The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

30 April 2014

A little z


Poor Little Z. He always found himself in situations of having to explain his name. People always got it wrong, whether he was signing up for soccer, or at the Doctor’s office for a checkup, they would say it wrong or spell it wrong.  He would sigh inside and use the same words every time to correct them. It made him feel like a parrot.

 

It was especially bad at school when there was a substitute teacher. She would call out for “Little Zee” and he would have to explain that his name wasn’t Zee.

 

“My name is Zed,” he’d say.

“But it looks like Zee, “she would say.

“I know,” he would sympathize, “but it really is Zed.”

“It ought to rhyme with C and D, and T and V,” she’d insist.

“The rules about rhyming must be different where I come from.” said Little Z sadly.

“Rules are different for me, too” piped in Little U.

“Nobody ever hears me when I’m up front,” a shy K said for the second time.

“People always think I’m you,” grumbled C, “they put us together all the time.”

“I don’t get to do anything.” This from poor old Q who often was without a partner for cooperative activities.

“Now class!” said teacher, clapping her hands together to remind them all where they were and who she was. “It’s time for gym. I’ll just ask Little Zee to show us the way…”

 

Poor Little Z just sighed inside and moved to the front of the line.

29 April 2014

You must

... do yourself a favour and visit these very talented people:

Cardboard boxoffice: a mom, a dad, a baby, and a bear recreate scenes from movies using things found around the home, and - you guessed it! - cardboard!  This is a truly creative family, with imagination, ingenuity, and a terrific sense of fun.  Plus the little guy is absolutely adorable.  Look for the bear in each picture.


BreakfastClub
The Breakfast Bub
http://cardboardboxoffice.com/2014/01/26/the-breakfast-bub/
 

X-periment

Argh!  I cannot believe it, but I find myself resorting to the cutesy spelling cheats that drive me bonkers.  I am unable to pass a Kwik Kopy sign without losing my mind.  But x is a difficult word, so I beg for clemency. Or extenuating circumstances.

Today's story is about dabbling in green/organic/natural... err, "natural"... household products and cosmetics. (In quotes because I am from Sceptos and don't believe anything sold in stores is completely au naturel.)

For years I've been feeling guilty because I use cleaning wipes - those premoistened rolls of paper cloth that come in a tube-like container. I often debate with myself (debating with myself is one of my hobbies) as to whether it is more environmentally friendly to go with the wipes, or buy a jug of cleanser and separate paper towels. I could use a cleanser and reusable cloths, washing them between uses, but I don't feel good about my clothes being in the same water as the Mr. Clean or Pine Sol or whatever-soaked cloths. (I don't make any claims to logic.)  Seems to me there is environmental fallout either way.

I got to thinking about how my mom used to clean - as she was taught by German housewives. I seem to remember a lot of vinegar. And bleach. Sometimes baking soda, a little salt, good old soap, and a whole lot of elbow grease. Things were thoroughly scrubbed, top to bottom. So as I started spring cleaning  a week or so ago, I decided I'd take the Days of Yore approach. It all worked really well. I have no complaints at all, and in fact, was very pleased with the results. The house smelled not only clean but friendly, too, like you didn't have to run for a hazmat suit in order to enter. 
So that was a successful experiment.

Not as resoundingly successful has been the foray into green/natural/organic health products. The alternative deodorant caused red itchiness - as well as not being deodorizing; the paraben-free shampoo that promised to smell of wild meadows required a follow-up washing with regular shampoo which defeats the purpose, and by the end of the second day I was ready to tear my hair out because it felt heavy and dirty.  I'm reluctant to try the no poo method (no shampoo) because I'm afraid the baking soda will get caked up in my hair, so that is out.  At least until I'm a little braver. The earth-friendly toothpaste has a delightful anise flavour but doesn't feel like it's actually cleaning my teeth - or freshening my breath.  Because it's so runny it slides off my toothbrush, I hunch under the brush and ever so cautiously lower it into my mouth.

I haven't found any natural products yet that I'm happy with, but I have been using some household items that work wonderfully: sugar as a gentle face scrub, oats as a cleanser (and mild exfoliant with good moisturizing properties), oil as a cleanser (extra virgin olive oil, or a hazelnut oil I had in the cupboard).  And a nifty trick I found online is to do without shaving cream or soap or anything.  Shower as usual, dry off, then shave.  No burn, no dryness or itching, no bumps.  Amazing!  Each of these I am happy with.

It's early days yet. I'm sure there is lots to learn about chemical-free options. I'd love to hear from you if you know of any, especially if you use them and know they work.

28 April 2014

Wild mushrooms

The wild mushrooms made me do it.

Have you noticed that one thing often leads to another?
Well, that's what happened.  I finished one library book (The Odessa file by Frederick Forsyth) and asked the helpful staff to recommend a good next book.  What they gave me was The Mushroom hunters: on the trail of an underground America by Langdon Cook. It's about (you'll never guess) mushroom hunters. And the mushrooms you hunt are wild ones. The tame ones don't need hunting, don't you know.

Oh. I see. You thought something else about wild mushrooms.  For shame!  It's almost always about a book here - unless it's about Manchester United or Depeche Mode.

Mr. Cook has a long-standing interest in foraging (and outdoorsy things in general), and hunting for your very own mushrooms is very forage-y. He made it sound so enticing - how the flavour compared to store-bought button 'shrooms is incomparable, and the varieties are vast.  How could I resist?  I became interested in foraging too.

The art of foraging is becoming mainstream, with even top restaurants getting in on the game. I'm already keen on local and 'real' food, so this seems like a natural next step.  Except.

Except that while I enjoy the out of doors, I don't know much about them.  Setting me loose to hunt and gather for supper would probably be futile - or dangerous. So back I went to the library to ask for a book on foraging in Ontario.  It has to be borrowed from another library, so while I eagerly await it, I decided I could practice foraging in my own freezer and pantry.  There's even a name for it: cooking the pantry, or, pantry cooking.  My sister partakes of this game, but she is an accomplished cook (having to feed six men on what is often a limited budget will do that.  I, however, am not an accomplished cook, as my pie disaster and stove-on-fire stories here will prove.

My usual habit is to shop for 'staples' on Friday or Saturday, which results in me having no idea what to cook during the week. So I'll often stop for specific ingredients to make the thing I'm craving that day.  Not efficient.  Plus, because I sometimes put leftovers in the freezer, as well as never get around to using the fish fillets I bought 'for quick, healthy meals' or the cans of chick peas 'to whizz up my own humus' , my shelves are full.

