Royal Garden Party!

I have been cordially invited to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

Eeeeeeeeeeeee! 🙂

Image credit Andrew James.

Image credit Andrew James.

Well, me and 8,000 of my closest friends who happen to also be lucky WI members. In honor of the WI’s 100th year, they’re throwing us a garden party at the palace, as they do. They last did this 50 years ago.

Because I can do nothing by halves, this will quite probably be my very first trip to London, as well. Nothing like jumping in at the deep end!

In searching online for images for this post (seeing as I don’t have any of my own yet!), I’ve just learned that these garden parties have “evolved into a way of rewarding and recognising public service. They are attended by people from all walks of life.” (source) They throw four a year: three at Buckingham and one at the palace in Scotland.

There’s a coach (charter bus) going, which the county WI is arranging, down and back the same day. My first instinct upon hearing about taking a coach down ((especially after my experience of it for the NFWI AGM in Cardiff a couple years ago, which took 6.5 hours instead of 4 hours by train)) was echoed by someone else when they said “You’d arrive like a wet lettuce!” Quite. The gates open at 3pm, so a single day is do-able from Derbyshire, but it’s all the pick ups along the way. You can get from Glossop to London by train in less than three hours; a coach picking up all over Derbyshire could take many hours longer. The fear of snarls of traffic on the motorway (traffic jams are a frequent occurrence, especially around London) is high enough for me to think they’re insane to think about making it a one-day trip, especially when going by road.

Trains also frequently have problems, something quickly forgotten once anyone no longer relies on them. I’ve not yet decided on train versus driving, but either way, I shall definitely be going down the day before and staying overnight. Then, if there are any problems getting there, I shall have enough cushion! Doing some arithmetic – not the real numbers, because I can’t be bothered to look them up, but a quick back of the envelope calculation – I realize how incredibly blessed and lucky I am to get this opportunity: I’m absolutely not going to throw it away by trying to cut the time too tight and wind up having something go wrong and arrive too late!

The palace throws four regular garden parties each year, each time inviting approximately 10,000 people. With about 60 million people in the UK, and not adjusting either of those figures (though I’m sure they both change over time), over 60 years (age 15 to 75 or so), a person would have a 4% chance of being invited to a Royal Garden Party. It’s not quite the 1%…!

For this garden party, each WI is to ballot to send one member to the do. Since there are 8,000 tickets and about 6,600 WIs, there are some further tickets distributed through other means. My own invitation is in recognition of my work for the county federation of WIs. It’s been interesting to see the different meanings that balloting has for the different WIs. Most of the time, ballot is taken to mean draw, and that’s what’s happened in many instances: those interested have put their names in a hat and one’s been chosen. In one WI I know of, which is only a few years old, they chose their founder member, saying she deserves to go, since she got them all together.

In another WI, a member who was around for the last garden party piped up to tell the story of an unnamed WI from that time. They did a draw, and wound up drawing the name of a member who’d already decided she wouldn’t be staying on with the WI much longer. ((I don’t know if she was leaving the whole WI, or if she was moving, so she was leaving that WI, or what.)) There were a lot of bad feelings, then, that this was the woman sent to represent that WI. The longtime member, who is well-versed in the rules, pointed out that a ballot is not a draw, but that ballot papers should be made up, and members should vote on who would go to represent the WI. Ballot papers were duly made.

So long as the members of that institute are happy with how it was chosen, it doesn’t matter how their method compares to others, of course – the same as all the other choices we make in how to run our institutes.

I’m thrilled that it’s happened that the three ladies I know who are going are all friends of mine – I must get them together so we can all talk about hats! 🙂

Anyway! I’m going to a Royal Garden Party! I’m excited! I’m just left with two questions — Whatever shall I wear? and Where do I find a hat?!

Crich Tramway Village (Part 1)

Just on the other side of the Peak District is the Crich Tramway Village, home of the National Tramway Museum. From the website: “Nestling on the edge of the Peak District this award-winning museum takes you on a mile-long scenic journey through a period street to open countryside with panoramic views over the Derwent Valley.” Tram enthusiasts started putting it together after a group of them went on a tour to see trams in different parts of the country, and discovered the serious state of decline many tram lines were experiencing. They found the home at Crich in 1959, and right away started buying up trams and storing them under cover.

Countryside, Woodland, and a Labyrinth, Oh My!


One day last week, I went with some of the members of Charlesworth WI for a visit. It’s only 40 miles away, but it took an hour and a half each way by private car (we went one way and came back another); the winding, narrow roads of the Peak District really impact speed. (As an aside, Google Maps is generally wrong on travel time by car in England. Sometimes not by much, as here; sometimes vastly so.) Thankfully, the view along the way is of pretty countryside. We set off around 10am and got there about 11:30.

Once we arrived, I split off to wander on my own, because that’s how I like to roll. The village has several attractions, but perusing the map, I saw it basically divided into the Woodland area and the townscape area. The entrance is about in the middle of the village, with the townscape to the left and the woodland to the right.

