Sunday, 15 July 2018

When time stands still...

At the beginning of the year, I threw down the gauntlet to my band of bellringers.
"Let's ring a Quarter peal each month during the year."
They gave me that look - the kind of look that says "Nice idea, but no chance!"

For the uninitiated, a Quarter Peal is approximately 40 minutes of continuous ringing and involves at least 1250 changes - a change involves all the bells sounding once. A full Peal of 5,000 changes, would take over 2 and a half hours of continuous ringing and is the equivalent of a marathon. A Quarter Peal is a quarter of a full Peal, and is more like a park run - a commendable effort that stops before exhaustion overwhelms the participants!

This evening we rang our Quarter Peal for July. Afterwards, I tallied up our quarters so far this year and discovered that it was our 9th in 2018!!
We have managed to ring one each month, 
except for February, when the weather was against us.

In March we managed two quarters -  even though snow lay on the ground on both days.
This was the scene when we arrived to ring the second of our March Quarters. By the time the evening service had finished, further snow had fallen, but not enough to be a major inconvenience!
I thought I would post this picture to remind you what cold weather looks like!

The Rector had asked if it would be possible to ring to mark the 20th anniversary of his Ordination on 12th July. Due to the business of life, this evening was the first opportunity.

As it was another swelteringly hot evening, I decided to take one of our fans from home.
It just fitted in the boot of the car.
Getting the fan up the spiral staircase was a challenge, as the stairs were only a little bit wider than the cross-shaped base of the fan.
Unfortunately, I took the one that no longer rotates.
Fortunately, there is a smaller fan in the ringing chamber to complete the Heineken effect - refresh the parts that other fans cannot reach...

We raised the bells, increasing the swing each time, until the bells could turn full circle.
"Do we need to alter any of the ropes?"
I looked at the clock. It was nearly a quarter to. Argh! Time was running out.
"Do we NEED to?"
It was decided that all the ropes were near enough the right length - ropes vary in length with the weather, shrinking when it is dry, and lengthening during damp weather.
Off we went. The first time quickly degenerated into a muddle. We reminded ourselves of the chosen method and started again.
We still had time to get the quarter - just...

After we had completed about 25% of the ringing I glanced at the clock.
It still said nearly quarter to.
"Gosh! We rang that fast!" I thought to myself.
Then I remembered that the clock had stopped last time we rang. This meant that we probably hadn't started ringing just before quarter to, but I had absolutely no idea what time we had begun ringing, what time it was now, or if we even had time to complete the Quarter! Ooops!

I took a few sneaky glances down at the church to see if I could ascertain how close we were to the time the service was due to begin. However, there weren't many people in. This was understandable as it was a very warm Sunday evening, which coincided with both the Men's Final at Wimbledon and the World Cup Final, so attendance would probably be a little lower than usual. No use relying on the number of persons visible below as a guide to how time was progressing. I pondered briefly, as to whether anyone would notice, if we didn't stop ringing before the service began...

On we rang, sweat dripping. Our hands grasping at the rough ropes, moving the bells into the pattern we had chosen to ring. Occasionally someone would make a mistake and the band would work together to sort out the order - ringing is great for teamwork!

We are encouraging the congregation to understand that the bells are there to ring out their celebrations - personal milestones, anniversaries and celebrations - as well as marking key points in the Ecclesiastical calendar and events of national importance.
Our ringing this evening celebrated Christ's resurrection - as it was rung on a Sunday,
the 20th anniversary of the Rector's ordination,
for the blessing of the wedding of a church member earlier in the day, who had got married abroad and for the 70th Anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service.
I already have a request for the quarter in June 2019!

I wonder what will we celebrate in August?

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Having a giraffe!

Rain was forecast in the afternoon, which was a great pity, as we had plans for Friday.
The weather appeared to have finally turned a little cooler after the exhausting heat of the last few weeks, which was a great relief! In fact, I was wondering if venturing forth minus an outer garment, was such a good idea, as there was a definite nip in the air first thing!

Despite the threat of rain we were keen to visit Worcester to follow the Giraffe trail - Worcester Stands Tall, which began a few of days ago.
It did not disappoint.
No sooner had entered the town centre, than we started spotting these strange and exotically decorated beasts, which were attracting quite a bit of interest.

