she was missing in the hope I might be able to fill in the gaps in her collection. Having gained the information, I knelt down to access the magazines on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, only to have a heartsink moment.

My propensity for attracting unusual people had struck yet again, and a woman was standing behind me, singing loudly and tunelessly, and swaying in time to the song.  That would not have been too bad, but as she was carrying a bag, and simultaneously leaning over me to pick up books from a shelf above my head, it meant I was being tapped on the head every few seconds. Why she could not have stood next to me on the other side and then she could have reached her books much more comfortably and without bashing me on the head remains a mystery, but I couldn't move as I would then have been blocking the staircase :-)
I did manage to find one magazine for DoomH, so it was worth enduring the noise and the head-tapping. The following day I managed to get a HB copy (in very good condition) of Bill Bryson's "At Home" for DoomHamster for the princely sum  of 80p at the same shop, but without the musical accompaniment, LOL.

The interlude with Mum being very bright and lucid has now passed. She is back to being confused and struggling to find words, and getting very tearful again. Whether this is due to the fact that Monday was the second anniversary of my brother's death, I'm not sure, as her grasp on time and date is extremely tenuous at best.... I went to the cemetery, washed the gravestone, lit the grave lantern, prayed the prayers for the dead and put fresh flowers (a red rose, a red gerbera, and white dahlias and chrysanthemums) in the pots, so it looked nice. Mum is starting to sleep a lot more again, so when I am with her, once the dusting etc is done and all the vast quantities of dirty laundry have gone in the machine, there is often little for me to do other than read; I've managed to get through quite a lot of books this week and will be doing my regular Recently Read post in the next few days.

I've restocked the bird feeder, so it now sports fat (suet and seed) balls, bread, peanuts and a net feeder of assorted seeds as well as a water dish, and the birds have been flocking back, to my delight. I've left the windfall apples for the birds and insects to feast on, which makes the garden look messy but helps my feathered friends.  Our cotoneaster and other shrubs have loads of berries, so I am wondering if the folklore that this presages a harsh winter are true.........I'm really glad our firewood for the winter has been ordered and will be delivered next month. We have plenty to last us till then, but I am trying not to light the wood-burning stove just yet, as it makes the winter seem terribly long if it has been burning since September!
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Glorious Orthodox Books For Children!

The new catalogue from Potamitis Publishing, home of wonderful Orthodox books for children, is now available.

Bigger and better than ever, and now featuring full-colour flip pages so you can clearly see and delight in what you are purchasing :-)
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The Queen And The Cats - A Story About St Helena

I was recently asked to read and review a children's illustrated book about St Helena the Empress's visit to Cyprus.
I was of course very happy to do so :-)

"The Queen And the Cats: A Story About St Helena" is a delightful  little book, written by Calee Lee and cleverly illustrated by Turbo Qualls in an unusual - and visually very striking - manner .

 It tells the story of a very young girl who meets St Helena during the imperial visit to Cyprus to bestow a portion of the True Cross to the islanders for veneration. This generous gift by the Empress is not as straightforward  a blessing as they had all hoped, and puts the islanders in grave danger until she finds a way to make the island safe again. I know this is a bit of a teaser, but I was so thrilled to learn about this particular story that I would hate to spoil the ending for anyone else who does not know it :-)

The book is very well written from the viewpoint of the young girl, and lovingly displays her innnocence, puzzlement and enthusiasm over some of the things that happen to her, her family and friends as events unfold. It is particularly suitable for children of pre-school age right up to ages 7 - 8, though my older girls and I thoroughly enjoyed it too!

The book is available in the traditional paperback as well as in Kindle and Nook formats and a generic Epub format. The latter worked very well indeed on my basic Elonex ereader.