I took nearly 400 photos on this trip, and while you’re not going to see most of them (I nearly always take duplicates in case of blurring, for starters), there’s still quite a lot. So this entry will be in multiple parts – once it’s done, click here to see all the parts.

I decided to explore the Woodland first, while my feet (which have all sorts of issues that mean that they frequently hurt) were still fresh, and I could get the most out of it. I didn’t realize it would really be quite woodsy – I found myself dearly wishing I’d brought my bug spray!

Then I found a labyrinth!

That was the end of the woodland. It was about 1pm by now, so I was hungry for lunch. There were a couple of picnic tables here at the tram stop, so I decided to stop here and eat. Not the most scenic choice, but it was handy, and quiet, and bug-free as far as I noticed, and I even got a bit of shade.

Right, that’s as good a place as any to stop for now. Stay tuned for the next installments!

Poole’s Cavern

Last Wednesday, 9 July, I went to Poole’s Cavern with Glossopdale Women’s Institute. It’s well worth a visit – a great cave, good info from the guide, and really easy for those less mobile with not too many steps, and flagstoned walkways and handrails throughout. I borrowed Chris’ camera because it has an infrared setting, so I could take pictures in the low light of the cave.

We had an early start; we set off about 8:30am. We were trying to beat the rush – apparently every school in the High Peak decided to take its kids to tour that cave that very day. Schools tend to start later here than what I’m used to, more like 9am than 7, so we got there for when the cave opened at 9, and got the first tour, and just were vaguely aware of the first lot of kids being around. Phew.

Pictures from the cave …

It’s been awhile since I did one of these gallery things – remember to click on the first photo and then use the right arrow on the right side of the screen to see each picture one by one, and the full caption I’ve written at the bottom.

After the cave, we split into three groups – convenient, since we’d come in 3 cars and all. One lot went off hiking up the hillside over the cave. I’d have liked to join them, but since I’d dressed for the 45F/7C cave, it worked out for the best that I didn’t; I was sweltering before too long without exertion. I shall drag Chris and we’ll hike that woodland another time (and I’ll dress less warmly!). Another lot went off to a fine lunch at the Old Hall Hotel. My carload wandered off to the Buxton Pavilion Gardens for a compromise between the two: a stroll instead of a hike, and a light lunch instead of a fine lunch.

Pictures from Buxton Pavilion Gardens …

All in all, a lovely day out!

Why I’m disillusioned with the NFWI, Part 1: Conferences and Resolutions

This is another post to point people at later. I’m sure I’ll be adding other things as I think of/come across them, so I’ve pre-emptively numbered this.

The so-called “Conferences” …

I went to Chester on 19 March 2014, on behalf of the president of one of my WIs, who couldn’t attend, to an NFWI (National Federation of Women’s Institutes) event. They put on this series of days across the country, about a dozen, that they called Information and Inspiration Days, and alternately, “Inspiring Women Conferences.” I have very limited experience with conferences, but the math conferences I’ve presented papers at were wonderful opportunities to connect and really communicate with others: to learn about things going on in the field, in the area, etc. They’d said the trustees would be at this event in Chester – those are the members who run the national level of the WI. I had these visions of us breaking into smallish groups, each with a trustee, and really discussing and hashing over issues that we face at each level of the organization, coming up with ideas, giving real feedback to national, and that sort of thing.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. They stood on a stage and read to us. The stop I went to was about halfway through their list – so they’d done this about half a dozen times already – and they were still at the stage of reading every word to us. They didn’t engage us at all, they spent the whole day hyping up the “Open Forum” at the end, which turned out to be a whopping TWENTY MINUTES, and they only spouted all the information that’s already been made available – I learned nothing new. THEY COULD HAVE EMAILED IT!!! Such a massive waste of everyone’s time and money – I was FIVE HOURS in the car and 11 hours gone from the house for this crock.

I don’t know why I dreamt that national would finally engage, interact, and listen to us members. This is one of my problems with the organization, and a huge factor for why I won’t do more than be a member: the higher the office, the bigger the blinders and lack of engagement with the members seems to be. Even some presidents suffer from the blinders: at lunch, one woman asked me which WI I was president of (the invitation had been issued for “the president or her representative”); when I replied that I wasn’t president, she hastily beat a retreat – so as to not be contaminated by my mere member cooties, it seemed.

