At the Beach.  Sunny. 

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Milk-bottle white, lobster red
Scantily clad, covered up
Legionnaire hats
Naked tots, entire family clad in bodysuits
And the one family, always one, in heavy shoes, trousers and jumpers
Just in case or taken by surprise?
Sun cream: in blobs, by stripes
There’s no love like a mother with a wet wipe
Two-year-old making a meandering beeline for nothing in particular
The moated castles, the holes, the buried
(Preference of teenagers)
Dogs straining on leads
‘No dogs on the beach’
Scooters everywhere
Child with stabilisers, more zag than zip
Ice cream: in cones, in tubs, on sticks
Why on earth would you give a child that colour ice cream?
Chips, salted and vinegared
The boisterous overcrowding outside the pub
Piled into picnic tables
Armed with plastic cups
Always a raucous one, loud in every way, too much everything
Public toilets, unique smell
Soap’s run out but at least there’s paper
Queues here, there, for everything
Flip flops, bare feet, trails of sand
The sand-encrusted children, writhing sculptures
The saltwater hair
The contortionists attempting a change of costume in public
Dabbling in the scant rock pools
Lifeboat, yacht, canoe, paddle board
No space to throw a ball
Chairs or rugs or sit on the wall
Gulls wheeling overhead
‘Don’t feed the birds’
Wind breaks, pop-up tents
Cricket below the tide line where the sand is firm
The family with everything
Bar the kitchen sink
A puff of wind, mouthful of sand
The mallets come back out
The readers, the snoozers
Teenage love declared by frames per minute
The moaning minnies
The always have something to say
Tempers fraying: heat, hunger, tired
“Don’t throw sand at your brother”
“Don’t even think about putting that on Instagram”
“Because I said so”
Barbecue fume, cigarette reek
Accents from every part
And a few other languages for good measure
Bags from every supermarket
Hardly any cameras
Phone, phone, phone
Phone, tablet, phone
Small child with sandcastle:
“Can I borrow your phone to take a photo Dad?”
The families going home; scruffy, jumbled heaps of belongings
Dragging a reluctant or a howler
Trailing what will later be claimed as all the sand on the beach
(Especially after the third hoovering)
“You’re going in the bath when we get home”
Sand, sea, sunshine, seagull poop

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Vintage Buttons

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Last summer I was working on a knitting project and I needed buttons.  Lots of buttons.  Preferably cute ones.  So I asked around my friends to see if they had any they could donate.  One friend gave me a box full of buttons; unfortunately most of those were way too big for what I was doing but there were some amazing vintage buttons buried amongst them.

Want to see?

Lansing Pearl Buttons Two on a Printed Card

These ones were still on their original packaging

Lansing Pearl Buttons Reverse of Card with Metal Clips

I haven’t seen clips like these used before to hold buttons down – they remind me of the clips that hold new shirts together

Tiny Metal Button with a Portrait of a Lady

There’s something really Italianate about this one. I wonder who she was?

Metal Button with Three Holly-Style Leaves

Pale turquoise plastic button with coloured dashes

I’m not sure if this one is technically ‘vintage’ – I’m sure my mother’s clothing used to have buttons like this!

Metal button with flower shapes, some painted

Gold-coloured metal button with an openwork design of three birds

This one suggests ‘Celtic’ to me – or maybe Anglo-Saxon

Metal button edged with painted flowers

And this one feels Swiss to me somehow

Textured translucent plastic button

I think this could pass as a blancmange…

Round plastic button with gold painted edges and bumps in a rectangular middle

I see Lego brick…

Silver-coloured button with leaf design

For some reason, this one makes me think of the old thrupenny bit – was it the thrupenny that had the thistles?

Brown and white plastic button with an etched 'Indian' design

Metal-backed pearly buttons

My friend knows nothing of where they came from or when as  she was passed the box of buttons from a neighbour who has since passed; we just know that the lady used to travel as a nurse and bought buttons as souvenirs.  I don’t know if you could do that so easily these days, it seems to me that the round, plain plastic button has become as universal and generic as too many other things in the modern world.

Have you got any special buttons to remind you of places or people or times?

O Tempora! O Mores!

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[picture to follow when both computer and myself are feeling somewhat better; please check back!]

 

I never quite ‘got’ the grandfather clock song, it didn’t make sense to me that the clock just stopped when the old man died; clocks aren’t sentient, even if they can be sensitive, so how could the clock ‘know’, how could it grieve or pine?  Silly song.  (Unless maybe the grandfather was murdered, in which case, apparently, clocks always get broken so the time of death can be conveniently established.  Or mis-established if you really want to stretch and challenge your plot or your readers).

Old clocks don’t really seem to die either; their mechanics seem steadfast from one century to another, you just wind them and off they go again.  (Accuracy may be another matter, however).  And modern clocks?  Do they die?  We pop new batteries in them but probably get bored of the current design or model in our fickle modern way sooner than even the most skimpily-made clock dies.

