Saturday 1 June 2024

The Finishing Off Project

You may have noticed that I have a real issue where, if I don’t sew my knitting up and weave in ends immediately after finishing it, I never get around to it. A couple of months ago, I started the Finishing Off Project.  The first project finished was Audrey In Unst which had been lurking, waiting for buttons, since 2019.  I had them, so God knows why I didn’t finish it at the time.

I’ve worn this cardigan a lot since I finally sewed on the buttons in February.  Love it!

The second sweater finished was Sandrine, which still needs to be washed, blocked and photographed.  I finished the knitting on it on 1st October last year.  It just needed the ends woven in, the front panels secured together - to stop any gaping - and I decided to turn up the final 5 rows of the body and use them as a hem.  I’ve machine washed the swatch and decided this is definitely one to be hand washed to preserve the stitch definition.

The third sweater finished was When You’re Off Duty, which is a free pattern from the V&A.  The body was finished in February/March 2021 and just needed the sleeves sown on and the collar knitted.  (I did the collar in September 2021.)

There are five projects left on the list:
  • Diagonal Pattern Shirt Blouse from Knitting in Vogue.  This jumper predates both Ravelry and my blog, and has been waiting for me to finish sewing on the collar for about 20 years.  Seriously, I’d forgotten it existed until I was looking for something else.  I restarted sewing down the collar earlier this week and I’m 99% done. All that’s left is to position the short edge of the placket and stitch it down.  However, I’ve just noticed a small hole on the back that’ll need fixing. No others - I’ve checked.  With the exception of buttons, this will be finished today.
  • Entertain in This based on a pattern from the Lux Knitting Book 1936.  That’s been lurking since 2016.  I think it just needs the cuffs sewn down.
  • Trott (aka Carmine).  I finished this one in December 2020.  It only needs the sleeves sewing up.  Seriously, I think I’ve been procrastinating because I know this is going to be a handwash only jumper.  I machine washed my swatch years ago and it shrank to the point where it wouldn’t even make a stubby holder.  I should be able to sew this one up tonight, while watching the Champion’s League Final.
  • Acer Cardigan.  This was finished in 2017 and got worn a few times, but I always had a problem with aligning the button band.  Then I realised that I’d knitted an extra repeat on one front, so it was at least an inch longer than the other!  I’ve ripped out the button band, etc, but never got around to putting it back together.
  • Deco.  Another one that was finished years ago (January 2015), which just needs press-studs sewn on and buttons attached.  I regret not doing button holes.  The button bands are knitted as you go, so I can’t frog them and add button holes now.
I hereby vow to have all of the above finished and wearable before I return to work at the end of July.

- Pam

Monday 27 May 2024

Update on Me: Good News

Do you want the good news, the bad news or the really good news first? 

The really good news is that I had a PET scan on 8th April and except for a couple of non-reactive spots on my liver, the lymphoma was GONE!  I’ve had two rounds of chemotherapy since then, so those spots should be gone by now.  I even got to ring the bell to proclaim that I’d had my final round.

The t-shirt reads “Science is magic that works”.  True.  I’m living proof.  

Oh, and I get my PICC line out tomorrow - that’s the thing in my right arm.  I have my first follow-up appointment on 2nd July.  I guess this means that I’m officially in remission.

The bad news is that I really have lost all my hair!  

You can even see the scar on my scalp, where I was hit by a Number Board, which fell off the wall and landed on me in Grade 1.  It’s on the right of the back of my head.  I remember that it bled everywhere and that the GP glued my scalp together.  I so was disappointed not to get stitches. What 6 year old wouldn’t be?

The good news is that I’ve lost my excess weight and am down a dress size.  No, that wasn’t planned and I’m not really sure I should celebrate it, since most of it was due to the tumour occupying all the space my abdomen and making me feel full really quickly.  It was either the tumour or the ascites it induced.  (That’s fluid in the abdominal cavity.). Anyway, over the course of November, December and January, I lost two stone (28lb, 12.7kg). While I put on a couple of pounds once I left hospital, I now weigh 8st 12lb (124lb, 56.2kg) and have maintained that weight since February, without doing anything.  No dieting; no watching what I eat; nada; zilch.

What this weight loss means is that I’m back wearing clothes that I haven’t fitted into since the 2010’s, and that is something to celebrate.  This time last year, I couldn’t fit into the Science t-shirt above.  Now I can and I’m so glad I wore it when I rang the bell.

- Pip

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Recipe Tuesday: Chicken Liver Pâté

One of the biggest mysteries of the past few years is “where have all the chicken livers gone?”.  OK, I no longer shop at a Kosher butcher - they closed - but I haven’t seen any in a supermarket for years and our local butcher has real problems obtaining them.  Lurking in the freezer are a goose liver from removed from the 2022 Christmas goose and a tiny duck liver taken from the Christmas 2023 duck, both just begging to be turned into pâté.  Imagine my surprise when DH phoned me from the supermarket on Friday - I haven’t been shopping since I started chemo - and told me they had chicken livers!  Yay!! Three 400g packets came home with him. Two went into the freezer and, on Sunday, I made the third into Chicken Liver Pâté.  It was yummy!

My recipe is based on one by Rachel Khoo, from her Little Paris Kitchen cookbook. She uses shallots, brandy and rabbit livers, while I used onions, sherry, chicken livers together with the duck and goose liver from the freezer, and made a double quantity.  You will need a food processor.