The Resolution Process …

May is the resolution meeting, and we’re to discuss the national public affairs resolution (occasionally others get tacked on, too – last year, there were constitutional amendments to discuss). Here is the process:

  • Members are supposed to submit prospective resolutions almost a year in advance.
  • A few months after that, county federation representatives and national federation representatives meet to shortlist the proposed resolutions to usually about 8 or less to pass along to us mere members to vote on.
  • In December, we vote on the short list, generally choosing one (sometimes two) we’d like to see go forward. All the votes are tallied – each individual vote is added up across the entire NFWI.
  • Based on those results, in May, we’re given an even shorter list – one or two, depending on how the votes fell (a closer vote between the top two is likely to see two go forward). We then vote on each one, separately. If there’s more than one resolution proposed in May, it’s not an either-or. On each resolution, we individually vote either For, Against, Abstain, or to Let the Delegate Decide after she’s heard the arguments for and against at the national AGM. The majority vote in the WI decides the WI’s vote, which the link delegate ((The delegate represents a number of WIs, which are linked through her, so she is the link delegate. Four is the norm in Derbyshire at the moment, though last year some represented three and some five – it depends partly on geography. Other numbers have been experimented with in the past and likely will in the future.)) casts at the national AGM.
  • There’s a big song and dance put on at this meeting of having the proposer say a few words, then a seconder, and then an expert speaks in support of the resolution, and after all these positive remarks we get one expert who speaks against the resolution, and then there are questions from the floor for the two experts, and then the chair asks for the vote.

The NFWI is keen to tell us that we’re not voting in December, that we’re selecting instead, and the voting happens in May; this was one of the points our chair was using up that 20 minutes of Q&A in Chester to make. Sounds like hogwash to me: it’s two rounds of voting, plain and simple. A primary and a runoff.

The resolutions which are passed form the basis of campaigns. As the largest voluntary organization for women in the country, the NFWI has some power, and certainly manages to get things done on a national level. The campaign work subsequent to our resolution about honeybees is credited by the Bee Minister (yes, there is one) as quite a substantial reason behind the money found for research into pollinators, including bees. Our Care Not Custody campaign has helped spawn pilots in 20 locations across the country to address the mental health issues of criminals, instead of simply locking them up and forgetting about them. And so on. There’s more here if you’re curious. So yes, lots of good work is done.

That said, in my four years so far, they’ve avoided anything controversial, and have worded the proposed resolutions so that any that make it to May are essentially guaranteed to pass. They hit a snag in 2011, when the wording of one was so bad that a member at the NFWI AGM moved to move on without voting on that matter, and got an overwhelming yes answer from the delegates. I noticed that by the time I was link delegate in 2013 (and I suspect before that), the rules had been changed in several places to keep that from ever happening again. Because, of course, the mere members mustn’t do anything but rubber stamp what national wants to do.

Oh, and as for the members supposed to be putting the resolutions forward? Technically, yes, that’s true, but I noticed that most of the ones we see in December in the last two years have been put forward by the chair of the Public Affairs Committee. Yes, she is a member, but that isn’t really the democratic, member-led process they harp on about, at that point. Part of the problem is that the process to put a resolution forward is massively time-intensive, which puts most people off. There’s no reason at all why it should be a process of anything more than writing out the proposed resolution itself in an email or on a postcard and sending it to national by a certain date. Anything beyond that is purposefully exclusionary. One of the things required is to produce explanatory guidance of the pros and cons of the proposed resolution: No. Our subscriptions (dues) pay a staff of 40, and the pros and cons never fill more than one (A4) page (and that only if they make it to May!) – they can produce that.

So yes, the resolution process is another thing I’m disillusioned with about NFWI. It isn’t truly member-led when the paperwork required puts people off; it isn’t truly democratic when you structure it this way. The first and last steps are merely representative democracy, with only the second step being actually democratic – at which point it hardly matters what we vote for. The song and dance you do at the AGM is an insult to any individual possessing a brain – the votes have all been cast, quit wasting time trying to persuade us one way or another. If you really want us to hear what your experts have to say, put it on YouTube before we vote in May. Quit calling December’s thing a selection as though that’s any different from a vote – you’re only trying to exert power because you can, rather than doing anything useful.

I know I’m not alone in my disillusionment of the resolution process – this year we had 77,071 members vote in December out of 212,000: about 36%. Fix it, NFWI; that’s what your power is for.

DFWI Craft Dabble Day

It’s been a crazy busy week. I’ve finally recovered – after about 12 hours of sleep last night and a down day today. What have I been up to?

Sunday and Monday were spent working on a project which may or may not bear fruit; I shall let you know if it does. Tuesday’s more interesting – it was a WI (pronounced “double-you eye”) Craft Dabble Day, arranged by the county (Derbyshire Federation of WIs, DFWI). They set up various tables in a large room, and a person gives tutoring at each table in a different little project, letting you dabble in a particular craft. This one was in Chinley, just a few miles away, and turned out to be well-attended, with all the student spots at each table full the whole day through.

Click for more …
20140520_144657 20140520_144705

This was my first trip to Chinley; it’s far bigger than I’d imagined. Quite a nice small town. Being May, it was full of flowers, of course.


We were amused to see the police were ready for us, as evidenced by this notice just outside the hall…


Inside, we found 5 wonderful tutors – most I already knew, and was surprised to see their hidden talents – who helped us create some fun and interesting things.

These are the four I made. I went to Heather Vickers’ table first, because she is an expert craftswoman, and I wanted to be sure to have a go at whatever she was offering (she can do just about every craft under the sun). She had dry needle felting, which was a lot of fun to do. We could make a brooch or a little picture – I opted for a little landscape picture, attempting something of a Derbyshire landscape (with the purple heather on the hills). Not something I’d take up, but it was fun to do – you just stab your barbed needle over and over again, trying not to stab yourself.