We popped into the information centre - which we had never noticed before, despite it being situated bang next to the Guild Hall (the ornately decorated building behind the Giraffe on the right)  and on the main shopping street.
A map was purchased for a nominal fee - proceeds to the local hospice - which would assist us in our hot, but harmless, hunt. There is also an app, which we may well play with on a future visit, as the giraffes will be in situ for the summer, before being auctioned off with the proceeds going to charity.
We set off on our urban safari, and despite our best intentions to 'stick to a plan' were soon lured off into a shopping arcade by the sight of the smaller calves which were not on the map and had been decorated by local organisations.

Outside Debenhams, we discovered a fabulous mosaic-decorated beast, which was attracting quite a bit of interest. We spent some time admiring the quirky creativity of this design.

Bemused 'Bones' appeared seemed to be holding up the traffic at a crossroads, but maybe the chaos was actually caused by roadworks...

By the time we had reached this rainbow coloured giraffe by the racecourse, we were melting, as the temperature had rocketed up into the high twenties.
At this point, we had barely walked half a mile, but we were definitely wilting. So much for a cooler day!

We walked back towards the City Centre, past the inevitably bee-themed giraffe outside 'The Hive' - a gold-clad building that contains both the city and university libraries, as well as the county archives, in search of a cafe. Having located one, we sat outside, enjoying the breeze every time the doors opened into the world outside the arcade in which it was situated.

Meanwhile, the rain that was forecast, had evaporated out of sight. So we decided to visit some charity shops in search of cups and saucers, for another little project.

During our trawl of charity shops we found a variety of offerings, but none were quite what we were looking for. Just as we were admiring a posh set with gold trim and a golden price tag, the assistant pulled out a box containing a good selection of plain tableware with a wonderfully low price.
We wanted to visit the cathedral as we knew that there were giraffes in the grounds. As we didn't want to carry the tableware further than we needed to, we left the assistant searching for a box and bubble wrap, promising to collect the items on our way back to the car park.

The KHT had great fun following the giraffe footprints that had appeared outside the Cathedral

...especially when she discovered the spider...

The footsteps led us into the cathedral, past another giraffe....

...and towards the pink giraffe in the west window - which the KHT found easily.
If you look carefully it is just to the right of centre, at the top of the pointy shaped bit!

If those instructions left you confused, go and look for yourself!

We returned along by the river, which was sullenly and sluggishly flowing under increasingly leaden skies. A thunderstorm would have been a very welcome relief. The air was so heavy and humid that you felt you could reach out and wring the moisture out of it!

We collected the very well-wrapped goods, paid and added a donation because we were so pleased with our purchases.
Before we left the shop one or two items were removed from the box to make it easier to carry. For the journey home, it was placed carefully on the floor of the car, with a bag on top of it, to minimise shake, rattle and roll potential.

Heading home, we encountered a small queue of traffic travelling in the opposite direction.
An idiot in a dark saloon decided to take the opportunity to floor the accelerator and overtake the tractor which was the cause of the small queue.
Unfortunately, he didn't check that the road was clear first.
Fortunately, as we had crockery on board, we weren't travelling fast, but we still had to brake to allow him time to get back on his own side of the road in order to avoid a head-on collision!

How ironic it would that have been, if our carefully-wrapped bargain goods, became as broken as those used on the mosaic giraffe we had admired earlier!

Life is fragile. Handle with care.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A Crisis of Faith and Tinned Tomatoes

Dear Mr Tesco
Never again will I be buying your liquid soap. You see it is NOT like normal soap. Instead of neatly dispensing the required amount to enable a person to wash their hands in the appropriate place, it fires a dose at your person, like a heat-seeking rocket engaged in devious combat.


I have lost count of the number of floors I have cleaned and items of clothing that have been relaundered, just because your hand wash seems to be unable to fulfil the role it was assigned.

Enough is enough! I have consigned my partly used bottle to the cleaning cupboard, and replaced it with one purchased from a rival store, which does not appear to have a grudge against me.

Never again will I be tempted to buy Tesco's own handwash. No matter what the offer.

Yours very disappointedly
The Daff.


Dear Morrisons
Further to the tin of tomatoes, I purchased from your store at some point within the last six months. Due to the increase in the price of tins of toms I succumbed to temptation and purchased an alternative brand to Morrisons own, as it was cheaper. This was where my problems began - well not all my problems, just the ones that related to tinned tomatoes...

