Anthony from Canterbury

Anthony. Anthony from Canterbury. He has a lot to answer for.

The boys met Anthony last summer when we went to church in Deal. He was one of the people they played with while the grown ups listened to the sermon.

He doesn’t come from Canterbury. Really. He goes to school in Canterbury, which is almost the same thing.

In our family, his name has been used as a chant, usually as some sort of war cry to annoy the adults. Then the other day, oldest grandson experimented with the stresses and rhythms of the chant to produce some very clever choral speaking. He assigned different parts to his siblings and what had been a raucous war cry became a very pleasing sound experiment.

So Anthony, you may never know the fun we have had with your name, but know this; you will always be remembered with great affection in our family.


The trials of recycling

There’s no recycling collection from our little seaside getaway. Allegedly, the council won’t sent a lorry up the hill to collect it. Ridiculous, because many visitors to the site come from Europe and are well used to sorting their rubbish for recycling and the trip would be worthwhile. Even we feel guilty when we put our recycling in the in a black bag for disposal.

So Granny found an empty bin. She went on line to find the nearest recycling points and what they would take. We happily put our recycling in the bin and carried it out to the car when it was time to go to a supermarket.

Remembering the very visible recycling points at home, we drove round the car park, looking for the recycling point. We couldn’t find it. We asked in store. Even the staff weren’t sure where it was! “It’s by the exit,” we were told. We still couldn’t see it. We asked at the garage (by the exit). “It’s by the entrance, near MacDonalds,” they said. Eventually, we found it, looking unloved and barely used. No wonder.

There were big bins for the different types of glass, we only had a jam jar. There were bins for drinks cans and food cans, we only had an empty baked bean can. There was a bin for different types of batteries, we had two AAA batteries, hardly a great contribution. We had some paper which we put in another bin. We had lots of card and plastic bottles, no bin.

So we put it back in the car. We tried another, bigger supermarket on the way home. We found the recycling bins easily. They looked even more unloved and there were fewer of them and we’ve still got our plastic bottles and card. Anyone want it?

He got it free!

Grandson and I went to the DIY store.

“Have you got any off cuts my grandson can have?” I asked.

“What does he want them for?”

“You know, banging together with nails – to make things.”

We went to the wood store. Malcolm was there. He had been cutting up some wood for the Scouts. He went to have a look and came back with five chunky pieces and a big, flat piece.

“Will these do?”

They did. He even put a sticker on, so we didn’t have to pay!

The next day, we went to a house clearance sale. Grandson found a broken, musical cigarette box, made of wood. A bit like this:

The lid opened and trays raised up displaying the cigarettes, if there had been any. He was entranced and wanted to buy it. He asked the man if he could buy it. They had quite a discussion, and the man gave it to him.

Later grandson and his mother did some research on the Internet and found out its possible value. They found out how the musical mechanism works and managed to get it working. It plays a piece of Neapolitan music, Funiculi, Funicula, written to celebrate the opening of a funicular up Mount Vesuvius. The box still needs mending and Grandson says this is going to be the first thing that he fixes and keeps.

And the off cuts? Grandson got the tool box and power tool out, and with a bit of help from his mum, made a side table.



It was time to march again. On a bright, sunny Saturday in January, hundreds, no thousands, assembled in the centre of Lewisham to march past Lewisham Hospital, and on to Mountsfield Park. They were marching to defend themselves from having to share one accident and emergency department with 750,000 people by fighting against the closure of Lewisham Hospital including its new accident and emergency department, intensive care, maternity and children’s services.

They were determined to save Lewisham hospital by influencing health secretary, Jeremy Hunt’s final decision. Not so easy. Comments made during the consultation period and the groundswell of public and medical opinion had been largely ignored so far.

I joined the march at Ladywell, expecting to be somewhere near the back. Actually, I was easily in the front quarter. Ahead, I could see the purple balloons of Unite: behind was a long procession of predominantly red banners. Everyone was very upbeat. Cars on the opposite side of the road hooted in support. Those unable to walk far lined the pavement to cheer the marchers on. There was street theatre, choirs and drummers along the way to keep us entrained.

Suddenly, we were passing the hospital we were trying to save. Staff, presumably on their lunch break, had come out to watch the march and cheer us on. It was a poignant moment. We were marching to save not just their jobs but their life’s work. We waved to each other, and the marchers passed on.

As we walked up George Lane, I began to realise the breadth of people who had turned out: the unions, health workers, “professional protesters” and Joe Public; parents with their kids, many claiming to have been helped or had their lives saved by Lewisham hospital. As well as children in slings or pushchairs, I saw people in wheel chairs, on crutches or using walking sticks, some coloured white. Many carried homemade banners. Local organisations had been invited to adopt a banner and many carried banners bearing the name of their business or community organisation. Not only was it good publicity, it was good to know that they were standing with us.

We reached the park gates and started the slow procession into the park itself. Information and food stalled lined the route. Portaloos had been provided for those who needed them. Stewards urged people onto the grass and to make their way down to the specially erected platform. It was at this point that I parted company with the main march. Grannies don’t do mud, and I followed the other oldies round the park and out the next gate. I felt bad. So near, yet so far.