After that, I headed to another familiar face – Pat Jones of Simmondley WI was showing us how to make pin cushions in tea cups. My pin cushion keeps rolling all around, most annoyingly, so I think I’ll actually use this technique – but I’ll make one into a mug, so it doesn’t have a narrower bottom than top, to help it stay put. Also, dainty teacups aren’t my style.

Last before lunch, Maggie Bristow of Sparrowpit WI showed us how to make the decorated little box. These would be great for small gifts at Christmas, etc, and really didn’t take any time at all to make.


We’d brought packed lunches, and they’d set up tables and chairs for us to use as the fit took us. I lunched with a group of ladies from Simmondley WI (which I used to belong to, before I decided three WIs was really too much) and Glossopdale WI together. I like helping them mingle together – the human tendency to stick with people you already know is deeply entrenched, after all.

After lunch, I managed to grab a seat at the cardmaking table. Sheila Berry had a variety of options on offer, and initially I’d decided to do all three. I started with that card you saw up there – the front of it. On the back were a bunch of dots, and I poked each dot out with a needle. The drawing in the middle was already done, and then I just cut the outside edge and stuck it onto a piece of card to complete it. Yes, you read that right: I poked out each dot, one at a time, by hand. The whole time, I couldn’t help but think, “There must be machines that do this!” I’m never doing it again. (Also, whoever I send that card to had better feel mighty special!) But hey, now I know that’s not for me, without having had to buy anything to give it a go. By the time I finished that piece, my head was killing me from having been bent over to do it, so we just talked over the other options, and she happily told me how to go about doing those other things – which I can pursue another day.


The only thing I didn’t get to try was the crocheted brooches. I haven’t a clue how to knit, crochet, or anything like that; I may well have given it a go (I hadn’t decided), since that’s what the day was about. My raging headache and the level of frustration one of my companions was having with it, though, put me off, I must say. She had nothing but praise for the tutor – just that she couldn’t get it. She’s decided she’ll get on YouTube and figure it out and conquer it, though.

All in all, it was a lovely day, and I was really glad I’d gone!

A canal walk around Uppermill

On Wednesday, I went with some of the members of my WI for a walk alongside the canal near Uppermill, a town in Saddleworth, Oldham, Greater Manchester. It’s a beautiful place, very much like the High Peak, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I snapped a whole lot of photos, and wanted to share some with you.

My last photo-heavy post got no comments, and I suspect that it took so long to load that everyone gave up on it. This time I’ve resized all the photos, so it should load quicker, and added a link in each caption to the full size photo, should you want a closer view of anything. I really hate squinting at a small photo, trying to make something out, that would be dead easy to see if only the full size photo was available. This is the best balance I can think of at the moment. Please let me know how it works for you.

Photos incoming …

Remember to click on a photo to see it a bit bigger, and also to be able to read the whole caption.

And then we came home – I was worn out! I totted it up; we’d covered 4 miles in all – not bad!

An Amish Experience

I’d thought today’s WI meeting would be very hard. I had to go, though: my strongest memory of Phyllis is of her shaking her finger at me and telling me that I mustn’t miss any more meetings, after I’d missed a few in a row following some unpleasantness a few years back. That meant the world to me – knowing that, despite the unpleasantness, and my fear that my adversary had poisoned my friends and acquaintances against me, in fact I was still liked and my company was still desired by some, at least. Since then, I’ve fitted back in, and it’s a rare meeting where I get a chance to visit with everyone I’d like to. It’s a feeling of belonging, which has been entirely too rare in my life. I shouldn’t treat it lightly, and such things need nurturing. No, I shouldn’t miss these meetings willy-nilly.

So, off I went this morning – after a too-short night, as is almost always the case on these WI Days. I was interested to hear the speaker, as well as wanting to see my friends. His talk was entitled “An Amish Experience,” and since I know very little about the Amish, this promised to be informative and interesting. (I always love learning – not school with its tests and stupidity, but learning for its own sake.)

Wherein I provide more entertainment than the speaker (to some) …

After setting up his slides (actual slides, not a powerpoint presentation), our speaker began. He explained that his daughter’s lived in America for a number of years, and when she lived an hour’s drive away, they went to visit Amish country as an afternoon out. After she moved to upstate New York, his sister went with him to visit once, and she wanted to see Amish country – now some 300-odd miles away, so “not an afternoon job.” (He said the actual number, but I forget it now.) Then he told us about that trip down to Amish country – they stayed three nights – and showed us photos. Many of the photos came from post cards and brochures, so I imagine they were actors, but it gives you something to show what it’s like, so fair enough.