The other day, my wife - who is not the most practical of people - was attempting, unsuccessfully, to open one of these very tins.

My wife would be the first to admit that she is absolutely useless at opening tins with ring pulls. She attributes this inability to a 'crisis of faith', she doesn't believe they will open, and therefore she does not approach them with a bold attitude.

To compensate for this 'crisis of faith' she has purchased a simple gadget to help her open tins. This usually works - though I have a sneaky feeling that if I am not around, she just turns the tins upside down and uses a tin opener.

However, when she went to open the aforementioned tin of toms the other evening, she seemed to be encountering even more difficulty than usual, with the ring pull.

In view of the lack of success my wife was having opening this particular tin, I decided that a demonstration was required, so that my wife could see EXACTLY where she was going wrong.

Now, I do NOT have a 'crisis of faith'. I know that all that is required is to apply pressure consistently and the tin will open. With the above gadget it is a doddle. Nothing can possibly go wrong....

I positioned the gadget under the ring pull and applied force generously, to show the ring pull who was boss.

However to my complete surprise, instead of opening the tin, the ring pull launched itself across the room in an arc, landing at the foot of one of the dining chairs, leaving the tin still sealed, and my wife roaring with laughter!

If I didn't know better I might have suspected that she had anticipated this very outcome. Well, there was nothing for it, I had to use a conventional tin opener.

Please can you not stock tins with faulty ring pulls, as somehow they can make me the laughing stock of the household.
Yours sincerely,
Mr Daff
PS tea was very tasty though...


Dear Mr Tesco

I would like to point out that I never had any trouble with the liquid soap...but I have this feeling that if I were to make so bold a statement, it might backfire!

Yours sincerely

Mr Daff

Tuesday, 10 July 2018


I. Am. Melting.

The novelty of this warm weather has worn off and like most of the rest of the population, I am longing for some weather closer to average for the time of year. 21 degrees C would suit me fine. Anything above 24 degrees is too warm for me - unless I am beside the sea, where the sea breezes prevent the heat from overwhelming us.

Unfortunately, the nearest coast is several hours drive away, so we decided to head off to a nearby ford, where the KHT could enjoy some exploring. This is not a place to venture at the weekend in the summer, but on a meltingly hot Monday during term time it made the perfect destination.
One of the advantages of the KHT breaking up early was that we had the place to ourselves. True, there was a group of cyclists there when we arrived, but they soon rode off.

By some good fortune/flaw in the packing after our last visit to the coast, the KHT's beach shoes ended up coming home with us, instead of staying in the caravan as intended.  They were perfect for wearing in and around the stream and adjacent ford.

Some ducks came to see what they could scavange from our picnic, but as we had no food to offer,  they quickly swam away again.

Minnows were swimming in the stream. The KHT spent ages trying unsuccessfully to trap one in her bright green bucket. Maybe they could see the receptacle, for despite her best endeavours, success eluded her.

Meanwhile, we sat and watched the wildlife, as butterflies, and insects hovered and fluttered around.

And we observed the activity of the farm vehicles, as tractors drove past laden with soil, only to return empty a short while later, having deposited their load at some unknown destination. All very reminiscent of watching a colony of ants at work...

Other vehicles took the turning through the ford - which was the lowest we had ever seen it. Some drove forward hesitantly and cautiously - others fast and more reckless, ploughing through the small stream like a mighty ship upon the sea. Every time a vehicle drove through the ford the stream would go silent for a second, its flow disturbed by the vehicle's rude interruption, until it sorted itself out and continued the refrain.

Next, we headed off to a garden centre, as my chauffer wanted tadpole food - either to encourage any remaining tadpoles to grow, or to feed the pond creatures that are currently devouring the tadpoles.
We ordered lunch in a Garden Centre Tea Room. They lost our order but gave us free drinks as compensation for our wait. Who can complain at such sensible customer service?

At an Aquatics Centre, the KHT purchased a bright pink fishing net for future expeditions. I am sure the fish will see that coming, just as easily as they appeared to see the bright green bucket she was using earlier...