Cooking the pantry involves making do with what is in the house until there really is nothing left. (Well, within reason, I hope. Surely it's ok to shop before you're down to just olive oil and sea salt) Anyway. I'm not very good at keeping tabs of just what I have got, and what I could make of it.  It's good stewardship to be a responsible cook, as well as good discipline to not give in to every whim of convenience or taste, so I'm going to give this a go for two weeks.

The first step was to inventory my stores.  I now have a list on my fridge of everything in the bins in my freezer, and the main food stuffs in the fridge (not including condiments, etc.) and the larder. I will allow myself to restock the absolute essentials such as milk, but no augmenting ingredients. The game began when I didn't do my usual marketing run this weekend, and discovered a chocolate croissant in the back of the fridge I'd meant to have for Easter breakfast but forgot about.  I had that yesterday morning at 3:00 while waiting for the Canonization Mass to begin.

Day One.
I grabbed one of the freezer bags of... something to let it thaw in the fridge today, and came home expecting to find what I was sure was roasted vegetables but turned out to be chicken bits - the remnants of a roast chicken from ages ago I probably stuck in the freezer, meaning to put it out on garbage day but forgot.  I wish I was better about labelling the freezer bags!
Nevermind.  I managed to pull a few slivers of meat off the bones, fried it up with onion with a wee bit of broth, and added sour cream and herbs.  I boiled up some elbows of macaroni and peas, stirred it all together with grated cheese, put it in a casserole to bake.  Before it went in the oven I noticed a few of those little toasts left over from Friday's work lunch on the table, so I pulverized them, lightly seasoned them then sprinkled that over top.  With more cheese.  Oh, and I had a rind of double smoked bacon in the fridge, so I chopped that up fine and added it to the main part of the dish.  It baked up nicely golden, and actually tasted pretty good.  Yay me!  That will also be tomorrow and Wednesday's lunch (phew!  I like not having to think about lunches) meaning tomorrow's supper can be a quick and easy one-off like a fried egg or a tin of soup.

You're probably looking at the list of ingredients and thinking to yourself, "Well, Tess, what else would you make with that?  That's a no brainer, and in fact what we have at least once a week."  I agree.  That one was easy - once I'd shifted gears from roasted vegetables to chicken carcass.   We'll see how things go as the obvious dwindles to the 'oh no, it's down to the chick peas', a tablespoon of couscous and a tin of cranberries.

Do you cook the pantry?  Do you know exactly what is in your freezer?  Do you cook to a plan, or do you wing it day by day?

27 April 2014

Very

This is a Very day.

Some days are like that.  Some emotions are like that.

Very.

No further adjectives, no exclamatory punctuation, no suggestive ellipses.

Very. Full stop.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is day eight of the Octave of Easter (the Church sees the Octave as being, essentially, one - as if we woke up eight times on Easter Sunday.)

What lifts a very nice day, a very special day to a Very day, is that today were two men dearly loved by the Church raised to the altar of Saints.  Today, Pope Francis proclaimed Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II to be Saints.  To make the Very even sweeter, our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was present among the hundreds of Cardinals, and it was beautiful to see the joy with which he was greeted by his brothers, including Francis, and the multitude present in the square.

The Church really shines in moments like this, because she understands the need of the human heart for solemnity and ceremony. It is right and just that we celebrate with dignity and reverence, and certainly it is fitting that we present our very best to give honour to God.  But another factor is that as human beings, our experience comes through our bodies - through eyes and ears and mind and heart.  To see the beautiful vestments and flowers and altar, to hear the gorgeous sacred music, the solemn words of canonization, the ancient formula of the Mass, is to remind us of the import, of the magnitude, of what is happening, and of who God is to us.  We do not process our Bishops and Cardinals in all their splendour to please ourselves or to honour them, but because we recognize the things of God are higher, bigger, deeper, more mysterious, than us.

Our imagination, when it comes to God, is like the incense we see reaching for heaven but straining into wisps before giving up altogether not even getting close. And so we have the Saints, those men and women who reveal something of God to us in their lives, their teachings. They have forged a path before us, to show us the way to His heart, and invite us to follow them in the journey.

Saint John XXIII, Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

Very.

U know what this is about

I wasn't going to do this.  I promise you I wasn't.  I know - believe me I know - how uninteresting this topic is to, well, I'm sure all of you. So I wasn't going to write about it.  To be frank, I haven't been able to write about it for the past 9 months or so because it has been far too painful.
But there has been a change, which caused a change of mood, a change of heart, a return of hope.
You know what U is for, don't you?

At the end of last season, Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager of Manchester United. Many-time winners of the title, a massive draw to English football all across this great football-loving planet of ours, Manchester were at the top.  Whoever took over from SAF has mighty big football boots to fill. The task fell to while not a minor name, certainly not one of the giants we all speculated would get the call.  Sadly, for him, the team, and for United supporters, the season has not gone well.  This shows clear as anything that while the same group of 11 men will perform very differently under a different boss.

Naturally (I think we can all agree on that) became disgruntled. It's not like we're talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs here, who despite their glorious past are accustomed to losing game after game every season.  So they did what football fans are wont to do. They began to make up songs about the underperforming new boss.

Last week he was dismissed.  Two weeks remain in the season. Four matches. And who do you suppose stepped in?  Ryan Giggs!  My favourite player! The cool thing is, he's still a Manchester United player. He's forty years old, has been with the club for 24 years, still going strong and now interim manager.  This hit the news last week which somehow I managed to miss (my job keeps me brain dead, it seems, between Monday morning and Friday afternoon)  I happened to be scrolling around on that social networking site yesterday where Giggsy's name leapt out at me from the news section of my feed.  I kid you not, I squealed. Like a little girl who actually got the pony for Christmas, I squealed.

They won their match yesterday, by a decisive 4-0.

I can't help but think (says the girl who used to listen to Coast to Coast to go to sleep) that it may have all been the plan from the beginning. They needed someone to be the "after Ferguson guy".  And during this season Giggsy has completed his manager course (while still playing). Perhaps they're using this two week period to let him get his feet wet, inflame the fans' support, and prepare everyone for a more positive showing next season.