 For those who may not yet have an ereader, Adobe Digital editions and the Kindle software can be freely downloaded to a computer to enable you to enjoy this inexpensive book; Kindle software is also available for iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

I will certainly be getting the paperback version of this book for my library of children's books, and it would be a blessing to any Orthodox or Catholic family which has a veneration for St Helena.
Thank you, Calee, for allowing me to read and review, and **please** keep on writing !
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Computer Troubleshooting

On Wednesday last week, I used the desktop computer downstairs to check my email.
{This is the old workhorse computer- ancient, battered, much loved, and the one we talk about nervously, wondering just when it will finally give up the ghost. So much so  that I did a complete backup of the files I would be sad to lose only last week, just to be on the safe side.}

It worked perfectly then. A while later, I walked down to school to collect DD4 and after we had walked home and prepared tea, I decided to crank up the computer and catch up on my blog-reading. I pressed the "on" button and nothing happened. Not a beep, bleep, crank, whirr, cough or any sort of sound at all.  I checked the other electrical equipment, wondering if we had suddenly lost power in the house. Nope, everything else was working well, including the computer monitor.

I turned the power off at the wall socket, waiting a few minutes, and tried turning the computer on again. Still nothing.
How strange. In my naievete, I would have expected the computer to have at least bleeped or something even  if it was on the way out....  After a few rants and raves about the handful of new files being lost since the last backup, and the lack of money to buy a new desktop computer  in light of DH's uncertain status at work  at present, I consoled myself with the thought that DH would be travelling home this evening and would no doubt have a look at it before pronouncing it dead.

Later in the evening, my beloved arrived home. After making him supper and a cup of tea, I mentioned the apparently defunct computer.  He pressed the button, and nothing happened. We turned off the mains power etc again, and tried  again. Nothing. DH found a spare power cable and we tried plugging that into the back of the computer.

Whirr, Beep. And there was Life !

So we had now tracked the problem to the power cable, which we could replace.  The computer is on a desk in the corner of the room, and changing a cable involves some poor soul lying on his/her back on the floor, feeding cables through an inch wide gap , so it is not for the faint-hearted. DH changed into his old clothes, knowing there would be dust etc in the darkest recesses of the cabling  junctions, and set to work, pulling in the old cable from the computer through the spaghetti tangle of wires.

"Goodness", he said, "the cable is quite badly kinked. Most likely that's the problem."
 He followed the cables back  behind the children's huge craft box to the multi-socket extension power cable leading to the main socket in the wall, and there was a shout. He had indeed found the problem, and he held out a battered, much-chewed and loved bone.

The dog likes to sit/lie on the children's craft box,  and always has done, for some bizarre reason.  He had obviously dropped the bone behind the craft box and had been scrabbling/pawing at the cables to pull the bone out again, and in doing so, had partially dislodged the power cable from the electrical socket.
 No wonder the computer wouldn't work; it wasn't receiving power from the mains ! And nothing short of a miracle that the dog hadn't electrocuted himself in the process !

The dog was by now happily bouncing around the room clutching his beloved bone in his jaws, with his tail wagging as though he had just won the Lottery. DH and I were profoundly relieved that the dog was okay and that the computer lives on to fight another day.

Although we have our web-books, I find that I cannot use mine for long periods of time as the screen is only 7 inches wide, and  as the problems with my sight become worse, I am finding that I especially need the large 17 inch monitor screeen  for any detailed/complex tasks.

DH is now officially my superhero . As for Basil, he is indeed the Dog of Doom, and obviously has at least nine lives :-)
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Catching My Breath

This week has been whistle-stop. Mind, most of my weeks feel whistle-stop at the moment. As I said to one dear friend this morning, I feel very much like a feather bobbing up and down in a veritable Tsunami wave.....

The girls have been busy in school, and at work respectively,  and I have been much occupied in dealing with Mum's affairs and looking after Mum herself.

Things have been considerably easier on an emotional level, as Mum really has been like her old self from way before my brother was ill - laughing, joking, teasing the carers, taking a real interest in what's going on around her, rather than being a very unhappy automaton in a bed. She seems to be able to cope much better without the supplemental oxygen on all the time now, but there again, she is now totally bedbound and moving little, so her activity levels require little oxygen, I suppose.

Then I look at her, with her knees being the widest part of her legs, having no control over her eliminatory functions and looking so much like a little doll dressed in outsize clothes, and then the harsh reality strikes home hard, that this is possibly only a very temporary lull before her condition deteriorates further.