I’d arrived last, and grabbed a chair at the back of the room. Our speaker stood up and faced us at the beginning, to give the prologue, but the room’s situated such that any sort of projector needs to be placed about halfway back, in the midst of the crowd, so speakers often end up sitting there, facing the front, to change the slides. Thus, he couldn’t see my face; mercifully, I didn’t need to try to keep a poker face – always an incredible challenge for me. My face is incredibly expressive (it always has been), which is a blessing and a curse, like most things in life. It’s a blessing in that I don’t have to find the words to convey so very many things: sorrow, sympathy, glee, pleasure; the whole lot. It’s a curse because I give away what I’m thinking right there on my face, which is sometimes troublesome. Ho hum, it’s part of me, and always shall remain so, I imagine.

So he started to talk about their trip. He said 300-odd miles is a long way, so he rented one of these people-carriers for it: a seven-seater, with three rows of seats. He showed us a photo of a minivan. Finally! I’ve always wondered what the heck Which? has been calling a people-carrier or MPV (multi-person vehicle) — silly me, I thought that was basically anything other than a small motorcycle — and now I finally know! Anyway, so he and his daughter swapped the driving, and they rode up front*; his wife had one row of seats to herself, and his sister had another row of seats to herself. Because 300-odd miles is a long way.

(*My parents took us on many road trips when we were growing up, and they remain part of the fabric that is me: one of my great loves. I see the eminent sensibility in their system, though, that if you can arrange it, put the driver who’s resting in the back, as far away from being able to watch the road as you can. I find myself doing the same that they did way back then: when I’m not driving, I find myself watching the road just the same as when I am. Means you get no mental rest from driving if your off time is in the front passenger seat. This system of my parents’ also meant us kids learned how to read road maps early and well, so I advocate it to all.)

Three hundred-odd miles is a long way in Britain, mind: the congestion and crowding makes travel here massively more exhausting than the same distances in the US. Three hundred miles here would surely be a very long, hard day – akin to those crazy people I occassionally checked in to my hotels who’d made it 1000 miles in a single day. I’m gently mocking, however, because the speaker obviously discovered the difference himself: he put up a view of the road and said, “I’ve only put this one in to make you jealous. When was the last time you saw a British motorway with only one other car in sight?” About 1950, I imagine, if motorways (interstates, kind of) even existed then. I’ve always tried to tell my friends and family that driving in the US is vastly different from driving in the UK. I think the only ones who’ve understood have been the ones who’ve done both.

Anyway, our speaker went on to tell us that the speed limit was 65mph, and he dared not exceed it – it’s enforced by aircraft, radar, etc. Signs positively litter the highways in that part of the country warning about aircraft-controlled and radar-controlled speed limits, which are actually worded quite silly so always made Chris and I laugh. Our speaker told us that when a cop pulls you over in America, the first thing they do is get out of their car and get their gun out! So he would only go 63 or 64; he wasn’t keen to argue with a cop and his gun. His daughter would push it, having discovered that a smile and a British accent go a long way. “They love us there; we’re their biggest allies.”

I’m afraid my eyes rolled so hard they fell on the floor when he told us that American cops pull their gun on every speeding car they pull over. I swear I have a magnet inside me that makes cops catch me every time I speed – so I don’t anymore, but in my younger days I got pulled over quite a bit. Y’know, I’ve never had a single gun pulled on me. Methinks the speaker has been watching too many episodes of COPS.

It was about this time that the ladies around me realized that, as they announced loudly later, watching me was more entertaining than watching the slides, and they proceeded to do so, telling the others around them (who couldn’t see me) what expressions I’d made. At one point I had to shush them and tell them to let the man talk!

So the man carried on, choosing to not be bothered at all by the ruckus behind him. It was interesting to see how much gets misinterpreted. He thought the motel they’d stayed in was quite sizeable because the parking lot photo he’d taken showed a parking space numbered 122. Brits are used to numbering from 1, rather than the coded system Americans are used to, with a block number prefixing the house number, or a floor number prefixing a room number. Room 122 in an American motel is likely to be the 22nd room (or 21st, if they’ve skipped 13) on the ground floor, and this was just one story high; from what I could see in the photo, 20-odd rooms looked about right to my somewhat-practiced eye. I remember the hotel in Cardiff last year had what I’ve just called American coding of room numbers (floor number plus room number, so room 122 would be the 22nd room on the first floor), but I think they don’t expect that coding when it’s all on one floor, probably because the ground floor isn’t the first floor, it’s floor zero. The first floor is one above the ground floor.

He also believed the horses and buggies had their own lane on the main roads through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, saying they’re like the bicycle lanes we get here. Actually, that was the shoulder. The road markings are different: the solid white line at the edge of the road in the US always means it’s the edge of the road, it has a variety of different meanings here – like that demarcation of the cycle lane.

He also didn’t understand that the orange triangles on the backs of these buggies are a general requirement for slow-moving vehicles in many states, including things like motorized farm tractors; the state law mandating it wasn’t necessarily put in place specifically for these buggies.

Despite these few misunderstandings, he had a lot of interesting, informative stories and facts to share with us about the Amish, and was a good, engaging speaker, so I do highly recommend him and won’t spoil his talk by telling you what all he said, in case you’re a local reading this who might want him to come to your group. During the meat of his talk, thankfully I quit being so entertaining, and the others focused on him.

