"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Friday, 31 December 2010

Thoughts on the New Year

Some years ago I came across this poem and sent it out with my New Year wishes and several people liked it and asked me to repeat it.

I realise that some may find it too religious/spiritual but if so just in your mind change the word 'God' for, say, 'Fate' and take the good wishes that go with it!

It was included in King George V1's Christmas broadcast 1939 but I don't hold the royal connection against the poem!

Oh and the picture - it is the wonderful 'Light of the World' by Holman Hunt. Christina Rossetti modelled for the face of Christ - just had to drop that piece of knowledge in [I cannot bear people who show off their knowledge...]

Have a peaceful and serene 2011 everyone.

At the Gate of the Year
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied,
'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'

So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.

So heart be still!
What need our human life to know
If God hath comprehension?

In all the dizzy strife of things
Both high and low,
God hideth his intention.

by Minnie Louise Harkins 1875-1957

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

New Year Wishes

Since the ads on TV are now for summer holidays and sales in furniture stores I guess the Christmas consumption fest is officially over. Except of course for the mega sales in all the shopping malls and High Streets across the country, where those 'must have' items that would make Christmas perfect this time last week can now be bought at a fraction of the price.

I like to make the Christmas festivities last as long as possible, but starting before the 25th as people seem in a better humour then. By the time the day itself has arrived tempers seem to fray easily and by Boxing Day a lot of family and friendly gatherings seem to be strained...

Christmas and the New Year is a time for reflection although personally I try to ignore the news and forget about politics for a time. Of course a lot of metaphors can be drawn when watching friends and family interact but I don't do that...

For instance watching two grandsons argue about who is the eldest, an argument which will always have the same outcome does not make me reflect how often Wars are not worth fighting.

Watching the grandchildren open their presents is a lesson to all. They do not dissemble like adults and show exactly what they think of the wierd socks Aunty Elsie sent and how delighted they are with the gun that their pacifist parents would not buy for them but naughty Uncle Phillip slipped in. I dare not wonder if the world be a better place if we all said what we thought and if we listened more carefully to what others want.

Over the holidays we often visit friends/relations that for the rest of year we would travel miles to avoid. Surprisingly, we sometimes find that boring Great Grandma is not so bad after all and has some interesting stories from which we can learn. And those 'round robin' Christmas letters that arrive tucked in Christmas Cards and which we all laugh at, when we actually sit down and read them we may find amongst the stories of how many cat shows puss has won, they sometimes have interesting news about friends and family that we are glad to know. So perhaps communication with others prevents misunderstandings and actually broadens our knowledge? You might think that but I couldn't possibly comment.

Watching family and friends interact is a metaphor that does not need explaining, nor is the metaphor when family and friends end up having a blazing row. I hope your holiday experience was of the former and not the latter. I am so happy that ours was definately of the former!

One Christmas sentiment I really do wish would last all year is 'Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all Men'. So that is my New Year Wish to you all.

Oh and the photo? Well it is a metaphor! The boat on the Thames Estuary in Christmas week is attempting to hide behind the post. Obviously it can't, just as the Coalition government cannot hide from all its critics, including Elizannie, in 2011! Trying to hide measures like planning to close the Forensic Science Service and the Booktrust funding controversy because it is Christmas week won't work, guys!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Solstice Greetings to One and All!

As the blog title suggests, Winter Solstice Greetings to One and All in the Northern Hemisphere! And Summer Solstice greetings to those in the Southern Hemisphere! The photograph above is a bit of a cheat as it shows the sun rising over the Heel stone at Stonehenge on the Midsummer Solstice morning the last time that Other Half and I were there to celebrate the day.

Many believe that our modern Christmas is descended from the pagan Winter Solstice celebrations. http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice.html tells us that the solstice occurs tonight at 11.38pm and gives all the variations around the world according to variations in calendar date, longitude/latitude and hemisphere. Basically, in the Southern hemisphere it marks the date when the daylight hours cease to shortern and start to lengthen again until the Summer Solitice is reached in June. A good cause for celebration!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

BBC Jody McIntyre interview

Shortest blog ever.

Let the dignified Jody McIntyre speak for himself. Ben Brown is provocative and biased. I am complaining to the BBC and I hope that you will too.

Monday, 13 December 2010

This Island Race

No apologies for mis-quoting Winston Churchill in the blog title.