 But we are determined to make the most of it and enjoy it while it lasts ! We have got her watching a portable DVD player, and she has enjoyed The King and I, as well as listening to various music CDs. She has asked me to order her the new Doris Day CD, and she is looking forward to receiving that one in due course.

Today, DH celebrates his birthday - Many Years, my dearest one!

It is also the year's mind for Les, the reposed husband of my very dear friend Laura; those of you on Facebook will likely recognise her in her persona as Babushka Laura. Please keep Laura, her family and Les in your prayers. On Monday will be the second jahrzeit for my dear brother Mark, an anniversary which has come round unbelievably quickly. He would have broken his heart to see Mum so frail and weak.....
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Weird and Wonderful...

I cam across a truly fascinating article the other day, over at the Jane Austen's World blog.
It is not for the faint-hearted, I suppose, but I was enthralled and somewhat creeped-out, all at the same time.......
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Friday, September 09, 2011

Birthdays, Shopping and Latest News

September is our busiest month for family birthdays; starting with DD2  then moving to Mr DoomHamster, my very dear son-in-law, who celebrates his birthday today :-)  closely followed by DH, then his mother 's birthday at the end of the month.
I've actually started my Christmas shopping early and have bought a few presents already, unlike last year. We are on an extremely tight budget this year, so it is going to be challenging fun to find appropriate and affordable presents for our widely disparate family !

Much of my time continues to be absorbed with Mum, who seems brighter in herself at the moment but is in a state of inexorable and relentlessly increasing physical frailty. This is causing her a great deal of mental and emotional distress and she is very tearful on occasions, and hating being dependent on others to care for her bodily functions.

This week has flown past, and the girls are really looking forward to the weekend off after a busy  but enjoyable first week back at school. I must admit, I am looking forward to the weekend too, with only household tasks to worry about and no alarm deadlines to meet for a change.....
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Recently Read

This first book was not one to simply read through like a novel; although an utterly fascinating book, it would have been far too indigestible . A few pages a day was all I could manage, but it really was a riveting look at the secret life of the classical recording industry, and also a list of the very best - and worst - recordings ever made. Great fun for anyone with an interest in classical music and musicians.

This charity shop bargain was a hardback, complete with dustwrapper and cost me all of 50p. Made my day, and the story was jolly good too :-)

Robbing the Bees was utterly wonderful, and definitely a keeper.  She outlines her own adventures as a beginning beekeeper, interspersed with visits to established beekeepers and businesses, describes how bees live and work, how honeycomb is processed into honey and the myriad uses (including medical) of the amazing foodstuff, culled from historical and modern sources. I love bees, and was really sad to reach the end of this book.

44 Scotland Street was great fun to read. A light-hearted but thoughtful insight into the lives of the people who live in flats at the eponymous house, it produces some wonderful characters, the most poignant of whom is the rising 5 year old boy Bertie, who is being relentlessly and cruelly hothoused by his awful , pushy mother. My herat ached for Bertie, and I was silently cheering him on in his acts of rebellion :-)

Greece On My Wheels is a re-read, but I enjoyed it immensely the second time round too :-) A pensioner cycling round Greece makes for good reading, even more so if you ignore the introductory drivel written by his son, the soi-disant comedian Harry Enfield.

I remember the Neil Boyd stories from my youth, but I never actually read this particular volume, Father Under Fire. Boyd was a RC priest for some time before being laicised, and these reminescences of his life as a curate  are delightfully irreverent in places but never actively unkind. Tragedies as well as episodes of great humour cover the whole spectrum of life rather neatly.

Strange as it might sound, Dark Winter was a comfort re-read. Gripping, terrifying plot involving terrorism and biological warfare, it is immensely well-written.

Dewey is also a re-read. It's a nice book, but much too long.

Firefight was an amazingly good recent purchase, and will certainly be meriting a re-read in the near future. A much more thought-provoking book than is usual for this genre, dealing with some of the more despicable aspects of recruiting spies, and how easily it can all backfire.........
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