Mind you, I have killed a clock before.  Or two.  But I would also like to indict my husband.  You see, we have a clock in our hallway, as most folk seem to do, but ours is right smack next to the loft hatch.  Three clocks later and we have a rule that the clock must be reverentially placed on a safe, flat surface in another room before any loft-bound mission commences.  We learn, albeit slowly.

It was the railways that brought standardised time, and the need for it, to the nation; although the time-counting passion had been fashionable for at least a couple of centuries before that.  I often wonder what the world was like before then, before all this time-keeping mania with its timetables and schedules.  A world before time?  In a certain sense, perhaps.

From King Alfred cutting notches in his candle (well, he did in my Ladybird book anyway) to the chap, or chap-ess, who first noticed the shadows revolving a stick or pole, we have long been fascinated, if not obsessed with time.  By marking out these divisions, we are seeking control.  And often than not, control over other people.  Maybe too, there is a feeling that orderliness can only be achieved with this mastery.  I don’t know, I still wonder at how it would have been with just the luminaries and the shadows to reveal the passage of time.  A more peaceful, a more natural existence?  Who of us can really tell?  We have a deep cultural impression of time seared within us now; we can choose to abandon the system and live wild in the wilderness but our ideas, our concepts, our mores of time come with us even if the clock doesn’t.

Dividing up our time, enumerating it, counting it, watching it, measuring it, what have we really achieved?  A sense, maybe, of just how little time we actually have and how little control we have over its relentless progress.  A two-edged sword, it seems, this time-keeping mania of ours.

What’s Your View?

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Whilst I may not personally have the soundest of relationships with food and eating habits or with my body or myself, it seems that it could be a lot worse.  And worse than any personal issue or problem, it seems Society as a whole has a pretty crazy, a pretty warped, a pretty futile outlook on such matters.  Pain, punishment and perfection are the path of enlightenment that we are encouraged to pursue, madly, blindly, at all cost; a mystic, confusing holy grail.

Here’s another conversation on the matter:

The Problem with Fitspo | Bras and Body Image.

Keeping Safe in a Changing World

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Old-Fashioned Phone Box

The world has changed, in some ways it has got bigger but yet it has got smaller.  Regardless of international time zones, communication from one country to another has never been easier yet, in contrast, these very technologies have also made our world bigger connecting us instantly to more people in more places and to an awful lot more information.  How do you see all this panoply of technology, as friend or foe?

It seems the biggest worry for most people is how to keep themselves and their families safe.  It’s no longer a question of not talking to strangers and locking the front door at night, the challenges have changed and as the first generation we don’t exactly know what the rules are.  When we were children, parents could confidently set ground rules regarding the use of the landline and when and at what age their children could go out alone.  The challenges were straightforward, understood and across entire communities parents were probably all making similar judgements, they could base it on what thousands if not millions of parents had done before, what their own parents had decided for them when they themselves had been young.   But today?  How can a parent decide solely through experience when to let their child have a mobile phone or their own email account?  Those things probably didn’t even exist until those parents were all adults!

It’s a little crazy and people seem to veer from one extreme to another, some view the Internet and associated technologies with distrust and suspicion and avoid it at all cost whilst others jump on any passing bandwagon with carefree abandon.  Personally I would advocate a more balanced approach, somewhere in the middle, my rule of thumb is if you don’t need to use it then don’t.  It may be all your friends (or your children’s) have signed up for some great new service but do you really need to use it?  Anyhow, if you give it a while, the creases will be ironed out if it’s still around and as popular which means you’ll have less headaches when you start using it yourself.

It seems that patience can indeed still be a virtue in this hectic-paced modern life of ours.  We just have to choose which bandwagons we’re prepared to ride and why.

My Two Proofs

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Bug - (Cinnabar Caterpillar)

‘Complimentary’ or ‘alternative’ (the term you choose to use probably reflects your views) healthcare seems to be a great divider of opinion in these modern ages.  The rigid disciples of Science believe only in its apparently concrete, modern and proven theories dismissing other views as quackery suitable only for misguided ignoramuses stuck in the Dark Ages of Folklore.  They forget that folklore is the very foundation of their own pride and joy, its original springboard into modern terminology and that in fact Science and Folklore are still tightly entwined bedfellows.  Aspirin anyone?

Personally I find modern Medicine, much like all branches of Science, a little rigid in its understanding and a little too keen on pigeonholing.  I’d rather treat something holistically than to focus on one symptom and dose it up on chemicals.  Medicine prides itself on the physical, only accepting the tangible proofs of illness.  It struggles to explain and cope with conditions like ME.  And what is pain?  Physical, psychological, psychosomatic?  All or none?  I sometimes find Medicine too black and white.

I’ve used various treatments and systems of medicine before for various ailments, I respond better to them with no side effects which to me is a clear advantage.  There’s less risk of overdosing too, comforting.  One of the things that I regularly return to is homoeopathy, a quackery that some bristle up with a vengeance at the idea of.  Each to their own, I’ll leave you to your opinion and decision so leave me to mine likewise.

They often claim that any positive effect homoeopathy may accidentally have on a patient is simply a placebo response.  If you give a human any pill-like object to take, he will magically believe himself better.  I don’t know what this says about human intelligence.