Our final stop of the day was Churchfields, where they make the most amazing ice cream, presumably from the milk donated by their dairy herd... I wonder if this cow has been allowed to sample some, as it appeared to be drooling at the very thought!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Butter Fingers and Bellringers

Having a rare free Saturday we decided to avoid the heat by going on a ringing outing. There is actually some sense to this, as it meant that we spent most of the day either in a car with air conditioning or in stone buildings. The only downside was that we needed to leave home soon after 8am, to travel to our first tower at Ingestre in Staffordsire.

I was just loading my plate in the dishwasher before we left, when the knife slipped and left a wonderful trail all the way down my skirt before clattering to the floor...
A quick check in the mirror revealed that I had also dropped jam all down my top. Not the best start to the day!

I got changed and we set off. Due to the high temperatures, we each had a bottle of water in the cool bag, plus additional supplies in a thermos, also in the cool bag.

KHT (looking at road signs) - What is the difference between Stafford and Stratford?
Me - Rrrrr! 

We arrived at the first tower before the allotted time, as did many of the other ringers. The church is in the grounds of Ingestre Hall and was designed by that great church designer - Christopher Wren.  It certainly had some beautiful glass.

The church was set up for a wedding later that day and it certainly looked like it would be a day to remember, with natural confetti and bubbles!

We knew a few of the other ringers present, and a few more by sight.  The first lot of ringing sounded very good, and I hoped that we wouldn't let the side down.  However, the bells were easy to ring so we were able to hold our own.

I was intrigued to see some details of ringing written in pencil on the walls of the ringing chamber. I have never seen that anywhere else that I can recall, and I have rung at over a thousand different churches over the years.

We moved on to the second tower of the day, a few miles away at Colwich. Here the ringing chamber accessed via a short staircase at the back of the church. The facilities were very much appreciated here - especially as there were two toilets available for use. Here the KHT shared the part of the plot of the one of the books that she was reading with some of the ringers, but they had to wait until lunchtime to discover what happened to Baby Christopher. Nothing like adding a bit of suspense to the proceedings...

It was pleasing to be asked to take part in a ladies band and to lead down at the end of the ringing at this church. I was very relieved when I had successfully guided them down and into rounds, without any mishap!

The third bell was out of action at Rugeley, so we rang the remaining five. Reverse Canterbury went well here.

Lunch was in Cannock. We parked in the grounds of the parish church and ate in a nearby hostelry. The organiser had allowed a generous two hours for lunch.
Here we seemed to confuse the staff greatly, who were not even sure what the food was when it arrived - is that the 'Beef Pie', or the' Steak and Double Gloucester'? They were Lasagne-less, so the KHT opted for Pizza Pie, which appeared to be a pizza with a curved base loaded with sausage, bacon and loads of cheese.

We thanked the locals for their hospitality, by drowning out England winning a place in the Quarter Final of the World Cup, with ten loud bells!  Just think of it as early celebrations!

Norton Canes was next on the list. Here we had to climb a metal spiral staircase inside the church. A trap door would have been a welcome addition here, to hide the view of the church below from the ringer of the fourth bell!

Our final tower was Shareshill a ring of six with a tenor weight similar to our own and an amazing extension. By now the heat was taking its toll, so we headed home via Sainsbury's to buy strawberries and ice cream!

Clearing the table after tea I discovered that the lid on the beetroot was not leakproof! This necessitated another change of clothing! Thankfully, the stain appears to have washed out!

The day began and ended messily, but our ringing was neat and tidy, and THAT was what mattered!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Mechanical Revolution

The KHT's course finished last week, so she has already been on her summer break for over a week.
Meanwhile, real life commitments continue for the rest of us and she goes with the flow.
Friday, however, is my day off and provided the opportunity to go somewhere different.

We decided to visit Compton Verney to see the Marvellous Mechanical Museum exhibition.

There are small and minature models that you can operate, and larger pieces that spring to life at certain times. Some pieces are whimsical, others amazingly intricate,. Most of them are humorous and they are all beautifully created.
I am not going to spoil the surprise by describing the models to you in detail, as I could never do them justice! Instead, I encourage you to go and see them for yourself.
As you can see from the picture above, the location is stunning. The exhibitions are always well presented with sufficient detail, without overwhelming the visitor with information overload.
If you get there whilst this particular exhibition is running, do check with the room guides what time the demonstrations will be.
It would be a real shame if you visited and did not see the larger pieces crank into life with all their glorious quirkiness.
One piece includes a model of a famous politician...let me know if you spot it!