Towards the end, though, he told us of getting some pies from the farmers’ market just before they headed back out again. One was “just plain apple” and one was strawberry and rhubarb, and he’s never found that combination so good ever since. I was surprised the apple pie was plain – that’s the British way, not the American way (Americans tend to bake in cinnamon, for a start), but perhaps it did have the usual spices and he simply glossed over that point. He then told us that, though the Americans seem so forward in so many ways, they’ve never heard of custard!, which is what he likes to have with his apple pie. Of course, we have heard of custard – we call it pudding, and it is delicious. Most of us, thankfully, haven’t heard of the foul yellow goop he’s talking about, which bears absolutely no resemblance to custard. I never call it custard; I always refer to its brand name, Bird’s, because that’s what it is. It’s mixed from a powder that comes in an envelope labeled Bird’s, and that’s all we can really be sure of. His daughter had a large supermarket near her with an entire aisle given over to the “Best of British” food, though, where she’d found this abomination. My face was wrinkled with absolute disgust the entire time (not too long) he spoke about that strange yellow concoction, to much hooting laughter from those around me.

On that supermarket aisle, the daughter had also found Yorkshire Tea, and was grateful for that, because American tea is quite foul – this is very true. When Chris and I visit the US, we take our own tea with us, much to the bemusement of those we visit.

The laughter was spreading now, to the other end of the room. The speaker finally acknowledged all this disruption by saying that he hoped there were no Americans present. He received a chorused, “Yes,” and said something like “Oh.” Over the ensuing roaring laughter, I tried to project my voice, to put him back at his ease, by assuring all and sundry that yes, American teabags are quite foul. I left the discussion of Bird’s for smaller conversations later.

I thanked him before he left for a welcome trip down memory lane. I hope he wasn’t too bothered by the hidden American in the room; it was great fun for me. He was a dear; we talked briefly about the incomprehensible-to-British-minds heat that summertime in the Southern US brings (he does talks on the US Civil War, as well, and was blown away by the weather they were dealing with). I told him every August I’m exceedingly grateful to be here, not there!

Bits and pieces of life

I’m afraid you get no Travel Tuesday post today. On the bright side, my Glossop Events are all caught up, at long last! Perhaps I’ll do better and not let it get so far behind that it takes 12 solid hours to catch it up next time…. hah, that was nice wishful thinking.

Dribs and drabs …

In good news, Chris is making progress with his twitter post scheduler for me, so I should soon take far less time to schedule the twitter posts. The best option I’ve found so far takes at least 90 seconds to reload between each tweet – when it doesn’t spaz out and go blank and require me to relogin and start from scratch, which is a good 4 minute delay. This stretches out the job rather unnecessarily. And yes, this does mean the other options I’ve found were actually worse; topping that list is TweetDeck, Twitter’s own app. Thankfully, I have a Chris who’ll write me something that works properly, paring this job down for me immensley. I’m also developing a better system myself – good ol Excel to the rescue.

There’s an archery course starting next month in town, which I’m giving serious thought to taking up. It’s not that dear, and I’ve always wanted to take up archery. No idea where I’d have to go to continue playing with a bow and arrow – probably somewhere I’d have to drive to. Really need to focus on getting that UK car sorted out.

We had sunshine yesterday – all day! I made the most of it, enjoying my walk down to the post office to mail a package, to the store to pick up bread, and back home again – about four miles in all. That’s more than I’ve done in awhile; the dreary days of winter turn me into such a hermit. Happily, I’ve noticed it doesn’t go full dark now til about 4:30, instead of about 3:45, as it was doing. Hooray, longer days are a-coming!

We got some daylight-spectrum light bulbs recently to try to improve the light in our home. They go in any lamp with a screw or bayonet cap just like ordinary light bulbs, but the light is supposed to be much more close to the sun’s rays. Apparently sunlight is blue, because these bulbs are blue – and it does, in fact, match the daylight that comes through the window those precious few hours a day. It also gives much better color accuracy than our old lights, which are quite yellow: with the yellow lights, I can’t actually tell apart the gold and silver coins of the realm, should I need to do any change-wrangling at night. With the blue daylight ones, I can. So, win. But the blue trips me out in the floorlamp, so the one behind my computer stays a daylight bulb, and for now we switch the light bulb in the floorlamp between the blue one during the day (when it really works as an extra window, giving us that extra daylight) and a yellow one at night.

I’ve finally just about devised an Excel workbook that works for me for a budget. I’ve been trying for years, and finally the one I used in 2013 worked. I’ve improved it a bit, linking things up and so forth, but I think it finally works. At last! I looked back through old ones for some reason recently, and I was horrified by the first few stabs. It’s crossed my mind to make a blank version (of the good one, obviously) to post online in case it’s helpful for others, but it’s so personalized to what your exact bills are, I’m not sure that’ll work. A sample might be easier to do. Hm.