250g chicken livers
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sherry
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon Schmaltz or use olive oil


  1. Melt the schmaltz in a frying pan over a low heat.
  2. Gently fry the onion and garlic, until the onion has softened and turned clear. 
  3. Add the chicken livers.  Keep the heat low. Fry on one side for 2 minutes, then turn over and fry on the other.
  4. Once the chicken livers have been turned over, add a pinch of salt and the sherry.  Stir. Fry for another 2 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook - they will toughen.  Test to see if they’re cooked by pushing down on one using the edge of a spoon.  It should break up easily and be brown inside.
  5. Tip the chicken liver mixture into a food processor and process until smooth.
  6. Decant into ramekin dishes, smooth down to give a flat top, allow to cool, cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed. Serve with good bread.
NOTE:  Traditionally pâté is covered with a layer of clarified butter/fat, in order to help preserve it.  I never bother but, if you wish to: melt 150g unsalted butter and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. Skim off the white crusty layer, then gently pour the liquid butter over the pâté. Once cool, refrigerate and ensure the butter is set before serving.

- Pam

Friday 19 April 2024

Earth Day 22nd April 2024 - What On Earth Can I Do About It?

Global warming is now hitting home.  Dubai Airport closed last week because of flooding.  Dubai, and the rest of the Gulf States, received 18 months-worth of rainfall in less than a day on Tuesday 16 April.  Sea temperatures have risen 1.5C, causing mass bleaching of coral reefs world-wide, with knock on consequences for sea life and the human food-chain.  Spain has been experiencing a drought FOR 6 YEARS!

What the hell can I do about it?  Me?  One person.  Or my household of two????

I first learned about climate change and global warming when my flatmate dragged me along to the public session of a conference, in January 1989.  My takeaways then were: organic gardening; plant trees; recycling; buy unbleached paper products (preferably recycled); go solar powered; support wind farms; use public transport where possible,; drive fuel efficient vehicles but cycle for shorter journeys; and that the mainland Europeans were considerably better than Australians at this stuff.  

When I landed in Copenhagen 4 months later, and saw their rubbish bins with multiple recycling slots for paper, tins and plastics, I was convinced that the latter point was true.  Britain was a disappointment.  No segregated rubbish bins, to split genuine waste from recyclables.  It was 10 years before most local authorities offered households recycling collections for their rubbish.  When ordering office supplies in 1991, it was difficult to buy any recycled paper products - they just didn’t exist - and it took decades for things to improve.

It’s been 35 years since that conference in Australia, and Climate Change is now hitting home.  We can’t just blame governments - the largest contributing factors are the small, incremental decisions that individuals make.  What I’m setting out below are my thoughts, my manifesto, for the changes that we can ALL make to save Planet Earth.

1.  Do Not Waste

In 2020, when asked if he could give one piece of advice to future generations, Sir David Attenborough said “Do Not Waste”.  That is the essence of the Earth Day mantra:
  • Reduce your consumption
  • Reuse items instead of buying replacements
  • Recycle everything possible
Think about it for a minute.  Pretty much everything else I’m about to write boils down into those three words.

2.  Don’t Waste Food

According to the 2024 United Nations Food Index Report quoted in The Guardian, annually about a fifth of all food produced on Earth is wasted, 600 million tonnes of which is wasted by households!  When you think that approximately 730 million people are going hungry every day, that means that the rest of us have to answer for one hell of a lot.

My suggestions to minimise food waste:-
  • Meal Plan, so that the fresh food you purchase gets incorporated into the meals you are cooking.
  • Turn leftovers into another meal.  Leftover cooked veg can be incorporated into a frittata.  The carcase of a roast chicken can be made into stock.
  • Your freezer is your friend.  If you realise that you can’t use it before it shrivels up/turns to mush/grows exotic fungus, freeze it.  Or cook it and freeze it to eat later.  Unless you plan to use it within 2 or 3 days, freeze meat on date of purchase and defrost it in the fridge.
  • Buy your fruit and veg loose, not wrapped in plastic.  They’ll last longer.  Produce stored in plastic tends to sweat and the sweat spots are the first places mould will grow, even if you decant them when you get home.
  • Store food properly.  Bread lasts longer if stored in a plastic bag in the fridge.  Onions are best left on the counter.  Potatoes need to be stored in a dark cupboard, away from onions (or they’ll sprout). 
  • Ignore “Best Before” dates.  They’re more indicative of the predicted lifespan of the packaging, than they are of the product.
  • Ignore “Use By” dates.  If it smells OK and taste OK, then it should be fine to eat.
  • Eat the whole animal.  If you are a meat eater, then don’t turn your nose up at eating offal. Haggis is delicious, even if it is made from liver, heart and lungs of a sheep.  Seriously, if you eat pâté, then you’re already eating liver.  Respect the animal.  It died to feed you.
  • Compost the fruit and veg trimmings that can’t be eaten.  

3. Ask Yourself: Why Am I Buying This?

Do you need another lipstick or are you shopping just because you are bored?  Don’t shop for entertainment.  Whatever you purchase won’t fix the gap that you’re trying to fill.  If you do need to purchase an item, is it the best one for the job?  Does it fulfil all your requirements?  So many times, when we purchase something on the “it will do”; it never does.  Would something you already have do the job instead? 

Instead of trying to fit in with an influencer - who is paid to sell you things - work out what is important to you and to the person you want to be.  Devise your own style and stick to it.  Fast fashion is just flogging you badly made stuff, which won’t last.  Don’t waste precious resources trying to keep up with the Jones’.

4.  Drive The Most Fuel Efficient Vehicle

Do you really need an SUV?  No. Particularly not when, most of the time, there’s only one person in the car.  