The weather was really too hot to do much exploring, but the chapel is always a place we like to visit.
Since we first went to Compton Verney,  it has been tranformed and restored, to the beautiful building it is today.

Originally we had planned to go to The Confetti Fields at Wick to get some more flowers, so that we could add to the confetti we collected from last years blooms.
However, according to the website, they have stopped selling bouquets, as they need to have enough petals to meet the requirements of their confetti business, which is after all the reason the Confetti fields exist!

Last year we really enjoyed our visit to this floral extravagance, but word has spread. Last year it was busy. This year it is overrun with visitors.

The Confetti fields are only open to visitors for a short period each summer.
Hopefully, we will manage to fit in a visit next year,  and obtain some more petals.

Machines replaced agriculture in our choice of destination for the day, echoing the industrial revolution experienced by our ancestors.
We can only guess at what would they have made of either fields of flowers or museums of mechanical curiosities!

Monday, 2 July 2018

Dignity - lost and found!

Brixham or Balamory?
Home again after three fantastic days in Devon, the highlight of which was several hours of rain! I never thought I would describe rain as a highlight, but in the current spell of sustained hot weather, it came as a welcome relief!
I would have preferred it if rained back home and provided a welcome watering for the garden in my absence, and stayed dry in Devon, but it was not to be. The rain didn't even make it sufficiently far north to rehydrate our garden! Pity.

Meanwhile, poor DH went off for his shower on Sunday morning and found it was just as wet outside the toilet block, as inside the shower cubicle, when he wanted to return to the van!

Saturday had been a very pleasant day spent on the beach at Goodrington. As that is a much sandier beach than our favourite sheltered spot, we thought we might swim, but there was a lot of very hazy cloud, which saved us from such rash endeavours. On Friday we had been applying regular smotherings of suncream, on Saturday only one application was required! What a difference a day makes...

Goodrington is a great beach for trainspotters, as the Dartmouth Steam Railway runs along an embankment behind the beach. A tad disconcerting if a train passes by when you are visiting the public conveniences at the southern end of the beach, as the line is above the roof level, so it sounds like the train is in the next cubicle!

The trains give an exuberant 'TOOT' as they pass by the beach, guaranteed to make any snoozing sunbathers jump, as I found to my cost!
"Did it wake you up? asked DH, observing my undignified jump, and knowing full well that it had!

Sunday started rainy, drying up after lunch. It then got progressively warmer and warmer! We visited Brixham. We started off by the breakwater and then went for a walk around the harbour. At this point, the cloud finally cleared and the temperatures rocketed.
"Shall we have an ice cream?" I suggested
"Don't mind if I do," replied the KHT.
So we did.
The KHT had double mint choc chip with a flake,
DH had strawberry and coffee, also with a flake.
I had salted caramel and coffee, embellished with a flake.
Well, it would have been rude not to have had the flake, wouldn't it!

After fish and chips, we ended up at Broadsands. It may have been evening, but it was so warm, that I ended up going in the sea, and very pleasant it was too!
A boat trip passed by, occupants waving enthusiastically. The KHT waved back.
"Wave Mum! You must wave to them," she ordered.
"I can't wave, I am in my swimming cossie", I thought to myself, but I waved anyway.
What had I to lose, but my dignity?

By now the tide had almost reached the walls, so DH retreated to a vantage point on a raised area halfway up the steps. This seemed a good idea until I realised I was going to have to get dressed up there! Normally, if I plan to get my cossie on, I wear a skirt, or have one with me. It just makes all the required manoeuvring much easier to manage, whilst maintaining one's dignity. I had no skirt and I was on a ledge 4ft in the air, attempting to get dressed under a towel, and failing. Regularly! Losing my dignity was becoming disconcertingly recurrent!

Mondays often seem to be busy days on the M5, as other people also go for long weekends.  No sooner were we home, than the washing machine was whirling its way through a succession of loads. Due to the warm windy weather, the washing was dry enough to come indoors by the time the next load was done! Then I had to fill the watering can and give emergency treatment to my flowering tubs. The ones at the front had obviously missed me, as they were wilting badly.  I did wonder if a lot of the plants would die, but when I took a sneaky peek out a few hours later most of them seemed to have revived. Dignity restored in one small area of life - it would have been embarrassing if they had all shrivelled up and died before the neighbours' very eyes...