Tomorrow’s WI Day for me: a meeting in the morning and a meeting in the evening. We have seven WIs in Glossopdale, and five have their meetings today, tomorrow, or the next day. I’ll never understand why they didn’t spread them out more. Ho hum. Anyway, my usual day is generally shifted later than most peoples’, so a meeting that starts at 9:30am means a rather early morning for me. I am looking forward to seeing my friends, and also to this speaker. Faye Hartley is going to tell us about the old Finlay McKinlay’s, the old chemist shop (pharmacy) in the centre of town. I’ve heard so many little dribs and drabs about that place over the years; it’ll be nice to have one coherent talk. The speaker at the evening meeting will be sharing his experiences of being a mystery shopper; I missed the meeting when he spoke to my other WI, but heard rave reviews of his talk, so I look forward to that, as well.

I’ve recently dropped from being a member at three WIs to two. I found my attendance was very spotty at all of them, and realized it was that I was, essentially, doing the same thing over and over again. The format’s the same at all of these: a speaker for about 40% of the meeting, business for about 40% of the meeting, and informal chatting (and tea, you mustn’t forget the tea!) for about 20% of the meeting. The business is largely the same from one local WI to another – though when we have discussions, such as for the resolutions in May, it’s interesting to hear the different focuses the different groups take. The speakers make the rounds, so I have heard several speakers twice and some three times (and skipped some meetings just to not hear that speaker a third time). Because my attendance was spotty at the monthly meetings, it was spotty on group outings (since you sign up for those at the monthly meetings). The outings are where you really bond and spend time with the fellow members – where you make and maintain friendships. Since making and keeping friends is my primary reason for joining, I decided I needed to have less spotty attendance – and the only way I see myself actually doing that is to have less feeling of doing the same thing over and over!

Thursday night will be my book club meeting. I finished the book ages ago; I hope I can remember it well enough to discuss it properly! It was An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge. It was just okay; I wouldn’t recommend bothering with it. We’ve been struggling a bit lately to think of books to read; this one came out of my Book Lover’s Companion: What to Read Next. If you have any suggestions, please do tell me!

Anyhoo, off to bed for me!

Travel Tuesday: Denman College

Welcome to a new series, Travel Tuesday, wherein I share photos from our outings. Most will be daytrips (since that’s what we do the most – we do like our comforts of home); some will be longer. Some will be multi-part. I hope to post this at least most Tuesdays.

For this first one, I’ve decided to share the photos from my trip to Denman in April & May last year. These are mainly of the grounds, because I did manage to look around a bit in the mornings before class started, but otherwise, as you’ll recall from my year in review post, I generally looked like this:

I was at Denman for a week of sewing with the fabulous May Martin. I looked like this a lot. - 1 May 2013
Click for photos …

There was a long train trip, but it was pretty boring countryside, to be honest, and none of the few photos I took came out, so just imagine 3 hours’ worth of fields to start with. Oh yes, the one interesting thing was that there were less dry stone walls and more hedges. Right, so three hours’ worth of hedged fields. And then…

(Remember to click on any photo to start the slideshow.)

My favorite pair of photos out of those are these two:

20130502_083544 20130502_084848

What a difference the angle makes!

And then it was home sweet home. 🙂

My week so far

Having just read this interesting post about challenges some bloggers have faced and their advice for others, I’m strangely inspired to write something.

Must confess, I suffer from many of the fears they mention – wondering if what I have is worth sharing, performance anxiety, etc. I’ve decided I need to just get on with posting anyway – it’ll undoubtedly be useful to me as a record, at the least!

One aim I have with this is to keep friends and family updated on my doings, so I’ll do that in this one. I have something on most days this week (versus last week, where I gloriously barely left the house – I really am such a homebody at heart). Between social functions, I’ve mostly been toying with my calendar as I find yet more sources of events to include on it. It started out with I’d just include things as I came across them; now I’m slightly addicted, seeking out local groups’ and venues’ websites to include their listings on mine. D’oh.

Click for more …

Then I started tweeting about upcoming events. I laid in bed one night, before dropping off to sleep, realizing that that might be annoying some of my followers who aren’t local to me. True, that’s not very many, really, but it also struck me that the opposite might be true – if I tweet about events, people might only want that information, and not my oh-so-clever observations as well. So, I’ve created a separate twitter account (@GlossopEvents) from which to tweet about upcoming events. For now, I’m just tweeting about things happening in the next 24 hours or so, mostly, and retweeting others’ event tweets as I see them. Not sure if another format will work better. I imagine my followers (my event twitter has followers, woohoo!) will tell me if they think of a better format.

I really need a better icon for that account, but I can’t think of anything. Do tell me if anything occurs to you. (The current icon is the front of the Market Hall.)

So what else have I been up to? Sunday afternoon found me at The Oakwood (pub) covering the time broker slot for Glossop’s time bank. We have two time brokers, and two more (including me) who are “time brokers light” – we can do most of the time broker’s jobs, but not necessarily all of it (only the time brokers can check IDs for DBS checks, for example). One time broker was at work, and one was out of town – I made the mistake of calling it on vacation before I found out he was going camping. Poor thing. That’s not vacation at all!