Personally I have never been able to come to terms with the fact that as an island our lifeboat service is run mainly by charitable donations: The Royal National Lifeboat Institution [clicking on this blog title should take you straight to their website] As the website states:
The RNLI is an independent charity, funded by voluntary donations. We could not save lives at sea without the public’s support.

Now it seems that David Cameron's coalition government feels that this Island Race does not need so many coastguard stations, according to this report in the Telegraph of the 11th of December:
The number of coastguard stations in Britain is planned to fall from 19 to eight while the search-and-rescue service, whose helicopter pilots currently include Prince William – is to be sold off to a foreign consortium.

I just hope that the foreign consortioum who will be running the search-and-rescue service do not operate a 'profit only' policy similar to that of our local bus service when privatised. Otherwise only 'routes expected to bring in a profit' will be allowed to be 'serviced'. Other 'routes' will be left out in the cold [and wet] as were some of the villages around here.

Perhaps I understand Cameron's agenda here. Does he want his much vaunted 'Big Society' to take over? After all if the RNLI is so volunteer led, is he thinking that there could be a way that it could be expected to step up and cover the missing coastguard stations? As so many air ambulances are already funded by charities is that his future plan for search-and-rescue services? After all there will be unemployed coastguard staff to go out and rattle collecting tins and they can volunteer to run some of the stations - as long of course as that does not interfere with their job seekers allowance.

If I sound really annoyed about this issue, well I am. Amongst my many family lines I have ancestors who were Essex fishermen and boat builders. The sort of men who went out in the fleet of little ships to Dunkirk [see my blog http://rephidimstreet.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html] For most of my life I have lived very close by the Thames Estuary. These cuts - like so many others - are spiteful and potentially will affect so many working people - their livelihood and their lives. Think again Mr Cameron et al.

Update: To sign the petition regarding saving the Coastguard stations please go to: http://www.petitiononline.com/ukcghq/petition.html

The photograph above is of the spot where some of my ancestors built boats hundreds of years ago.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Memories of My Grandmother and the Christmas Cake making

In Memory of the first Elizannie who was born on the 9th December 1890 in Southwark.

I really loved my 'Nan'. So much so that when my first grandchild was born and I was asked what I wanted to be called it was obviously going to be called 'Nanny', shortened as soon as the baby could speak to 'Nan'!

My Nan was a strong woman, the eldest of seven sisters - all strong women! - and one brother. The were born in around London, Nan was born in Southwark, and although her father was a skilled man and had served an apprenticeship [he was a 'journeyman engineer'] he had to take whatever jobs he could get. Stories abound about her early life and one is how often the large family had to do 'moonlit flits'. When money ran out because Great Grandfather was put out of work and the rent could not be paid the family would have to leave their lodgings in the middle of the night. Times were hard not only for the tenants but their landlords then who were often working people themselves and forced to let a room or two to supplement their income. Moonlight flits affected them too. However this sort of poverty seemed to have kept the family close to each other and in later life they always helped each other out without thought.

Six of the sisters survived into old age and those not living close by would write to each other regularly - we children and grandchildren would call them the 'Bronte sisters'! But most of the sisters lived near to one and another and their children and grandchildren played together and at times as a child I was never sure which child belonged to which aunt or cousin!

Luckily we still keep quite close and the internet aids that - last year I found lots of cousins on facebook, some I with whom I had lost contact and others who had been born and now had children of their own since I had last been in contact with their parents!

Obviously I am thinking of my Nan especially today. And I thought today would be a good day to make a Christmas cake - the first home made one for many years! - and this reminded me of my childhood and the Christmas cake making process.

My Nan would arrive at our house to assist with the process, which I think also included the making of Christmas puddings and it seemed to take days. Although the fruit had to be washed by hand and 'picked over' to remove the stalks. And then dried by laying on trays with tea towels under them. I used to try and sneak the odd handful but a clip round the ear was the reward if caught! The whole almonds had to be skinned by immersing in hot water and then 'popping' - my job because I would never eat the almonds! - and minced up in the spong mincer clamped to the kitchen table. My mother was so strong with this it used to make the mincer rebound! When the whole amount of ingredients were finally dried and assembled they were mixed together in one of those large earthenware bowls now only seen in museums with a massive wooden spoon. Everyone in the house had to have a stir and a wish. The house seemed to smell of the cooking for days - delicious but unobtainable. To me as a child the real start of the Christmas excitement! But the Christmas cake was always worth waiting for!