I love the poetry of it: a player who has always loved his team, and despite the current practise of club-hopping, has stayed with them through the whole course of his career - even into retirement as a player, to become their manager.

I think Fergie would approve.

24 April 2014

Of symbols and substance

Salt
Light
Bread
Wine
 
Those are four significant Christian symbols, once recognized - and their meanings - universally understood. They were a shorthand, as all symbols are. Say the word and the subtext is filled in by the listener or reader.  “Be like salt of the earth and a light to the world.”  Salt gives seasoning to food, and was also the most common method of food preservation. Salt was a good thing, needed for survival.  The good news of our salvation is a light in the darkness. We know we are to be a light in the world, sharing our hope and joy in that salvation.  It used to be that light was treasured, because there were dangers in the dark. Once the sun went down, we hunkered down, too.  Bread was the mainstay.  Wine wasn’t for the elite talking about bouquets  and bottom notes, it was the drink. Bread and wine sustained life.
Now salt is bad for the heart. Light can be had with the flick of a switch so we need never have full dark – and the sun causes cancer. Bread is full of evil carbs and gluten, while wine leads to drunk driving and alcoholism.
I’m not suggesting there is a conspiracy to undermine our Christian symbols (maybe there is?) but I know for sure their impact has been weakened, their meaning diluted because they have to be explained as once relevant in days of yore.  How does that effect how we hear the words? Do the parables have the same depth of meaning?  How about the truths of our faith? When we're told that Christ is the Light of the world , or when we're enjoined to be like salt, how do we hear it? What does it mean to us to hear of the first public miracle when Jesus changed water to wine?
I don't have any answers or deep insights.  This is just something that has been niggling away in the back of my mind for a while.
 

Tid bits

... in which I offer trivial bits of nonsense.

So, I have this purple shirt. I didn't used to wear purple - or pink for that matter - but now when I look in my closet, there is an entire pink/purple section. Apparently what 'they' say is true, in that the right shade of pink warms the tone of your skin and is very flattering.  Give it a try.
But back to this purple shirt. It's a gym shirt, nothing special. It's my favourite to wear when I get home from work because it fits just right, you know? And I feel pretty in pink. Here's the thing. Not five minutes after I put it on, a stain appears on it, anything from ink to engine oil to egg yolk. On goes the stain treatment and I set it aside to soak, feeling blah in black instead.

There are any number of committees at my new (temporary) place of work. Among them is The Wellness Committee.  They send emails encouraging us to go for walks, and once provided a snack of yoghurt with nuts and berries. Today they laid on tea and cookies. The email they sent around to let us know alerted us to the many health benefits of green tea (and black tea, but that list was much, much shorter. I think they just didn't want black tea to feel left out). Lest  you imagine a spread with fine china and elegant hand crafted nibblies on tiered plates, it was instead boxes of green (and black) tea on a table in the lunch room, with cookies pre-sorted in sandwich baggies - two to a bag. As I looked over the goodies deciding which to bring back to my desk, I kept reminding myself, "Self, remember you don't like green tea.  You don't like it at all. " (I think it's the broccoli principle: a thing is supposed to be good for you, so it tastes yucky) (come to think of it, both are green.  Hmmmm...) Can you guess which kind of tea I chose?
Yop.
Green tea.
I didn't like it at all.

One of the side benefits of working in libraries – or working with books – is gleaning interesting little factoids.  For example:
There are a few German terms used in cataloguing.  Festschrift, and Bildungsroman are two.
 
While cataloguing a book about container shipping, I learned the biggest ships hold upwards of 18,000 containers. That class of ship is Post Panamax, because they are too large to go through the Panama Canal (the canal is too shallow, but is in the process of being expanded. Many ports are dredging deeper to be able to keep up with the behemoths lugging our goods around the seas.)
 
Elsewhere I learned that the Netherlands has 18 million people in a space not quite twice the size of New Jersey. It is the third highest agricultural exporter.
 
There are professional bees. They are kept by the millions in thousands of hives and trucked across country, season by season to [pollinate?] fruit and nut orchards.
 
Dario Cecchini of Tuscany is the world’s best butcher.
 
Enthusiast clubs exist for every hobby, no doubt. One such revolves around long distance motorcycling, called The Iron Butt Association.  By long distance, they mean 1,000 miles in a 24 hour period, and the fun goes on from there, such as 10 consecutive 1,000 mile days. The thought makes me want to cry.
 
Evolving church architecture led to evolving church music (and sermon-giving) as sound fade and echo changed with the interiors.
 
The great vowel shift in the English language took place over the span of roughly 300 years, around the time of the invention of the printing press. Until mass printing was possible, English spelling was fluid. Some believe the standardization contributed to the shift, as did the broader acceptance of English as their everyday language by the upper classes (who previously preferred French), as well as population migration resulting from the plague. As the name suggests, vowels before and after the process of shifting were different, both in sound and formation – ie. where they were formed in the mouth. And because of The Great Vowel Shift, we now have words that don’t match in sound and spelling. Isn’t that right, neighbour?
 
An octopus has three hearts.

We only have one, and life is pretty good.

22 April 2014

Rewarded


Ok, that was a stretch, but award doesn't start with R, so I fudged a wee little bit.

One of my favourite writers - and the author of three of my favourite blogs - Nancy, has nominated The Lighthouse for a Liebster Award. I was stunned but excited (extunned? stunited?) to see my name in her list of nominees, but rather than go all Sally Field about it, I'll do as my mother taught me, and say Thank you very much, Nancy!  It means a lot, coming from you, so I am honoured to accept.

Thankfully, instead of a skill-testing question involving numbers requiring more fingers and toes in my possession, in order to receive the award, I must use words to answer 11 questions devised by Nancy. I will then nominate my own Liebster Awardees, and bestow 11 questions of my own upon them.

Here we go:

1.    What is your favorite Bible verse, or book of the Bible?

Isaiah 61 (The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me...).  Favourite books are Isaiah.  And Jeremiah.  And Habakkuk. The prophetic, poetic books.

2.   If you could re-live one year of your life, what year would that be?

There was a year in my mid 20s that seemed absolutely perfect. I knew it at the time, was aware of it as I lived it so I have no regrets about missed moments or anything like that. It was a golden time, and it was good.

3.   If you could live in any period of time besides this one, when would it be?

I love this question!  It’s also a difficult question to give one answer for.  I’m drawn to the late 17- to early 1900’s (A happy blend of yore and plumbing). I’d also like to be in Vienna during the time of philosophical and musical flourishing – or Oxford during the Oxford movement or later for the Inklings.