Back in 2000, when I bought the Toy, the first priority was to get the most fuel efficient vehicle on the market. That was the diesel VW Lupo, although I bought the cheaper, “SEAT Arosa” version.  Toy averaged 62 miles to the Imperial gallon.  (That’s 4.5 litres, not the American gallon of 3.7 litres.)  Lucky-Car averaged slightly less - at 57mpg - but the replacement to the VW Lupo was horrible to drive, so I went for the Skoda version of the next model up, the Fabia.  

When I think of the number of times Lucky-Car drove through France or up to Scotland, carrying 4 adults plus their luggage, in one small car and still managed over 50mpg… Do you really need an SUV for the school run?  

5.  Do You Really Need to Drive?

The majority of car journeys within the UK cover less than 2 miles. Surely you can walk that distance?  Or cycle it?  Even in my lymphoma-depleted state, I can walk the 1.5 miles to the local Lidl in less than 30 minutes.  (We do that walk regularly.). 

If I lived in the Netherlands, I’d probably cycle everywhere.  When my current employer moved to their new office 7 miles away, the first thing I did was to check out potential cycle routes.  Sadly, there is no safe route.  Only the suicidal would cycle the last mile to the office, down a very busy, narrow country road.

What about public transport?  Surely this should be considered before driving?  I’m lucky to live in London, to have the Tube and reasonably reliable bus services.  Public transport is often not an affordable option in the UK.  You’d need a second mortgage to live in Reading and commute by train into work in London.  In other European countries, travelling by train is quick, cheap and reliable.  Sadly, not here, where 3 decades of privatisation have delivered nothing but higher prices, multiple cancellations and delays.  Most of the time, it’s cheaper to fly to Manchester from London than it is to take the train.

6. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Spend wisely.  Don’t complain about climate change and then use toilet paper pulped from virgin wood forests!  Buy recycled.  Consider what is in the products you buy and from where they came.  Don’t buy potatoes shipped from Egypt, if you can get ones grown in Essex.

Buy secondhand and don’t be ashamed about it.  Every antique is at least secondhand - if secondhand is good enough for Lord So-And-So, then it’s good enough for you.

7. Vote

2 billion people are going to the polls this year.  Vote for the candidates who will invest in infrastructure, make public transport affordable for all, change building regulations so that all new builds have solar panel roofs, force water companies to control sewage instead of discharging it into the rivers, etc.  Voting is your chance to choose someone who will do something!

- Pam

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Recipe Tuesday - Mung Bean Curry

Tonight, I cooked something that I haven’t cooked since October:  Mung Bean Curry.  It used to be such a regular in my repertoire that for years I never had to check the recipe before I cooked.  In fact, I’m surprised that I’d never shared it on the blog.  

This is one of those recipes that came off the back of the packet.  I’ve been cooking it for 30+ years.  I don’t remember why we had a packet of mung beans in the cupboard - Dumbo, the long-ago ex, bought them and made something unmemorable with about half the packet -  but, I do remember noticing this recipe on the back and deciding to give it a go.  I saved that plastic packet for years and referred to it regularly.  Sadly, it disappeared after we packed up the kitchen for building works back in 2012.  This is from memory.

Mung Bean Curry (serves 4)


175g/6oz dried mung beans - not split mung dhal, but the whole bean
1L approximately of boiling water
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, garlic
100-150g mushrooms, sliced
2 peppers/capsicums, sliced
1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 cup plain yoghurt


1 teaspoon ground chilli (or to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric 
1 teaspoon corn flour
Pinch of salt

Bulgar Wheat (see notes below)
1 cup bulgar wheat
2 cups boiling water
Pinch of salt

  1. Start by cooking your mung beans:  pour them into a sieve and rinse off any dust with cold, running water.  Then place in a saucepan, cover with sufficient boiling water to ensure that there’s 2.5cm/1inch of water to cover the beans, bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 25 minutes or until soft.  Once cooked, drain the beans.  While the beans are cooking, get on with preparing the rest of the dish.
  2. In a small ramekin, assemble the spices.  Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water and mix to a paste.
  3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan.  Gently fry the onion until it is soft and glassy.
  4. Add the mushrooms, peppers and garlic.  Fry until soft.
  5. Stir in your spice paste.  Fry until the aroma rises and then fold in the yoghurt.  Add the carrot and keep stirring, until heated through.  Switch off until the mung beans are cooked.
  6. When the mung beans are cooked and drained, stir them into the curry mixture.  Bring back to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, rinse out the saucepan used for the mung beans in hot water.  In it, combine 1 cup of bulgar wheat, with 2 cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt.  Bring back to the boil.  Cover and switch off.  Leave undisturbed for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed..
  8. Serve.
  • My favourite “filler” these days is bulgar wheat, instead of rice.  Yes, it’s more expensive BUT it has 3 advantages:  1) it is even easier to cook (see point 7 above); 2) it bulks out to a larger volume than rice, so I only need to use 1 cup instead of 1.5 for 4 portions; 3) it has 8 times the fibre and 4 times the protein of brown rice!
  • If you want to serve this curry with rice:  use 1.5 cups of white/basmati rice together with 3 cups of boiling water, cover, boil for 2 minutes, switch off and leave for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.