My Christmas cake making was much quicker today but a bit eventful too. No need these days to wash and dry fruit and one can buy almonds already ground - although I decided to omit them from these year's recipe as youngest daughter is pregnant and I am not sure if they are allowed or not. Also ommitted booze from recipe for same reason but once I have checked I can add that to the cooked cake [if it turns out OK - I have my doubts!] by feedin it.

So here is my schedule of cooking. I used the old standby recipe by Mrs Beeton [another Victorian Eliza] but don't blame her for the results....

1. Fall at the first post as I can't find the baking tin for large cakes, it is so long since I made a really big one. Eventually find it is right at the top of one of the kitchen cupboard. Climb onto a kitchen chair but still can't reach it [if @Lauren Moore is reading this she will emphathise] Six foot plus Other Half is out. Employ a long handled kitchen spoon to 'grab' it. Just catch it along with another baking tin and a pyrex dish. Rather pleased about the pyrex dish as I had completely forgotten I had it and rather like it.

2. Decide that whoever put the baking tin away years ago did not wash it properly and it is not nice. However the pyrex dish is lovely and decide to use that.

3. Start putting dry ingredients in mixing bowl. No baking powder but do have cream of tartar and bicarb of soda. Go on to google to find how to make baking powder from these ingredients. Write down 'recipe'. Go back to cream of tartar and bicarb of soda and find that the recipe for baking powder is written on those canisters. Swear.

4. Attempt to mix dry ingredients but cannot find mixer blades. Wonder if dough blades would work? Turn out cutlery drawers and big pot holding cutlery. Find proper blades.

5. Start sorting fruit. Whilst weighing start eating fruit especially glace cherries. Start feeling sick.

6. Put mixture in pyrex baking 'tin'. Hadn't realised it is shallower than baking tin. Now so fed up couldn't really care less. Put in oven.

7. Look around the devastation that is my kitchen. Leave it and get back to the computer.

8. Realise that perhaps Other Half had the right idea when he bought a Christmas Cake after I announced my intention of making one. Perhaps cooking is not my forte.

9. Wonder if Mum, Nan and her sisters are up there laughing at me! I hope so! Happy birthday Nan!

If you would like to read more about my lovely Nan please go to my previous blog at:
http://rephidimstreet.blogspot.com/search?q=bracelet If you click on this blog title it should take you straight there!

The picture above is of my Nan on a family day out at the seaside in the 1960s.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Yet another blog in defence of the student protests

I must not listen to radio 4, I must not listen to radio 4, I must not listen to radio 4, I must not listen to radio 4.

Usually I listen to music during the day and get my news via the internet but yesterday accidentally caught Baroness Williams on radio 4's The World at One which resulted in the angry blog http://rephidimstreet.blogspot.com/2010/12/oh-baroness-williams-what-let-down.html [Click on this blog title to go directly to it]

Today I walked into a room where radio 4's Woman's Hour was playing. Mistake. David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, was defending the rise in student tuition fees. We have heard it all so many times but what enraged me even more today was the comment that it was disproportionately unfair to poorer working women who were paying out of their taxes to support students.

Well! There are lots of items upon which I resent my taxes being spent: off hand I can name defence, civil list, subsidies to private sector organisations taking what should be public sector contracts in areas like health, education, social welfare..... And lots of areas where I would like my taxes spent: pensions [ok I have an interest here], welfare,education, health ...... I do not get a say in where my taxes go and nor does anyone else, only through the ballot box, letters and petitions to the Government or on demos. Yet according to David Willets the students on demos are wishing to exploit poor working women by protesting at the rise in tuition fees. A very clever - if untrue - take on this issue.

"Elizannie", someone is shouting, "you are an unemployed woman with no income so where are these taxes you claim to be paying?"

I reply: " Well, yes I am a kept woman having been unemployed due to medical issues for three years. Luckily Other Half can afford to keep me [just!] and he pays income tax. And I have spent nearly all my savings from my workings years, savings after tax paid on the income at that time. And when I spend those savings look at all the tax I pay on my purchases. Every time I treat myself to a book or CD from amazon or at this time of year buy a Christmas present I am paying VAT - which is due to rise in January. I chip in toward the heavy Council Tax we pay here in the South East. I buy stamps for the Christmas cards I send. I no longer pay road tax as I had to stop driving and sell my car [which gave me more savings to spend and thus give the government more VAT!] but until earlier this year I paid that to the revenue. When I do get my pension sorted out if it was a large as it should be [it won't be!] that would be taxable. So I am an [indirect] tax payer."