4.   What is your favorite colour?

Tiffany blue.  Or that exact shade of orange.  Or green.

5.   What's your favorite song or piece of music?

My favourite song is What is this love by Blue Rodeo and Sarah McLachlan. And Brothers in arms by Dire Straits.  Also The Love you save by The Trews (an excellent Canadian band – check them out!) My favourite piece of music is the Adagio in G minor by Albinoni. (Disclaimer, these answers suppose that unwritten in the question was “Aside from Depeche Mode...”)

6.   What are your three favorite books?

Ack!  The others will feel snubbed when I don’t mention them!  But ok, I’ll give it a try:  Jane Eyre, Brideshead Revisited, Anne of Green Gables.  Unless it’s Persuasion, Fr. Elijah, The Little Princess.  And some days it’s The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society, Outlander, and Abandonment to divine providence…

7.   What was your best and/or favorite subject in grade (primary) school? 

Language Arts was my best, and social studies was my favourite.

8.   Favorite subject in high school? (for Australians, that's ages 14 to 18 or thereabouts - I don't think you call it high school there?).

The same two, only in high school we called them English and History.

9.   If you could return to or go to University today, what would your major be?

For my own interest, I’d major in history. I’d like to study the cultural life of different time periods in Europe. If I went in order to change field of work, I’d like to study disaster management.


10. Make up a question you'd like someone to ask you.  Then ask you.  And remember to answer you.

Question: Is it true you know everything?

Answer: No. I only like to pretend I do.

11. Tell us one random thing about yourself.

I was born without wisdom teeth.  That explains a lot.

 

I don’t read many blogs – not regularly, anyway.  The ones I do keep tabs on, quite naturally enough, I believe are terrific, and am more than happy to nominate them for a Liebster Award.

KR Smith (A straight-up writing blog, featuring the work of KR himself.  I admire how polished, inspired, and witty his writing is – even the somewhat dark and twisty bits.)

Out of her tree (Carly writes about her family, the quirks and foibles of life, customer service, and education. She also shows off her creative side with photos of the stunning cakes she has made, her beautiful photography, and the occasional craft project. While I read her as a friend, I find the voice of the writer is so truly ‘her’ that I feel as though I’m listening to her tell me the stories in person.)

Peter’s Barque (An unstintingly honest and heartfelt blog about Catholicism and the life of a Catholic. Coming to The Barque is always a thought-provoking visit. I appreciate the conviction and thoroughness he brings to the topics he writes about, and the fact that he writes, as he has called himself, as an Ordinary Catholic, not an academic or specialist.)

 

With these three I am far short of the desired 11 nominations but I offer them with all due enthusiasm and appreciation for their fine contributions to the blogosphere.

Here are my questions for them (and you, if you like) to answer:

1.What is the clearest memory of your childhood?

2. If you could be teleported anywhere in the world, where would you go?

3.What is your favourite Christmas tradition?

4.At the end of a long day, what is your go-to meal for supper?  (Share the recipe!)

5.You’ve won the lottery!  After gifts to family, friends, and charities, what would you do for yourself?

6.Why do you write? And, if you care to share (and have the time) why do you blog?

7.Do you have a favourite word? Is there a word you overuse?

8.Whose writing do you most admire?
 
9. What skill or superpower would you most like to have - that you do not already possess.
 
10. Someone else is doing the cooking and cleanup. Invite one living and one dead (This is imaginary, so both will accept, and neither will be dead when they arrive at your door) person to dinner.
 
11.Is there a book you reread over and over again and it's always as good as the first time?
 
There you go!  If you accept the award, let me know, make your own nominees (if you'd like to) and 'Liebster it forward'.

21 April 2014

An aside about stoves and squirrels. And fire.

I would just like to say it wasn't entirely my fault.  I was actually in the kitchen when it happened. Usually disaster simmers into a full-blown eruption when I wander away, distracted by shiny squirrels elsewhere. But I was there.

Here's the story: I have an old stove.  One of those electric coil ones with the pans you better put aluminum liners in or you'll spend all your days trying to scrub them clean.  I'm not a terribly accomplished cook, but I like to clean as I go, and am fastidious enough that I don't like to have splashes and spills flying everywhere. And yet, somehow, no matter how clean I keep the stove, something ends up in the liner, which in that exact spot happens to be close enough to the coils that the lowest heat causes a noxious haze of smoke to arise.  An additional fun little feature of this stove is that only at the highest setting will water actually boil.  The smallest movement of the dial towards less hot results in at most an enthusiastic simmer.

So. Last night I had meat doing its thing nicely in the Dutch oven on the front big burner, with the pot of water on the back big burner (oh, how I love stove design that puts a large element in the back, requiring either a back-breaking lean or an arm-burning reach) on high for the spaetzle. I began to notice an odd scorched smell, but the meat was fine, and I'd only just put the water on, so what the heck was that smell about?  Then suddenly there was a red glow all under the pot of water (water, for pity's sake!) and that turned into an actual flame!  My pot of not even simmering water was on fire!  As if that sort of thing happens to me all the time, I very calmly said out loud, "Oh."  My mind scrambled to try to remember what kind of fire you used water to put out, and what kind you used baking soda... but wait, this is an electric stove, will water cause a short, or an even bigger fire?  While my brain worked on those problems, I pulled the pot off the element , releasing the flame to climb the front panel of the stove and reach for the exhaust hood - and slammed the lid on the burner. Luckily, though the lid was too big to create a good seal, it did the trick and the fire died out. 

Once dishes were done last night, I checked the drip pan of that burner, and you know what? There must have been a crumb or two in it.  The toaster sits on top of the fridge on that side of the stove, and the last time I wiped crumbs off the fridge, they must have fallen into the liners.  That's what caused it.  So from now on I'm going to be super vigilant about keeping those things immaculately clean, and will also remain in the confines of the kitchen whenever the stove is on.

At least until the next shiny squirrel leads me away.

Ps and Qs

Manners.  Etiquette. Good behaviour. 
There are many theories as to how "Mind your P's and Q's" came to refer to manners, but in the end it hardly  matters. Today's offering is about manners and etiquette and good behaviour. The topic is one of my favourite hobby horses, so I'll take care to reign myself in (haha!), and stay on point.