- Pam

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Update on me

I have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

It started with a bleeding stomach ulcer, in May. I had a gastroscopy at the end of June and a CT Scan in August, which were followed up with a second gastroscopy, an MRI and another CT Scan in December.  The ulcer was situated on a small lump in my stomach.  Until the start of November, I felt well and healthy; after that I started getting sicker and sicker. I was diagnosed at the end of December, based on biopsy results from the second gastroscopy.  On 17th January, I was so ill that I was admitted to hospital for almost 3 weeks.  Poor DH was by my side for the whole thing.  He was worried sick and only left my hospital room to go home to sleep.  (After I was discharged on 5th February, he was so knackered that he slept for about 20 hours.)

I’m still shocked at how sick I was.  I realise now that I was close to death.

As well as being a lump in my stomach, the lymphoma was in my liver, kidneys, right shoulder, chest and pancreas. I had no energy, no muscle tone (I’d struggled to climb the stairs at home), no concentration, and was swollen with fluid in my legs, abdomen and lungs.  At one point in the hospital, I was carrying 20kg (44lb!) of excess water.  The hospital even put me on oxygen. I wasn’t hungry and struggled to eat.  Over 3 months, I lost over a stone and a half in weight. (That’s 21lb or  9.5kg.)

I had my first round of chemo in the hospital and immediately started feeling better.  The miracle happened two weekends later, when I woke up on the Saturday and suddenly felt “normal”.  I had energy and an appetite, and could knit and read, neither of which I’d been able to do for weeks.  Ironically, the night before, I’d been so deeply asleep that the nurse struggled to wake me for my obs and nearly called a code. (I was dreaming and he’d been incorporated into my dream.  It was only when DH’s voice cut through the dream that I woke up.)  I was discharged the following Monday.

My treatment is 6 rounds of chemotherapy, consisting of 4 separate drugs, on a 3 week cycle.  I had my third round last week and, beyond chemo screwing up my tastebuds - again - I’m feeling good.  Seriously, my biggest frustration is that I can’t taste coffee.  My taste for it does come back towards the end of week 3 in the chemo cycle, so it’s not permanent but meanwhile I have to drink tea.

Of course, it’s not just coffee that I can’t taste at this point.  The lack of taste applies to most proteins, making meals tasteless or just taste of one ingredient, e.g. vinegar in Hot & Sour Soup (which should taste of chicken and didn’t).  It’s totally off-putting.  I can, however, taste Vegemite.  Yesterday’s snack:

Other side effects that I’ve experienced are peeling skin and, of course, beyond a few determined strands, I have lost most of my hair.

Still have my eyebrows and eyelashes though. (NB:  I had the length cut off, a few days after my diagnosis, and donated it to the Little Princess Trust, who make wigs for little girls undergoing chemo.  Might as well make something good from my situation.)

I’ve been home for 5 weeks now and spend my days watching television, knitting, listening to podcasts and reading. We go for a walk every afternoon and I cook dinner most days.  I go to the hospital every Monday, either for blood tests and a dressing change to my PICC line or those plus chemotherapy.  A chemo day is at least 5 hours long, so I have to make sure I have enough to read.  I’m working my way through Dorothy L Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey novels in publication order - although initially I reread Gaudy Night - and am currently on book 6, Five Red Herrings.  

Work-wise, I’ve been signed off sick for 6 months by the hospital, so will return to work at the end of July.  I’m still burning up my sick leave at the moment and won’t be on Statutory Sick Pay until April.  It’s £116.25 per week, which isn’t much - less than the UK half minimum wage.  Fortunately, we have plenty of savings so can easily cover my share of the bills.

- Pam

2023 American Road-trip - Stop 2, Savannah

After last weekend’s NASA trip and witnessing a rocket launch, on the Sunday we headed for Savannah.  As the only driver, the Lost American is a complete hero, because the drive to Savannah was terrible; three thunder storms accompanied by torrential rain.  Several times, the traffic ground to a halt when you could barely see the vehicle in front of you.  

In Savannah, we stayed in the old part of town, on East Bay Street, a short walk downhill to the restaurants and bars along the river.  How do I describe Savannah?  It’s a cross between Kensington and New Orleans, built on a river bank with a major port upstream from the city centre.  

Yes, you can enjoy your pre-dinner drinks on River Street, while watching container ships traverse the river under their own steam.

For dinner, we went to the Fiddlers Bar and Grill, where I had oysters, mussels and the first flounder I’ve encountered outside Australia.  Yum!

After dinner, we wandered a bit through the old town, before heading back to our hotel.  There were trees dripping with moss, gaslights, and even a bar with a cricket picture on the wall:

My first gas lamp:

Next morning, we did a trolley bus tour, which combined history with tourist stops, including a stop outside the only remaining house in Savannah to have intact slave quarters (now a museum). 

 On other stops, there was an actor who addressed us in creole before explaining its origins, and a 17th century gentleman who explained how Georgia gained its colonial charter (the original inspiration for the colony was to rescue impecunious gentlemen from debtors’ prison). The tour was the only time slavery was mentioned to us while we were in Savannah.

This building is the courthouse, which is under reconstruction after the roof collapsed, bringing down two floors with it.

Tuesday 18 July 2023

NASA, Cocoa Beach and points north

Last Wednesday, this happened:

We dusted off the passports and headed to Miami, to stay with our friend “The Lost American”.  Thursday was a recovery day and then, on Friday, we headed off on a road trip through the South.  

First stop was Cocoa Beach, where we stayed at a hotel that was originally owned by seven of the Mercury astronauts.

Saturday, started with watching the sun rise over Cocoa Beach, ended with watching a rocket launch from the same spot, and was mainly spent at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre.  It can be summed up in one word: WOW!!!