There are many indirect tax payers in the country like me, not paying income tax but paying tax in the ways outlined above. Many are cared for by university graduates [as are income tax payers of course!] in hospitals, social work areas etc. Older people may have grandchildren taught by graduates in schools. I wonder how many of them are worried that in future there will be less graduates to do the jobs properly. Other Half is an engineer and wonders as there are so few younger people with engineering degrees/qualifications now that if uni courses are cut what will happen to our remaining industries in the future? Maggie Thatcher set out to rid the country of its manufacturing industries, she succeeded but sadly did not propose alternative work places.

The photograph is taken from the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11940832 That's called irony.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Oh Baroness Williams, what a let down

I used to really admire Baroness Williams [aka Shirley Williams] I remember when I was really young going to the House of Commons and hearing her address a meeting of 'Labour women'. What an icon she was for a young woman then - a single mother [she was at that time separated from her husband but unable to divorce him due to her religous views] who was a successful female politician in a male dominated world, with principles that she would maintain against any ridicule.

Then my idol proved to have feet of clay when she left the Labour Party in 1981 to form the Social Democrat Party due to disagreements within the Labour Party. Many times I have had disagreements within the Labour Party but have stayed on the basis of 'If I ain't in it, I can't change it'. Its been tough - especially over the past 13 years but I am still a member and still trying for change.

I suppose that - like Winston Churchill - once she had 'turned' once it became easy to turn again so when the SDP and the Liberal Party joined ranks in 1988 she went with the flow...

And now we hear that she is quite happily agreeing that it is OK to renege on the Liberal Democratic Party's pre-election pledge regarding Student Tuition Fees. She was interviewed on the World at One this lunchtime - it is available on the BBC website to be listened to again for 7 days http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wdgr3#synopsis about 18min 30 seconds in.

She said she supports Nick Clegg and Vince Cable in their new proposals because she thinks that free tuition for students is now impossible although she does not condemn* those Liberal MPs who do not support it. She also thinks it was mistaken of those Liberal Democrat prospective MPs who signed the pledge not to raise tuition fess before the General Election. When questioned whether this included Nick Clegg she said she felt he had 'made a mistake' and was being 'brave' now. So that's OK then. She also said how this new scheme was really very fair for those at the lower end of the income scale and actually used the words 'at the bottom on the heap'. Possibly not a wise choice. And apparently the State Scholarship Scheme is really going to help the poor access universities. Oh I remember that argument for the 11+ and grammar schools. That worked so well - not.

This is really odd because in 2003 Shirley Williams withdrew from the possibility of becoming Chancellor of Oxford University in a protest against the Labour Government's imposition of Tuition Fees [no I didn't agree either. A subject for another blog perhaps] She said:
As a firm believer of students being chosen on merit, not means, she could not head up a university which would want to levy higher fees
going on to say
that American top universities like Harvard chose students regardless of their means.

[Shirley Williams was a graduate of Oxford University and taught at Harvard]

Am I drawing a conclusion? Well possibly it is that making someone an idol or role model may be OK for five minutes but not to rely on them for a 'life pattern'. Sorry Baroness Williams, I will make my own patterns for now on. And continue to campaign again tuition fees.

*I am refraining with great difficulty from making any pun using any variation of 'Con', 'Dem' etc.

The photograph? Elizannie at her state school. Wonder when school fees will become mandatory?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Christmas and Giving

Elizannie's tongue-in-Cheek guide to Christmas season with some serious bits
I do like the Christmas season. Not all the Commercialism and Consumerism, but the sort of Cosiness that occurs when families and friends get together and when one opens a Christmas Card from someone not Communicated with since last Christmas. If it wasn't for Christmas there would be no Communication between one and other for goodness knows how long. All those little Christmas Customs too - not necessarily religious ones but just the ones that have grown up within individual homes. Notice all the words beginning with 'C' in this paragraph so here is another one that I like about the season, the giving that goes with 'Charity'. And I am not even going to mention Christianity or Churches because for so many people Christmas is just a holiday at the end of December, not a religious festival. For those of us who do Celebrate it as a Christian festival, an extra dimension is added.