What's the big deal?  We live in a casual, informal society, right?  Yes, we do.  But I believe there is always room for politeness.  First of all, good manners are a way of practising, or living out, charity, because they cause us to focus on the 'other', rather than 'me'. Manners are more concerned with the comfort and dignity of other people ahead of ourselves.  There is a line from the movie Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood that niggles at my memory. I don't remember it exactly, but it goes something like this: a daughter asks her mother about love.  Wise Mama responds, "Honeychild, whatever else love is, it ought to begin with good manners."  I agree!  If I care about you, I'm not going to stare at you when your hair is sticking up, or whisper about you to someone else, or ignore you if you're sitting alone in the lunch room, or not introduce you to the other person I'm talking to, or stubbornly hold to my side of the sidewalk when you're coming toward me, baby in tow.

Manners are a useful thing.  They guide us through awkward or unfamiliar situations, giving us templates to follow. Again, they remove 'me' from the equation. It doesn't matter if I'm shy, or feeling cranky - when I meet someone, I say hello, how are you, or Pleased to meet you or a variation thereof. If I need to pass by, I say Excuse me, and always say Please, and Thank you. Even when you don't mean it. And especially if you're Canadian.

There used to be very complex and rigid rules of etiquette. In the upper classes, they were so convoluted there was no hope you could learn them all if you weren't born to it.  I'm glad we don't go to those extremes anymore, but I do think we've lost something when we decided to do away with practically everything. We tend to look down on the finer things like gentility and chivalry - perhaps as being soft and snooty - which is too bad. Because of it we have loud and personal conversations on cell phones in public, to name just one obnoxious example.

Thank you for reading.

20 April 2014

Open


O is for open. The tomb is open. It is empty.

Here is the fulfillment of all our hope: that this life is not the end; that death does not triumph over life; that when Jesus said, “Come and follow me, and I will give you eternal life” he meant it; that even though we look (and feel) defeated and empty, the truth is vibrant and living.

 

Here is a little openness from me: I have been a tomb.   That’s what this Lent has felt like. I have been sealed off, closed up, entombed. Going to Mass has been a struggle (one I haven’t always won, I must admit) in part because I feel so isolated, from God, from friends, even from myself. I don’t offer this insight from a desire to wallow, or as a gambit for your sympathy, but merely to reinforce that how I began this post is absolutely true, whether we feel it, believe it, accept it, or not. I went to Mass this morning feeling I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) participate in the Easter joy because I didn’t make the Lenten journey.  Listening to the readings and the homily, I didn’t hear anything I haven’t heard before. There were no new details, no startling revelations, no comforting feelings of supernatural reassurance. But I knew that no matter how hard it is to sit there sometimes, or how strong the temptation is to resist God, I belong there, with Him. So my Easter joy is more subdued than exultant this year, but it is accompanied by deep gratitude for the loving mercy of our God who keeps His promises.

16 April 2014

The name game.


I haven't written anything for you today.  Instead, I'm sharing a list of interesting names of authors I've come across since I started this job.

Gifty Amo-Danso  (isn't Gifty a great name?)
John Flowerdew (this must be a British name, don't you think?)
Alaka Holla
Teresa Lavender Fagan
Barrie Brent Bennett
Triadafilos Triadafilopoulos (his parents liked it so much, they used it twice)
Dilip Soman
Andrea Olive (this rolls off the tongue so perfectly)
Marcel Martel
Robin Truth Goodman
J. Jacob Jenkins
Sergio L. Schmukler (a little Latin flavour in your German)
Wheeler Winston Dixon
Esyllt W. Jones
Dominique Audenaert (I liked this one because the last name sounds familiar to me)
Klaus Dieter Wolf (I don't think there could be a more German name)
Tomรกs F. Crowder-Taraborrelli


Dedications:
To: Ezgi  (this sounds like a diminutive. I wonder what the whole name would be?)

To our canine companions (this was in a book about Jane Austen and culture. I don't think Jane would have approved.)

To my dad who taught me what it meant to be a man. To my wife who gave me brothers and a second father.  You're cute... let's dance.  (In a book about music.)


Do you have any names tucked away that have either tickled  you, impressed you, or bemused  you?
(Celebrity children's names could be a whole category on its own... such as baby North, whose last name is West.)

15 April 2014

Monkish


In the words of Beyonce, “If I were a boy, I’d want to be a Monk…”

Ok, so those weren’t her exact words, they were mine. And not that I really do want to be a boy, or that I’m unhappy being a girl, but if I had to be a boy, I think I’d be happy as a Carthusian monk.

Have you watched Into Great Silence?  (I think I’ve written about it before, and I would look into it except that, in Cordon Bleu parlance, is known as “une distraction” and as I’ve got rice on the stove, and also because I’ve burned too many pots and pans lately, and since almost anything else is more exciting than watching rice bubble away, the smallest, unshiny-est squirrel could distract me just long enough for yet another pot to bubble dry so I’ll leave it with this very long parenthetical aside and keep the research for others to do.)

So, Into great silence. I don’t want to mislead you by calling it a movie or a documentary. It is rather a visual meditation using the life of the monks of the Grande Chartreuse in the French Alps.

As a work of art Into great silence is stunning, with the backdrop of the mountains and forests and fog and the beautiful structure of the monastery itself. The director used no supplementary lighting, lending a gentle look to each scene, making the aged stones and white robes beautiful and compelling in their simplicity.

The director, Philip Groening, waited 16 years for a reply from the monks after asking if he could film them. I wonder if the wait influenced his approach to the final film, because it is a quiet, unhurried glimpse at life within those walls. The viewer, to properly appreciate it, must be as unhurried and patient to begin to appreciate this brief experience of monastic life.

Groening lived and filmed in the Charter House for 10 months. I’d so like to see the footage that didn’t make it into the final cut!  As it is, I find myself wanting to direct the camera to show me what is behind that corner, what goes on upstairs, what does the garden look like in the summer, how exactly do they make the Chartreuse liqueur, what are the meals like on feast days, does the Abbot meet with other Abbots of the order, what is the training like for the novices? (There are novitiates to the order while this was filmed. We see the monks process the young men to their new cells… and then leave. What is it like to suddenly be on your own like that?)  oh, and so much more!  I loved seeing how they cared for the oldest monk, watching them getting hair cuts, seeing them skiing down the slopes in their shoes and hearing them laugh, listening in on a conversation during one of their communal times… and especially hearing them chant the offices. 