They don’t say out of town here. They say away. As in, “I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m away then.” I really dislike away when used this way. I’m not entirely sure why – it’s just a word, like any other word, and in other contexts I don’t mind this word. Perhaps one day I’ll figure out why I dislike it so much; til then I’ll just keep translating it and using different phrases back to them. I also hate holiday when they mean vacation. I always want to tell them (and sometimes do, depending on the conversation at the time) that holiday means Christmas, Easter, etc. But then, the British are nothing if not overloaders of words (people who give words far more than one meaning) – some time I should actually count up all the definitions I’ve found them to have for the word brilliant.

Anyhoo, so I went to that. No one turned up to see me, for which I was actually grateful. I have this ongoing mystery sinus malaise (since March), and finally saw a specialist for it a fortnight or so ago; since then, I’ve been permutating different medicines to try to get a better handle on what helps and what doesn’t. It’s made me feel more and more lousy, and I actually felt quite, quite ill that afternoon. Chris came and sat with me the last hour, actually, which was good of him.

After my shift ended, we decided to go see how our favorite restaurant, Thai To Go, looks after its refurbishment – it’s lovely! I had my very first glass of proper iced tea in this country that wasn’t made by myself or Chris – and it was yummy, to boot! They’re selling it as lemon iced tea. I’m vastly amused I’ve had to go to a Thai restaurant to get something I associate with Southern American.

20130908_ThaiToGo DSCF4391

When we left the restaurant, the skies were very moody. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but it looks cool in its own right, so I’ll share it with you.

There was crafting Sunday night – jointly with Chris and I – which was good. More on that in another post.

Monday morning, a friend of mine came over and we crafted together. She’s very busy, and we’d struggled to find time to see each other, til I came up with this idea of combining seeing each other with crafting, since she’s into lots of different crafts, and I always have something that needs mending or altering or something in my pile. I actually remembered how to do the stitch May taught me back in May at that class, a sort of hand blind stitch thing, to alter the front of a top I have. I’m almost done with that bit; next up I’ll be adding beads to that top. Fall’s definitely arrived – or perhaps winter – and with it motivation for me to finally get my warmer clothes sorted out. It was lovely to see my friend; I always enjoy our chats.

Monday evening I discovered my online order for grocery delivery from Sainsbury’s had been cancelled. (I do an online order once a month, to help reduce the amount of shopping I have to lug.) I’d not ordered from them before, but I’d gotten a coupon so I’d given it a try. I actually had coupons from three of them for the same week, so I pulled up all three and did my shopping at each one to see which would be cheaper. As I expected, they came out all very nearly the same, so I opted for the one with the biggest coupon. Anyway, turns out Sainsbury’s has some ill-thought-out policy about quantity you can order: if you order over 6 of any given item, you have to go through some “bulk order” process (I’m not sure what this entails) and order it a week in advance because, as the lady on the phone told me, “We’re not a warehouse.” Gosh, that cat food only comes individually – and she eats more than 100g (3oz) every 5 days! Righty ho, Sainsbury’s can carry right on not getting our money – not that I think they’ll notice.

Tuesday afternoon was Lunch Bunch – a certain group of 3 friends plus myself trade off hosting lunch every month or two. That was lovely, as always. The lady hosting this time had her daughter and five-month-old granddaughter there with us this time; thankfully the granddaughter was very happy and quiet most of the time. After a couple of hours she got quite fussy, so her mother took her home. It was nice to meet them, though. I do so enjoy Lunch Bunch. I hope to start another sometime, actually, because I think it’s a brilliant idea.

Today was a WI activity – Charlesworth WI went on a safari lunch. We had starters at one house, then a main course at another house, then dessert at another house. Well, actually, we broke into three smaller groups, so each group had its own house for starters and main course, and then we all converged to one house for dessert. I’ve decided that, while I see the practicality of it (preparing the whole meal yourself is a whole lot more work, to start with), I’m not keen on this idea of grazing all afternoon. I may give it another go to be sure – I really wasn’t in a social mood today, as happens sometimes for no particular reason, which I’m sure tainted my perception of things.

Tomorrow night there are three different things I’d like to go to – Simmondley WI’s meeting, my book club’s meeting, and the launch of Glossop Record Club – but my book club always wins when it conflicts with anything. This month we’re reading J.K. Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, which I must finish tomorrow. So far it’s been a decent read, though I’m not sure how much discussion we’ll get out of it!

The record club guy told me he hadn’t realized there was so much on on Thursday nights – I’m hoping my calendar becomes a useful tool for people trying to schedule things around town: I’m hoping I get enough on there (I don’t aim to include everything: that way lies madness) that they can fairly reliably use it to choose lesser-populated days – or where what is planned that day targets a different audience, at least. Fingers crossed!

Then I’ll have to get ready for Sunday – I’m looking forward to the Charlesworth & Chisworth Village Get Together! 🙂