I have two proofs, conclusive to my way of thinking at least, that homoeopathy works for real and I offer them up to you now:

  1. My husband.  He loathes all medicine with a passion whatever its origin, suffering is a noble art and the only way to deal with illness.  He won’t take painkillers for a headache because it’ll ‘go away eventually’.  In the meantime he can’t do anything and is a total pain to live with.  I dose him appropriately regardless, husbands don’t know best in this instance, including with homeoepathic remedies which just like ‘standard’ or ‘orthodox’ or ‘Western’ treatments will do nothing. and never have done  The thing I love most about homeopathy is the symptom pictures that each remedy indicates, more than just your fever but the time it gets worse and often small details about your personality.  My husband’s go-to remedy when he has a lurgi has the following description included: ‘a bear with a ‘sore head’ who is irritable and resentful of being questioned or fussed over’.  Hmm.  That’s him to a T.  And do you know what?  That remedy works every time.  Even though he still refuses to believe so.  Placebo effect?  Not if he could help it.
  2. The family dog.  The dog has even less intelligence than the husband and is normally completely oblivious to having taken a pill (I drop them in his water bowl to dissolve).  So I don’t think placebo effect is therefore possible there either.  In the past, when I was a child, we had a rescue dog who we treated successfully for separation anxiety and the current incumbent was dosed for another psychological condition for which modern Medicine offers no treatment or cure for, especially not for four-legged patients, grieving.

And there are my proofs.  If it works on the stubborn and the ignorant, it has to have worked.  In any case, life was better for all concerned after dosing which is the essence of Medicine anyway.

The Day They Got it Right

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I don’t much trust weather forecasts, maybe because I am something of a sceptic when it comes to Science, it seems that Science has pretty much become the religion of the day with us mere mortals putting blind faith into the whims and translations and perspectives of Scientists.  I do not naturally go along with the crowd; I challenge things and form my own conclusions and beliefs.  I find it hard to be infatuated, blind to faults and mistakes, and Science has known a fair few of these.  And rarely admits to them.  And there’s another reason for me to be uncomfortable, untrusting of Science and its god-like Scientists, it is their attitude.  I don’t like the smug, the self-righteous in any walk of life, I don’t like people who reject what has gone before as if it no longer has any value or interest, I don’t have a high opinion of people who claim that their own personal belief system is the only belief system possible and that all men should follow their creed.  I have my beliefs and I respect you to have yours, please respect mine.  Science and its Scientists have an increasing tendency to look down sneeringly at us mere mortals, especially those of us who stubbornly remain outside of their flock and question them.  We are weak, unintelligent and just plain ignorant and stupid.  I don’t do well with being told that I’m stupid.  I’m likely to play up.

There is one area of Science that I have virtually no credence in: weather forecasting.  They claim that they are much more accurate these days, using satellite pictures to trace cloud patterns before they even reach a particular area but they aren’t infallible.  I wait to see what cloud I have over my own head before analysing weather possibilities, clouds don’t always behave in the way Scientists would like them to.  Or when.  And despite all the technology and Scientific Jargon, nothing much has really changed.  It is still the ancient art of reading the sky, of casting one’s eyes heavenwards to pick out signs and stories that may tell the future.

I am sceptical because I know that clouds, and indeed any other parts of weather systems, are idiosyncratic, much like me.  They don’t tend to behave in socially acceptable predictable ways; they can build or diminish, burn out or gather energy.  It is still the clouds that are our fore bringers of the future, something that is deeply imbedded into our idiomatic language.  We talk of gathering storms and country folk still know the value of signs such as red sunsets or sunrises, St Swithin’s Day and mackerel sky.  We know our local winds and what they mean for us in each season.  What more does Science really offer?  A pretty picture, something to discuss and debate, something to guarantee viewing figures all the way through the news?

But admittedly the world is not as reliable as it used to be, our seasons fluctuate according to some unknown whim and the future a week ahead is less predictable even than that tricky predictive text, one letter out and the whole message can be read entirely wrong.

Weather forecasting is still a matter of decoding and waiting to see.

And when they predict weather events of abnormal intensity and scale then well, it’s wise to be a little sceptical.  Why panic buy when the shops will still be open come what may and when any wise household keeps a reserve of at least dry goods in the winter?  Why anticipate when each day is enough and has its own unique challenges?

But they got it right today.  The snow came in hard with a storm wind last night and it looks like it’s planning to stick around.

I sent my envoy out with a camera, having made a wise decision that the best place for me was safely indoors where the temperature at least promised to climb above ten degrees.

It’s funny how snow completely changes the world; it becomes an enticing, magical place once those flimsy flakes settle and cover and it definitely brings out the child in many.  (There is currently a group of twenty-year-old (at least) lads loitering outside their building who have nobly taken on the task of assaulting every vehicle and pedestrian that goes passed with snowballs).  But it is the stillness, the quiet that makes a snow day a very different day from the mundane.  It is as if the world has held its breath, wondering and waiting.

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