I know a life like theirs is a distinct and very rare vocation.  Without that definite call from God, a person would either whither into a dry husk of a person, or become bitter and angry.  Neither outcome are healthy for the individual or the community, which is why right discernment is so important.  Still, I can’t help but think that I’d love to have a little cell of my own (they are small but not actually tiny, spread over two floors. One level has their work space and wood shop (they cut and stack their own wood), and the other has their simple bed, a prayer nook, a simple work table for studying and reading, a little table for meals, and a wood stove.  There is a little hutch that opens to the corridor outside, through which their box containing the daily meal is passed. Each cell opens on to a walled, individual garden, and each monk tends his own, so he has his own patch of the outdoors within his own walls.)

Not every monastery has the French Alps in its backyard with the moody drifts of fog and the gentle cling-clang of cowbells as its soundtrack.  Not every monastery has such long-standing, reassuring, and glorious architecture.  Those are all elements that draw me to this particular group of this particular order.  As for being a monk rather than a nun, well, I’m not keen on the idea of living with only women!  I’m sorry, but there it is. 

I think I might pull this out and watch it again this Friday.  It’s time to go into great silence.

14 April 2014

The Lighthouse keeper




It had been a beautiful blue-sky day – that perfect shade of Happy Blue – dotted with thick white cotton ball clouds. Gulls dance in the soft breezes, their cries echoing the happy sounds coming from the children playing on the sandy shore of the bay.  White triangles of sails glide over the water, while farther out over the deep, longer, bulkier vessels plod forward, too weighed down with importance to play in the waves.

Later, the clouds lower and darken, made heavy with the rain they will soon release in torrents on the earth. The sky, too, darkens – an ominous promise of the storm to come.  Families scurry to pack up children and blankets and hampers by the first fall of rain. Once jolly waves are churned into a froth, causing the dogged ships in the distance to hunch their shoulders against the forceful wind, unwilling to stray from their course.

The sky is petulant now, working its way to a sullen temper tantrum, hurling rain from the blackened clouds, growling with thunder, and moaning with wind.

High above the seething water, on an outcrop of sturdy rocks stands a watchtower, placid, unmoved, and tranquil amidst the turmoil.  A light of safety and reassurance flashes around in a steady rhythm, unchanging in weather fair or foul.

And in that watchtower lives a lone guardian – the keeper of the light.  The bay is his to protect, and the deep as far as he can see. He carefully tends his tower and watches over the ships that pass back and forth beyond his windows perched high over the water.  It is driving storms like this he loves best, feeling the power of the elements working against the enduring presence of his tower, knowing that the stone walls and circling light will prevail. All are kept safe on his watch, though they know not his name or his face.

Lighthouse of Port SOHOE
Photo by NLE  (Mama Nut)

13 April 2014

K is for wooden shoes


Klompen are traditional Dutch shoes, the whole-foot wooden clogs. You’ve seen pictures of them – might even have a pair in your garden. They (like tulips and windmills) are so evocative of Holland, that the Dutch at times have been known as Kloggies, though I’ve never been clear on whether that’s pejorative or not. I love them, you see – the shoes and the people, so to me it’s a term of endearment.

Klompen aren’t just quaint, though. They are practical and – this may surprise you - even comfortable. While millions are made every year for tourists to bring home as souvenirs, there are still many Dutch who wear them for their work in factories, on farms, or while gardening, as they are practical, which the Dutch love, but also hard-wearing and provide excellent protection against wayward cow hooves. 

When we lived in Germany we’d visit mom’s family in Amsterdam during the summer, and spend some time ‘at the camping’ which the Dutch are fond of doing. While there, I’d either be barefoot or in klompen. They were rain-proof, mud-proof, great for walking in the dunes, and I could run as well in them as in regular shoes.  After enough time, the inside gets worn down to perfectly conform to your foot. Talk about a custom fit! I carried on the tradition, wearing them on our own family camping trips, and would still wear them today while working outdoors if I had a pair that fit. The only pair I have now I wore as a child. They sit decoratively in the kitchen, reminding me of happy times.

I’m a Kloggy and proud of it.

 

FSF - Feathers

Five sentence fiction, in which a story is told in five little lines.
(Sponsored by Lillie McFerrin Writes)


Feathers

Scene: evening; light, diffused by ripples of the lagoon leads us to a golden puddle spilling out from the open door of a ballroom. Gentle sounds of lapping water as a beautiful woman steps gracefully out of the gondola, gloved hand gently grasping the fingers of a lucky gentleman there just in time to make every other man envious. She is dressed in an elegant, inky black evening gown over which she has carelessly thrown a black velvet cape. Everything is in black, from her dark raven hair to the blue-black of satin shoes glimpsed beneath her skirts. All the more dramatic, then, the crimson of her lips and the iridescent blues and greens of the feathers trimming the mask that had everyone asking: isn't that...?



12 April 2014

To the Janes


To the Janes –
Austen and Eyre

One, she was written,
The other, she wrote

My own words to acclaim
I would not dare

Though I were bidden
I’d liefer give quotes

 

Jane, you strange, almost unearthly thing
You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you!
I am bound to you with a strong attachment
If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more
I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation
But for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short!

 

 

(Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen, Emma

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen, herself)

10 April 2014

Wherein icky ends with inspiration

Do you know The White Stripes?  No?  Icky, while a useful word in some circumstances - particularly when young children are around - is tied in my mind to one of their songs called, Icky Thump.  I like TWS, but if modern rock and/or nonsense songs are not your thing, pretend this whole paragraph never happened and meet me at the next one below.  Icky thump is one of those, "I'm not sure I entirely understand what Jack is singing about, or that I want to know, but it's got a groovin' rhythm, cool structure and catchy rhyme" songs.  But this post isn't about The White Stripes or Jack White.

Today is about the ick factor.  Have you ever been slimed?  You could be reading an innocuous novel or watching some diverting television hoping for a little mental respite from the cares of your day.  You let your defenses down, forgetting for a moment that the world can take a sudden and surprising turn... and suddenly, WHAM! You get slimed.  It was icky.  A nasty scene flashes on the tv screen, or a horrible plot twist develops in your book.  A song you've been humming all day under your breath and gradually the lyrics seep into  your consciousness and you realize just what it is you've been half murmuring, half hmmhmm-ing to yourself.  Ick.