I am sure that lots of you reading this will think, 'who is Elizannie kidding?' Families and friends forced together over the Christmas Holiday season inevitably end up fighting and arguing - to which I reply it doesn't need a festival occasion to cause that. I can have an argument in an empty room if so minded, and of course the internet aids that considerably. Arguments usually occur because people are attempting too hard to get on - so it is far easier not to try and just be natural! Certain board games should be avoided. I love board games and never get annoyed if I don't win but one year we played Scruples and I ended up not speaking to anyone because of what was said about my driving skills....

When a Christmas Card arrives I love to try and guess who has sent it before I open it. This drives Other Half to distraction but is just one of my more annoying Christmas Customs... I love it when one of those photocopied Christmas letters drops out of a Christmas Card. I love Catching up with the news of family and friends and cannot understand why these letters are so derided! Being a bit of a technophobe I especially love the ones that have been decorated with Christmas motifs and little photographs. Sometimes I even try and emulate these which passes a happy hour or two for me and a not so happy hour or two for Other Half trying to re-set the PC. Back to the Charities and giving. I like to buy Charity Christmas Cards but temper this generosity by buying them in the sales after Christmas, for the following year, arguing that the shops will have already given the charities their share so it is only the shops [and Consumerism] which are losing out..

If able to afford it, giving presents is nice. But I really don't like the desperate 'selling' in the media of the latest 'must have' gifts - particularly for Children. Within our own family we buy only 'proper' gifts for Children, with just token gifts for the adults. And we are not above giving Charity shop items - thus helping Charities again. And often these are 'Comedy' items which will be re-donated after Christmas and hopefully raise more Cash in the New Year.

Hopefully Charities will raise a lot of money at Christmas as people are more generous or feel guilty at the amount they are spending on food and drink. When my Children were younger they always loved to help in raising funds for the Blue Peter Christmas Appeal and what I especially like is the fact that Children are not asked to send money but donate items or their own time etc. Details of this year's appeal can by found by clicking on the blog title above.

There is a bit of a discussion going on the Facebook site at the moment where 'friends' are asking one and other to alter their profile pictures to one of their favourite Cartoon Characters from their Childhood to raise awareness of Campaigns against violence toward Children. Some of these messages are adding 'if you do this please donate to the NSPCC'. Questions have been asked as to whether this is an 'official' NSPCC Campaign or not, but as was pointed out by one Facebook member not everyone can afford to donate and raising awareness Can only be a good thing. A very good point - Charitableness is not only about money but about attitudes. However if anyone does want to donate here is a link: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/Applications/Donations/DonatePredonation.aspx

Mind you I was a little bit horrified at hearing that someone Collecting officially at a football match for the Centrepoint Charity yesterday was told off by a policeman for rattling his bucket aggressively. I have done a lot of Charity Collections - on the street and door-to door - and know the rules about not approaching people and I really hope I haven't rattled anything aggressively but only in a pacifist way. One has principles after all..

I am a sucker for a good Charity CD - especially if it is by an artiste that I love! So it was no pain last year to buy Christmas in the Heart by Bob Dylan. Extremely lush plus all proceeds go to homeless Charities in perpetuity (UK sales benefit Crisis) and this year Annie Lennox's 'A Christmas Cornucopia'. It is a fantastic sound and all of Annie’s income from ‘Universal Child’- one of the tracks -will be paid to the Annie Lennox Foundation, Annie’s own Charity that raises money for Charitable projects supporting and educating women and Children in Africa with HIV/AIDS.

We used to live abroad and have brought home a Dutch/German [along the Upper Rhine] Christmas Custom of the festival of St Nicholas [6th December], which starts tonight. On December 5th Dutch children leave out their Clogs or shoes hoping that they will be filled with small presents or sweets [in our house!] Children that have not behaved in the past year are 'rewarded' with twigs and straw! Luckily we also brought Clogs home with us. St Nicholas is shown in the picture at the top of this blog.

There are other religious festivals around the end of the year/beginning of the New Year and I wish everyone, celebrating a festival or not, joy - I am sorry that I am late wishing my Jewish friends a Happy Hanukkah. My wish for all is that we Could all be a bit kinder and Charitable to one and other what ever the time of year.