NASA was a long day but worth every penny of the $75 admission fee.  Seriously, I have a gazillion photos but nothing can sum up the awe you experience when you’re face to face with a space shuttle or walking beside a Saturn V rocket or standing in the viewing gallery of Mission Control, watching footage of the team going through the checklist before an Apollo mission blasted off, using the consoles that are directly in front of you. 

We got lucky with the rocket launch.  Weather had delayed SpaceX from launching earlier in the week, so it got rescheduled for 2350 on Saturday night.  Standing on Cocoa Beach in the dark, looking towards Cape Canaveral, we had to hope that it wouldn’t get delayed again.  Suddenly, there was a bright light to our left:

All was silent until the rocket flew overhead, trailing its launch sound, like a cloak behind it:


- Pam

Sunday 12 February 2023

It was such an unusual cold

I spent most of this week in our Glastonbury office.  This was my first visit since the first week of December 2019, back in pre-Pandemic times.  Ironically, it had many echos of the first:  on both occasions, i met up with the same colleagues, but, this time, I was travelling alone, whereas on the previous trip, I’d brought “The Stray Australian” with me, a colleague from Sydney.  We stayed in the same hotel, as did the Regional Finance Business Partner, who I had dinner with on both Tuesday evenings.  Last time,  on the Wednesday afternoon, I developed a tickle in my throat so wandered over to the nearest supermarket after dinner, to buy some whisky to kill the cough.  This time, ditto.  Last time, I drove back to London on the Thursday afternoon, feeling more and more ill, dropped the Stray Australian back at the office, then went home to bed.  This time, I drove home on Friday, my tonsils making their presence felt..

Last time, by the Saturday, I had a sore throat.  It didn’t help that that was the day of my choir’s carol concert but I soldiered through, my voice cracking on some of the high notes.  I also soldiered through at work. I had a lot to learn from the Stray Australian before he went home on the Thursday, so couldn’t stay home.  Then while I was feeling like death warmed up on the Monday, I got asked to take on a role in our Huntingdon office: someone had resigned, timing it with holidays to give less than 2 weeks’ notice.  (Seriously, I was sitting in the office contemplating asking to go home to bed, when I got called into a meeting room.) 

Symptoms appeared in stages.   I developed a drippy, runny nose; watery, like a dripping tap.  The scratchy, swollen throat went on and on.  My larynx was on fire for days.   A week later, I could have drawn the cartilages within it, it was that sore.  Christmas came and went, and we spent the week of New Year in Normandy.  I was cooking dinner on the Tuesday (New Year’s Eve) when I realised that everything was tasteless.  On the Thursday, I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling crackles in my chest.  A couple of slow, deep breaths and they went, not to return. That was the last symptom, to appear.   It took a couple of weeks for my sense of taste to return - now I have to salt everything, (where I never did before) - and it took months for my vocal cords to recover.  

 I am 100% certain, now that it was Covid.  We know now that the first official variant ulcerated the vocal cords of those who were intubated, hence the damage to my own vocal cords, and all the other symptoms tally.  I know who I caught it from: a colleague in a meeting on the Friday before I went to Glastonbury.   It swept through her office and through ours, before Christmas 2019.  When Covid began getting publicity, we sat there ticking off the symptoms.   Of course, there was no testing then, so it can’t be proved now..  (By the time I did have antibody testing, I’d been vaccinated twice, and tested positive once, via a PCR test in October 2020.)

This time around, well, yesterday’s lateral flow test was negative for Covid.  The tickly cough has declined a lot and my nose is snotty, not dripping water.  I think we’re safe to say that it isn’t Covid this time, but I doubt I’ll be at rehearsal tomorrow evening.  I’ll take another test on Tuesday, before I go to the office.

 My name is Pam and I had Covid before it was famous.

Sunday 1 January 2023

Today is the start of the rest of our lives

Happy New Year!

All over the world, people woke up this morning full of resolutions and good intentions.  Within a few weeks, they’ll feel let down and discouraged.  All the hoped for miracles/changes of behaviour will have vanished.  Why do we imbue January 1st with so much importance?  Given that our time on earth is finite, every morning offers the same promise: 24 hours in which to make a difference.

I reckon it’s just a point in time to focus the mind.  So what will I endeavour to do this year, to change or make a difference?  Here are my resolutions.  It’s 2023 so I am aiming to complete 23 Challenges:-

  1. Read 23 books.
  2. Use up at least 23 balls of yarn by knitting or crocheting them into items.
  3. Use 23 new-to-me recipes and make dishes that I’ve never attempted before.
  4. Go to the cinema at least 6 times.  (I get "free" tickets via my bank.  Might as well use them.)
  5. Go to the theatre 4 times.
  6. Restart my running and run in an organised 5k race.
  7.  Continue with my 15 minutes a day Duolingo.  (I'm currently on day 943.  Started in 2020.)
  8. 23 sessions of weight training.
  9. Socialise 23 times.  This doesn't include the weekly pub quiz, RPG sessions, etc, that are already in my calendar.
  10. Blog at least 23 times.
  11. Spend an hour per week for 23 weeks, writing that book.  
  12. Do 23 singing lessons/practice sessions resulting therefrom.  (My voice and breathing haven't recovered from Covid in December 2019.  Yes, I had it before it was famous.)
  13. Make 23 phone calls to family and friends, just to catch up and chat.
  14. Replace Lucky Car.  I have no choice.  At the end of August, the border of London’s ULEZ - ultra low emission zone - will be extended to include all of the outer-London suburbs.  He’s diesel, 13 years old and does not comply.
  15. Go on a “proper” holiday, overseas.  We haven’t had one since the start of the Pandemic.  Destination TBA.
  16. Continue doing the Fashion on the Ration Challenge on MSE.
  17. Not buy any yarn in 2023.  This excludes the one skein that was ordered before Christmas, but won’t be delivered until next week.
  18. Finish and sew up all my knitting and crochet WIPs or frog them.   I think there are 8 in the queue, including a couple of cardigans that just need buttons sewn on.  (This excludes the jumper and two pairs of socks currently on the needles.)
  19. Dust off my sewing machine and sew a suit.
  20. Complete at least one embroidery.  
  21. Have 23 gardening sessions, where I do more than look at the weeds and lament.
  22. For 23 weeks, spend at least an hour tidying up.  I am not one of your naturally tidy people, I want to change that. (I can put a pen on an empty table and, 10 seconds later, it’ll look like a bomb has hit it.)
  23. TBA
Yes, that’s right.  I haven’t got a 23rd challenge yet.  I’ll come up with something….