My work in libraries exposes me to many wonderful books I wouldn't normally come across in my own wanderings through the stacks.  I'm grateful to have discovered The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, for example, and The House at Tyneford.  Now and then, though - and today had more than one of those now-and-thens - I have to 'technically read' a book full of ick.  (To technically read a book as a librarian means to peruse it so as to be able to describe it in the detail necessary.  A cataloguer has to be able to code in the information describing the physical characteristics of the book, its contents, and its subject matter.  A public librarian benefits from being familiar with the collection.  In both capacities, I've held plenty of ick in my hands.)  For some reason today my cart was full of books about sexploitation in Nazi-themed films; the oppression of women in the workplace, and literature, and academia; ethics through American cinema; and a beautifully illustrated book that was most horribly about ... I forget how it was phrased, something about art and time... art in time? of China.  An 'artist' injected a 'surprise' object into his friend's thigh, and took photos of the procedure, then an x-ray of the thing was another piece of 'art'.  Then he tattooed a random number onto his friends arm as a -I'm sure - profound commentary on the state or consumerism.  There were also upsetting photos involving meat and, err, toys and, well, none of it was beautiful.  It dripped with ick.

I don't want to leave you with that, though.  That would be me piling ick on you, so I will instead close with this quote I came across in a book called, "The eclipse and recovery of beauty" by John D. Dudosky - about a line from Hans Urs von Balthasar

"Human beings need the surplus of meaning provided by beautiful nature, art, and le joie de vivre in order to expose them to more than just the ordinary business of everyday living. Hence, human beings create and contemplate beauty."

Amen.

09 April 2014

In which G and H go hand in hand


G is for Germany, because I already made D be for Depeche Mode, so it couldn't be for Deutschland. And as it is the Home of my Heart, I shall make it count for H as well.

If only a blog could convey sounds and smells, and crawl right up into my mind, wrap itself up in my memories, and share them with you whole and entire.  I know my memories of my Heart-Land are tinged with the contented glow of childhood (I was 13 when we came back to Canada for the last time) and the Germany of today is very different - just as modern as North America, with the added influence of the EU. Who knows what remains of the Germany of  my happy youth?

Since I can't invite you into my brain, I'll try to convey something of what resides in my heart for this beautiful country.

It is rolling hills, tidy farm fields, and lush meadows, where in the distance may be seen a shepherd and his flock. The sound of their bells is soothing.  The forest - the Black Forest - makes its presence known as it seems to wear a cape of time, like the long years of history are settled on its shoulders. Within it, among the trees, are lingering whispers of gnomes and dwarves... the little people and other folk of the old tales.  Their presence, too, is felt, not just among the trees, but in the stories told to children, in the music of the people, their traditions, and their love of fables.  An efficient, obedient people, the Germans have poetic souls. I remember walking by a group of men doing road repairs, sitting on their lunch tins drinking a beer on their break, singing what must have been Wagner. A grown man will weep over the words of Rilke without shame.

Being efficient and obedient lends to great tidiness. It wasn't unusual to see outside door knobs, knockers and bell-pulls being polished, front sidewalks being swept, and stoops being scrubbed with wire brushes.  Window boxes overflowing with well-tended geraniums competed for space on washing days.  Every balcony flew the flag of fresh linens on Mondays. Farms were orderly, equipment well cared for, shops were clean and service was good.  People acknowledged each other when passing on the street with a nod of the head and a polite greeting, for there is tidiness in good manners as well.

Germany is medieval fortresses and castles, ancient churches and cathedrals, old market towns, and villages where even then, animals were kept within the village environs rather than beyond in the fields. It wasn't unusual to hear the rootling of a pig or two behind a wooden wall on your way to the bank.

There are narrow, windy, country roads wrapping around the hills, and roads for tractors that run beside main thoroughfares.  Town centres have old water troughs were cattle used to be watered, but are now decorated with flowers for the tourists to admire, though the water still flows.  On Saturdays there is a market, where stalls are set up on the cobble stone streets, or you can make your purchases from the shops around the square - including at the Konditorei where they sell tarts and torts and beautiful confections by the piece, and the coffee comes topped with unsweetened whipped cream. Plan ahead, because most are closed Saturday afternoons, on Sunday, and many on Monday as well. The Gasthof serves beer and meals (at set times) while the Gasthaus will also offer a room, where you lay under a feather bed as thick as a cloud.

Germany is the Kristkindl Markt in Advent, Fasching before Lent, and Oktoberfest where long tents are set up in the centre of town under which are equally long tables to thump a hefty bierstein on while music plays and everyone sings. This is the land of door-to-door beer delivery. When our landlord of years previous found out we were back in-country but living with the Canadians, he arranged to have his beer man make regular visits to us. This is also a land of vineyards and wine and schnapps.  Germans take their food and drink seriously, all as part of the necessities of life: feed your body well, your spirit well, your mind well.

There are way-side shrines on the side of houses in the country, or at the edge of a farm field - usually a cross with the Body of Christ on it, protected by a little pitched roof to protect it from the elements. Often someone will have left a token offering of flowers or a wreath. Faith was evident in the many churches, cemeteries, and cathedrals.

The Rhine is vast and wide, lending itself to both the industrial and pastoral aspects of the country. What it achieves on water economically for the country, the autobahn system achieves on land. That network is tidy and efficient, and it works because the obedient people trust it works. When the sign says 'stay right' they stay right. That mentality makes me very happy.

Germay is footfall-mad. I could hear the local club supporters cheer and groan from the pitch at the end of our street. They had as much enthusiasm as someone cheering on the national side during the World Cup (which they will win this summer).


There is so much more I want to tell you but I admit that words cannot come close to doing justice to either my memories or the fondness I have for this place.

07 April 2014

Following are four thousand words on Falls

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say.
So I give you, dear Reader, four thousand picture words of Falls.

I beg forgiveness for the poor quality, as it was pouring with rain this afternoon, and I was very aware of my illegally parked car. I hopped out on the side of the road, snapped a few shots, hoping you'd be able to tell what was in the picture.

This is 10 minutes from where I work, about 30 minutes from home.  Now is the time of year to tackle this wonder of nature because there are barely any buses crammed full of pic-snapping tourists. Barely.  The Falls have such a presence in the region that the Peanuts, who live 20 minutes inland from them, can, on  clear day, see the vast cloud of vapour they create.