But I’m glad I did. As I started back down George Lane, I faced the remaining marchers still coming up the hill. Some were tired and could barely put one foot in front of the other. Others were in groups laughing and talking with their friends. The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly. I rounded the corner into Lewisham High Street – still they were coming! It was unbelievable. I stopped to chat to friends and urge them to complete the march. The cars were still tooting their support and the staff at Lewisham hospital were still out in the cold waving and cheering everyone on.

Finally, by St Mary’s Church a dozen or so Police brought up the rear. Thanks guys for everything you did to help us. Thanks to the drivers who patiently sat in their vehicles while the march went by. Thanks to those who had to wait for their delayed buses. Thanks to the organisers and those who helped to get the word out, including local councillors and local and national media. And special thanks to you if you marched, made banners, tweeted and were part of that procession, estimated to consist of twenty five thousand people.

Whatever the outcome, we are part of the changing history of the NHS.

Songs we sing – other people’s

Not all our songs are made up. The grandkids have favourite cds that we have to play in the car. My only defence is that I play them on shuffle, so we never know what is coming next. They sing along, even if, to the annoyance of their siblings, they sing the wrong words.

There was the sunny summer day when we drove down Chislehurst High Street listening to a cd and belting out “One Way, Jesus” at the tops of our voices. Just because we could.

Granddaughter and Grandson introduced us to a CD that came with a book of songs for kids. The favourite was “I am a C”. You can get the words here, although we did not know about the second verse. You can also see it on YouTube.

On the same cd there was a version of “I’ve got the joy”, (again we did not know all the verses) which had us in hysterics. On the cd a child sings “where?” after each line in a very distinctive voice, which youngest granddaughter was convinced was “meow” for quite a long time, and she could not be dissuaded.

Granddaughter picks up phrases of songs and sings them over and over again, like a broken record. Sometimes we can identify what she is singing and help her to sing the whole song; other times, she just drives us crazy!

Grandsons are big Michael Jackson fans. What is it about boys and Michael Jackson? Put Thriller on and immediately they are dancing round the room. These boys are so inspired they have even acquired the appropriate clothes to wear.

Over the years I have acquired a collection of CDs in my car, referred to as “old”, “new” or by the colour of the CD, and they vocally vote for the CD they want to hear. But when I want to calm things down, I put on ClassicFM and ban talking. If it works, they fall asleep.

Malva Pudding, who knew?

The Band of Bakers,, “is a chance for people in South East London who love baking to get together and share their latest creations over a drink and a chat!” So when I saw a tweet saying there was an unexpected opportunity to participate in the next event, I jumped at it. The theme was “a great opportunity for some international flair!” and an invitation “to bake something either sweet or savoury from one of the 202 participating countries in the 2012 Olympic Games.”

I decided to pick South Africa as my country and googled recipes. Malva pudding sounded kind of familiar, although I had no idea what it was. It was difficult to imagine, a sponge pudding with the addition of apricot jam, bicarbonate of soda dissolved in milk with vinegar added, covered and baked in the oven. The baked pudding was then covered in a caramel sauce – could that work?

Wikipedia,, provided some interesting background. Of Afrikaner origin, it has been revived by Oprah Winfrey’s chef. It is a versatile pudding which forms the basis of some interesting variations, some brandy based.

I chose this recipe: An email to a South African friend suggested that cake flour was probably what I know as self-raising flour.

I set to work, following the recipe as carefully as I could. So far so good.  I poured the mixture into a greased casserole dish, covered it with a lid  and put it in the oven. Boy, did it rise! After half an hour, I turned the oven down. I think I could have cooked it on 150c, as I decided it was done five minutes before the end of the recommended cooking time.

Making the sauce was easy. I poured it carefully over the pudding, allowing time for it to be absorbed by the pudding.  It did all go in eventually. I couldn’t wait to try it.  I made some custard and put it in a vacuum flask and off I went to the event.

One of the first people I met was a South African. He graciously agreed that the pudding looked alright.  Then it was tasting time. Wow! The pudding was so light and fluffy! The sauce was not too over powering.  I’ve never had anything quite like it. And yet I think this is one of those family stand-bys that can be varied as the maker is inclined.

Someone said it was their favourite of the evening and it is one recipe I shall be making again.

Telling the time

Who would have thought that telling the time could be so much fun and a riveting topic of conversation?!

Two summers ago, grandson was promised a watch, if he could learn to tell the time. Well, he did, sort of, but two years later, we are still talking about the time. We’ve just missed a bus and the next one is in thirteen minutes, what will the time be? If the cake is cooked in twenty minutes, what time will it be? If we have to wait a quarter of an hour for it to cool, when can we eat it? And so on.

Kids are used to working in base ten,  but asking them to work in base sixty and in units of five is another thing altogether. Quarters are fifteen minutes long. There is five minutes between each number on the clock. How can forty-four minutes past ten also be sixteen minutes to eleven? Quarter past or quarter to? How can fifteen o’clock also be three o’clock? Lots to think about.

And then there’s clock watching. I spent part of one morning clock watching the secondhand with grandkids. “Tick, tick, tick, tick, five, tick, tick, tick, tick, ten, tick … ” When we got to sixty, the long hand had moved one space and we started again – for twenty minutes! At eleven o’clock, they were rewarded with crisps, biscuits and a drink.

Working with the oldest grandchildren, the younger ones overhear and try to join in. Will learning to tell the time be any easier for them? Who knows?