Got it!  Number 23 is to reduce my Podcast queue from 639 to under 200!  God knows how it got to be so high.

- Pip

In which PipneyJane goes pattern shopping

In John Lewis, I fell victim to some pale grey yarn:  Manos Del Uruguay Fino, in the colourway “Silver Teaset”.   It’s 4-ply, 70% Merino wool, 30% silk, in a 100g (450m) hank.  Three hanks purchased, which will be enough for a jumper.  Not cheap (£70.50 in total) but I’ve saved money all year for a blow out like this.  6 coupons spent.

My reason for being there was to browse the pattern books for a suit pattern, so that I can make a suit from the wool fabric I picked up at that charity fabric sale in ?July. OMG was I disappointed!  The last time I did a serious browse for patterns was a decade ago.  Do you remember back then, when there were several different pattern books laid out on the counter, one for each pattern company?  Well, now, there is one book.  I always knew that Vogue and Butterick patterns were owned by the same publisher, apparently they also own Simplicity and McCalls.  No New Look pattern book.  No Burda, just that one pattern book to look through.

I flipped through it in growing disappointment.  Virtually no suit patterns - I can recall only one (didn’t appeal) - no capsule wardrobes, and only one picture per pattern to display the garments.  (How the hell am I going to know what the top of that dress looks like, if you only display it with the jacket on?).   Seriously, there was NOTHING suitable for the office and nothing I would want to make.  Did I miss the memo saying that nobody has to dress professionally for work anymore?

John Lewis Oxford Street also had virtually no fabric.  (No suiting.  What a surprise?)  Last time I was in there was pre-Pandemic.  The Haberdashery Department is only 1/3 of the size it was then, and about a tenth of the size it was in the 1990’s, when I worked around the corner.   The lady who rang up my yarn sale told me that “nobody makes a summer dress anymore”.

It looks like I’m going to have to find the bag of paper patterns I purchased in the 1990’s.  Hopefully, there will be a suitable suit pattern in there that I haven’t cut out - since I’m a totally different size now - which I can use/adapt to my current style.  There may be a possibility that I’ll find something at the Knit & Stitch Show at Ally Pally next month, but unlikely.  (I had my arm twisted by a friend to go to the show; the same friend who was too sick to come along yesterday.)

Anyway, the above yarn purchase brings my total spend to 69 coupons, leaving 7 for the rest of the year.  

Wish me luck.

- Pip

Monday 3 October 2022

Fair well Ma’am

After my last post, I gave up on the idea of going to HMQ’s Lying in State.  Instead, I moped around the house like a sulky teenager for a few days, before hatching a plan.  DH and I would go sit on the side of the A4, watch the Funeral on BBC iPlayer via my iPad and then pay our respects to the Funeral Cortège.  We knew the route for the cortège because TFL had published a list of road closures.

It all went off like clockwork.  We packed our picnic chairs, travel mugs of coffee, a hot lunch in wide mouthed thermoses, the iPad, etc, and drove to a side-street near the A4, arriving just as the Funeral was starting, and set up.  The road was lined with police officers, airmen and solders. When the officer-in-charge gave the signal for the 2 minutes silence, followed by the National Anthem, we stood to attention, too.  More and more people came to line the road and, eventually, this happened:

We even made it - fleetingly - onto the television. If you look very carefully at the next photo, you may just be able to spot my yellow chair and DH’s purple one, in the top left-hand corner, with us standing in front and our friend, Howard, standing behind my chair.

(Yes, I photographed the television.)

The following Saturday (24th), I went to Green Park to see the tributes that the general public had left.  There were thousands.  I wandered around, reading the messages and I cried.  Some were incredibly moving:

While others were just beautiful:

- Pam

Saturday 17 September 2022

The Queen is Dead. God Save the King!

How do you describe the last ten days?

We were at the cricket last Thursday, when the Queen died.  Well, I say “at the cricket”, but rain stopped play before it started that morning and as soon as the news broke late morning that the Queen was “under medical supervision”, the umpires made every excuse they could to delay their pitch inspection, despite several hours of sunshine mid-afternoon.  From the moment they announced that several members of the Royal Family were travelling to Balmoral, we all knew that she’d died.  We also knew that there would be no cricket that day.  (There was none on the Friday, either. The England vs South Africa Test Match was eventually reduced to three days.)

Poor King Charles.  On Friday, when he made his first address to the Nation as King, he looked both shattered and close to tears.  Also, oddly defiant when he announced that he’d made Camilla his Queen Consort, and William and Kate Prince and Princess of Wales.  It was almost as if he was expecting to be criticised by the Daily Wail, the Daily Excess and the $un, newspapers that only exist to make money from their coverage of his family.  I can only imagine what he and his family are going through.  It is hard enough to grieve for the loss of a parent, without the eyes of the world being turned on you 24-7.  Couple that with a new job, as Head of State… Poor man.