And so I give you, Four Fotos of Falls


 
 
 
 

05 April 2014

The egrigious E


It is egregious. There is no excuse. Make an example of me for great effect! I’ll not seek exoneration for that would be effrontery. I am in earnest; shall I elucidate elliptically? My employment… there was extra.. it seemed ever long and never-ending…  an absolute era! It left me enervated, at low ebb, without the extra energy needed to eke out the enchantment so effective for entreating the muse to engage as my envoy to fill this empty page. I had no equanimity, she no empathy, and so we are entrenched.  Shall I enumerate how I have erred? I have no essay extolling the letter E.

04 April 2014

Depeched

I wanted to make D be for Depeche Mode, but instead of tell you, yet again how much I love'em, I thought it would be fun to try to string song titles together in a way that might tell a story. I challenged myself to pick 50, but when it was all done it turns out I had 55. 
My thanks for Martin Gore et al., for writing songs that lend themselves so well to the kind of story I like to write - more images than plot.

A story told in (55) Depeche Mode song titles

Higher love is a Strange love In Your room, Little 15. You were Wrong; please Never let me down again!

Shake the disease, Love thieves for You should be higher. You think you’re wearing a Halo? Dream on – that’s a Pain I’m used to Behind the wheel, or Walking in my shoes on Route 66… But not tonight.

You see the World in my eyes through A Broken frame Happiest girl, all Dressed in black. But It’s no good -- a Sea of sin, a Black celebration. In a World full of nothing, the Bottom line is Sometimes we need to sing our Songs of faith and devotion to our Personal Jesus, to be made Clean – it’s just A question of time, not Useless, my Sister of night. There is only Mercy in you, Lord, no Condemnation. I feel love when I lose myself… and then Surrender. That is the Sweetest perfection. We get Some great reward when we Get the balance right, and that’s not Nothing, Lillian; I told you so.

People are people Sometimes. It doesn’t matter. They Leave in silence with a Photograph of you because they want to See you. There’s Nothing to fear in The sun and the rainfall – it’s all Pleasure little treasure, like Waiting for the night in Stories of old. 

Enjoy the silence.

03 April 2014

Calling the midwife

Commending Call the Midwife

It is all too easy to idealize the past, viewing it through rose-tinted lenses. The simpler days of yore are perfectly wonderful when you don’t have to cope with the plumbing of yore. I believe there is give and take in equal measure in how we’ve advanced and what we’ve lost between then and now. Call the Midwife is a good demonstration.


Yet another British hit that has taken the New World by storm, Call the Midwife provides my favourite way to learn history: through story. Rather than dry facts of dates and causes and effects, I prefer to peer through the window of time into what life was like for people. What work did they do, how did they bathe, what did they wear, how did they amuse themselves, what was the home like, what were the biggest challenges in their daily life?


Call the Midwife has several factors that make it very appealing:
Though a dramatization, it is based on fact, being inspired by and based on the diaries of the main character, Jenny Lee.

While set in the past, it is recent enough that the world is still familiar to us in the present day. Our near relatives lived during the Post-War age and we know enough about it to be able to enter into the story as though it was our own experience.

It takes place in what we think of as the last of the golden years. Despite the hardships of a recent war, we do rather idealize the 1950s. We know they’re about to enter the frenetic world of accessible global travel, crazy-fast advances in technology, sexual revolution, and the many other ways life was about to change. Some ways were for the better, yes, but we can look back on certain of their qualities (that tend to have to do with character and values) with fond regret.

 

In the early years, the living conditions of the women cared for by the midwives are appalling.  Truly appalling. The flats are dark and dingy. Washing is strung over the street, or in public hallways, lavatories are shared by all residents in the building, the smog is chokingly thick, the men could be brutal, and women labour to deliver without pain relief. So many of the people are barely scraping out an existence, their poverty is painful to observe.


There is more than struggle and strife going on though. For example, just as any modern woman will be familiar with, the laundry is never finished; but while the modern women may have fancy machines to help her, she most likely is doing her washing alone in her own home. Compare that to the woman of Poplar, London, in the 1950s who does many of her chores in the company of, and with the help of, her mother and neighbours. They look out for each other. Very little of daily life is confined to the inside of the house, being more connected to the community, whether it is adults socializing in the street, children playing, or work and chores. It’s difficult for modern habits of privacy to contemplate such openness. (It’s also shocking to see little babies left outside in lines of prams while the mums are getting on with things indoors!)


The communal aspect of life means the midwives are aware of everyone in the district and their various needs. The doctor also knows them, visiting in their homes, and policemen walk their beat, knowing the neighbourhoods and what goes on there. Very few people are invisible.


So we’ve gained miraculous advances in medicine and birthing theories, but no longer have a relationship with the person helping us deliver. We have the safety net of the hospital, but forgo the intimacy and comfort of home. Our homes are larger, possibly cleaner, no doubt warmer, but largely more isolated, with less community connection. We may be more sophisticated, but are also more jaded, having lost a lot of the simplicity and wonder of that time.


Aside from the anthropological interest of the show, I also like the main characters – the nuns and midwives of Nonnatus House. While one may be cranky, she is also tender hearted. Another is eccentric, but so delightfully herself, and surprisingly intuitive and kind. The young nurses genuinely like each other, different as they are from each other. They allow each other to be themselves, appreciating the gifts of each one. I like the girly chatter as they huddle in their rooms late at night while the nuns are at the great silence, drinking the latest tipple, listening to the latest hit on the turntable, or get ready for an innocent night of dancing at the local community hall. I love the British expressions, particularly Chummy’s use of ‘old thing’ and ‘frightfully’ and ‘chap’.  (One of her best lines was to her infant son, warning him against laughing at her. “The first glimmer of a smile from you, young sir, and I’ll take you to the mirror to show you what a naughty monkey looks like!)
 

Equally delightfully, they drink Horlicks at night, and have their tea from a cup and saucer. There’s something reassuringly calm about a cup and saucer, as you can hardly be rushing about clutching them in your hands; plus, if you have to prepare the tea and then clean up twice the dishes, you’re going to take the time to properly enjoy it!
 

Watching Call the Midwife inspires me to be more reflective, observant, quiet, slower, more deliberate. I think it’s a brilliant bit of television, and am very grateful that a wise executive discovered Jenny Worth’s diary, and that such a good team of craftsmen and actors have worked together to make it the beautiful production we can enjoy.