Yesterday, I was planning on joining the Queue for the Lying in State.  I’d booked the afternoon off work, made my sandwiches, chilled my water bottle and packed multiple phone rechargers in my handbag.  At 8am, the queue was nearly 9 hours long.  When I logged out at 12.30, this had happened:

A few minutes later, I heard that there was a queue to join the Queue(!) jokingly referred to as the “QE2”.  By 4pm, they were talking about the queue being over 24 hours long, which is when I gave up on the idea entirely.  I know I can spend 12 hours on my feet, but not 24.  I don’t have the stamina for that.

Since her last journey will be from Westminster to Windsor, my plan now is to get up on Monday morning, take chairs and go sit on the side of the A4 with DH,  and wait for her to pass by.  I’ll bring my iPad and we’ll watch the Funeral via BBC iPlayer.

- Pip

Friday 24 September 2021

My favourite toy

No, it’s not Lucky Car.  (He’s far too important to be considered “a toy”.). It’s my 2016 iPhone SE.  

Why is my phone my favourite toy?  Besides being a phone, it’s  an entertainment device full of books, podcasts and audio-books, a digital radio and a portable TV (thanks to BBC iPlayer).  It’s my camera.  I can use it to talk to my sisters and friends in Australia for free via certain apps.  It’s my backup wallet; forgot my purse?  No problem, so long as the internet is accessible.  It gives me access to my bank, reliable news sources (the BBC and the ABC), my emails and my health records.  It’s the SatNav for the car.  It’s my tutor.  (I learn languages with it via Duolingo.)  It’s the loyalty card and shopping voucher holder for the supermarkets I use.  When I travel, it’s my ticket and my boarding pass, as well as my alarm clock.  I use it for research.  It fits into the front pocket of my jeans and into most of my suit-jacket pockets.  It’s the handiest piece of kit that I own and it’s always with me.

Last night, I was overjoyed to discover that my phone will run on IOS 15, so I can put off purchasing a new one for another year or so.  When I do, it’ll probably be the latest model SE, the one with the “home” button and 126gb of storage.  (I always go for the largest data storage available, since it’s so easy to fill up.  My current phone is 64gb and bursting at the seams with podcasts.)

What’s holding me back from upgrading now?  Well, if you read my last post, you’ll know that I won’t upgrade until I absolutely have to, because it’s a waste of resources.  Also, the new SE doesn’t have an audio jack, while Lucky Car doesn’t have Bluetooth.  Yes, there is a converter/jack you can buy, which will enable you to plug headphones/audio cables into the fire-wire slot but that means I can either charge the phone or plug it into Lucky’s radio, not both.  Not useful when I’m using it as my SatNav and it’s draining the battery.  I hope to find a Bluetooth converter for the radio, which will enable me to do both.   (With the current phone, I can charge it while I drive and listen via the radio at the same time, so don’t risk being stranded somewhere with a dead phone battery.) 

- Pam 

PS:  My second favourite toy is my 6-year-old iPad Mini 3 together with its Bluetooth keyboard, upon which this is being typed.  I’ll probably replace “Paddy” first because his IOS stopped at 12.8.something, so apps will eventually get more unstable/problematic to use.

Thursday 23 September 2021

Channelling my inner Greta Thunberg

Beyond the Pandemic, one of the biggest themes of the last two years has been Climate Change.  On the one hand, it’s not surprising.  The rising temperatures are finally impacting weather systems, so that politicians and the general public are beginning to notice.  On the other hand, NONE OF THIS IS NEW!  Before I left Australia in 1989, I attended the public session of a conference about the impacts of global warming and pollution.  Yes, 1989!  

A word about that conference.  I don’t remember who sponsored it - my flat mate got the tickets - but the session I attended was in the Dallas Brooke’s Hall in Melbourne and it was packed.  The speakers were from multiple universities and research organisations across Australia and the whole thing was conducted via video conferencing from conference halls in the various state capitals.  The items I remember:  the hole in the Ozone Layer; global warming and its impacts; plastic pollution; the damage done by the pollution from bleaching paper pulp with (?) dioxins; power generation - the big issue in Australia at the time was the flooding of the Franklin River for a hydroelectric power plant - and whether nuclear power was worth the risks.  The other thing that I remember being mentioned was how rubbish bins in Scandinavian countries were divided into into sections for recycling.  (When I landed in Denmark in May 1989 - my first stop in Europe - I remember being very impressed. It was 20+ years before Britain caught up.)

Fast forward to 2019 and, somehow, the wonderful Greta Thunberg captured the world’s attention with her School Strike For Climate Change.  All I can say is “good on you girl!  You rock!”.  What bothers me is that, in the intervening 30 years, so many things have got worse not better.  Why are more plastic bottles thrown away now than in 1989?  (Why did sales of bottled water skyrocket in those 30 years and why do people throw away the bottles instead of reusing/recycling them?) Why has the wild bee population declined, when we know how important they are?  Why is 25% of all food purchased by British households thrown away?  Why is it more difficult now to buy toilet paper made from recycled paper than it was in 1989?   Why is there so much litter in Britain and why hasn’t this situation improved in the last 2 years, when everybody was in Lockdown?  (Seriously, you can’t walk down a street now without seeing a discarded face mask.)

On the political side, I guess it all boils down to expediency.  Most politicians don’t think beyond their next election and their desire to be re-elected. Changing “business as usual” practices won’t get them headlines, whereas being seen to respond to disasters will. Sadly, changing “Business as Usual” is what needs to be done to save the planet but it needs some political will.  At the moment, the Government is a follower; it needs to lead and to put its money where it’s mouth is.  Here are simple things the Government could do:-

  1. Change building regulations so that all new builds have the latest version of  photovoltaic cells on their roof (which are 3x more efficient than the originals).  Every new house should also be built with a small S-shaped wind turbine, while blocks of flats/offices and business parks should have at least one large wind turbine.  All new builds need to have off-street parking - say, one space per bedroom - with vehicle recharging points incorporated therein.
  2. All Government paper products should be made from recycled paper, whether it’s toilet paper purchased for use in a hospital or a leaflet to be distributed to the general population.  Lead by example.
  3. Government procurement has long been driven by price.  Instead, the first factor to consider should be carbon footprint.  If xx costs a few pence more but is made locally, then that should be purchased instead of shipping it in from China.
  4. Ban the use of insecticides on state-owned land.  Organic practices only.  (I will permit weed-killers because some invasive species of weed just won’t die without them.)
  5. Invest in hydrogen technology and have all Government vehicles hydrogen powered.  Batteries can’t power everything and their creation/recycling generates a massive amount of pollution.  Battery powered lorries/trucks are impractical (very heavy) and battery powered vehicles can’t tow.
  6. Ban the shipping of recycling abroad.  Specifically plastics should be recycled “in country”.  Many British councils ship their plastic recycling abroad, where it is found years later, breaking down on a rubbish dump somewhere and hasn’t been recycled. This is a waste of resources, waste of shipping miles and creates another type of pollution problem..

The above is OK for the Government but what about the rest of us?  What can we do?  In an interview last year, Sir David Attenborough was asked “What is the most important lesson you have learned?”  His answer was “Don’t waste.”  Don’t waste resources.  Reduce.  Reuse.  Recycle.  I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is for years, in an attempt to lower my footprint on the planet:-

  1. Where available, I buy recycled paper products (toilet paper, kitchen towel).  Everyone should.  Save virgin paper for books. 
  2. I’ll wash and re-use the plastic bags that bread/bagels comes in, before eventually recycling them.  
  3. Most of my clothes are bought to last, making me a follower of “slow fashion” and they get worn to death.  I look for classic designs, made from natural fibres.   (Today, I’m wearing hand knitted socks, a pair of jeans bought in 2018, a t-shirt purchased in 2003 and a cashmere cardigan purchased in 2019.  My bra is 5 or 6 years old and my knickers about the same.)
  4. When I can buy clothing secondhand, I will.  Three of my work suits come from charity shops, as do several t-shirts and my sheepskin jacket.  (I nearly bought another suit from a charity shop yesterday but the jacket was too tight.)
  5. When I do buy new clothes, where possible I buy natural fibres and wear those clothes until they die.  (I’d rather be considered classic than fashionable.)
  6. Make the best of what I have for as long as it lasts.  For example, my iPhone is 5 years old.  I won’t consider changing it until Apple stop updating the IOS.  Why should I?  It does everything that I want it to do and, last night, updated to IOS 15, guaranteeing me at least another year of use.
  7. Buy smart.  I don’t buy something because it’s the latest widget; I buy it because it fulfils multiple purposes and does exactly what I want.  This saves money as well as resources.  It doesn’t matter if it’s clothes, a kitchen widgets or IT kit.  If it doesn’t do what you want it to do, you’ll never use it and/or you end up replacing it three times.
  8. Years before electric vehicles were readily available, I went for a car that was fuel efficient, had good build quality and a low carbon footprint.  (When Lucky dies, he’ll probably be replaced by a hybrid.  Meanwhile, I’ll keep him running for as long as possible.  Pollution isn’t just about carbon; it’s about the other components he’s made from, too.)
  9. With the exception of weed killer, I garden organically.  (I’ll only use weed killer if the weed burner fails.)
  10. Buy local.  Consider where something is grown and/or where it’s made.  Most of the yarn I’ve purchased over the last 10 years was grown and spun in the UK.  Prior to the Pandemic, my veg came from a local farmer’s farm shop.  He also sold me eggs from his mate’s farm, about 5 miles away.      (Sadly, they closed due to the Pandemic.)
  11. Grow/make your own.  Not only will you appreciate it more, it cuts the carbon footprint.  There is nothing nicer than a just-harvested potato.
  12. Avoid buying food that is heavily processed.  Not only will your body thank you; all those “e-numbers” are chemical additives that have to be manufactured.
  13. If you eat meat, then eat the whole animal, offal included.  Anything less is wasteful.  There is more to a chicken than just chicken breast fillets!  Don’t like liver?  Do you eat pate?  Well, that’s liver.  Get over it.  Personally, I love Haggis but many people shy away from it because it’s made from offal.  They’ll eat that offal when it’s in boring, supermarket sausages, but not in something as nice as Haggis.
  14. Do the passive things that will cut your carbon footprint. Compost your vegetable peelings and grass cuttings. Wash your laundry in cold water and air dry it.  (We do.  We don’t own a dryer.). Walk to the shops, instead of driving.  (We walk the 1.5 miles to our local Lidl and lug our shopping home in backpacks.).  Use public transport where practical.  (Nobody in their right mind would drive into central London.)
I guess my message is:  do what you can, when you can, and try to mitigate the consequences.  Don’t waste.  If there is waste, recycle it responsibly.

- Pam