Thursday, 30 June 2011

All Roads Lead to Oklahoma?

Another of those weird things I keep running across: when I was researching the history of North Shields for these articles, I found a list of famous people born there. 

Other than Stan Laurel I only recognized George Stephenson, but Alan Young seemed vaguely familiar. Turns out he was Wilber in one of my favourite childhood television shows: Mister Ed.   Does anyone remember Mister Ed?

Seems that the horse that ‘played’ the talking horse was named Bamboo Harvester, but there was a second horse used in publicity photos, etc., who lived longer than the ‘real’ Mr. Ed.   When the second horse died, he was buried on Snodgrass Farm in Oklahoma and there was some confusion at the time that it had been Mr Ed who was buried there.

I’m not bothered which horse was buried where, but boy did it make me homesick for my childhood…. I wonder if there are Mr. Ed videos? Would I still think they were funny?

Yes.  And yes, well, moderately.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Bill knows the oddest words.  We were walking home one day, through  a street of council houses.  None were particularly wonderful, mostly having front doors that were right on the pavement and windows at eye level to the pedestrian world.  I did remark that the ones on the other side of the road were slightly nicer, but the differences were quite subtle.  As we walked we began to notice the small design features that lifted a block of housing a bit.  Bill remarked that even the depth of a window sill could make a difference and he was right.

Then we came to the corner and I said I liked the brick work.  He said they were coins.  Like the money.  I looked for the term but couldn't find it, however I did find quoin

On the other hand, if you look at the origin of the word coin, as in money, it comes from Old French, coigne "a wedge, cornerstone," coigne.  Turns out it's spelled coign, (or quoin) not coin.  But he could be forgiven, after all I found it in the 'dictionary of difficult words.'

However it's spelled, I like the effect, and I'm guessing this house's owners do too, as they have emphasised it with a bit of lovely green colour.  Do you?

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Clothing Analysis

You may or may not remember that I like data analysis.  I read not long ago that Pauline at the English Organiser keeps track of her wardrobe in a spreadsheet.  So do I.  I like to play with that data:

I worked out the simplest way to get dressed.  I looked out how many outfits I could put together by colour.  I considered which of my clothes I wear the most often.  Then I really got serious and made a database that could answer all my questions (except for what should I put on right now...)..  One could do all this without a spreadsheet, but I wouldn't want to try it:

I have 146 pieces in my wardrobe that I wear or have worn in the past year or two.   I bought 56% (84) of them new; 40% (58) I bought second hand; 3% (4) were home made.  Mom or I each made two of those pieces.

Just talking about the used pieces, I got 29% (43) in a charity or consignment shop.  Ten pieces (7%) I regularly wear belonged originally to my Aunt Rita; she either gave them to me when she was clearing out or they came to me after she died.  Other sources of one or two pieces each (5 total) came from other family members or friends. 

Of the new items, I bought
68% (57) in the UK
17% (14) in the US
  6% each (5) in France and Australia
  2% (2) in Portugal
  1% (1) in Greece.

My current wardrobe is comprised of:

44 tops
24 pairs of shoes
20 pairs of slacks
17 cardigans
13 jackets
11 skirts
  8  jumpers (what they call sweaters here)
  6 pairs of boots
  2 coats
  1 dress

There isn't enough time left in my life - or yours - to tell you about scarfs or jewellery.

I have classified my clothes as being suitable for
slobbing around  - 4% (6)
casual wear only - 42% (61)
smart occasions only - 18% (27)
dressy occasions - 4% (6)
could be casual or smart - 25% (36)
any occasion - probably coats and jumpers - 7% (10)

In looking at how long I keep my clothes, I just did 5-10 year groupings:

0-5 years old - 44% (64)
6-10 years old - 47% (69)
11-19 years old - 5% (7)
20+ years old - 4% (6)

I was curious to see if I'd bought much clothing since I retired about 4 years ago.  Also, a blogger I read said everything 7 years old or older will be OUT of STYLE (I don't necessarily agree, but I'm sure she's far more stylish than I; also richer). 

< 4 years old - 26% (38)
< 7 years old - 76% (111)
7+ years old - 24% (35)

So that wasn't too bad.  Then again, if I estimate that my used clothing was probably at least 2 years old before I got it, the picture worsens:

< 4 years old - 14% (21)
< 7 years old - 61% (89)
7+ years old - 39% (56)

Now, you might think 146 items of clothing is too much, and you are probably right, but of course we're talking about all seasons here.  I grouped my clothes by seasonal wear and came up with:

cool weather - 28% (41)
warm weather - 40% (59)
mid-season (useful for bridging the gap, but not for one or the other) - 8% (11)
all weather - 24% (35)

What colours will you find in my closet?
21% (30) - black
10% (14 or 15 pieces each) - brown, navy, French blue, grey, white or 'other'
  7% (10) - purple
  4% (6) - tan or orange
  3% (4 each) - green or burgundy
  2% (3) - taupe
  1% (1) - cream

83% of my clothes (96) are a solid colour.  If I do buy prints, I tend to stick to what I think are traditional prints (there are 30 items for which I deemed prints not applicable, shoes & boots, though I realise they could be print...but not in my closet...):

30 % - Stripes (6)
20% - Floral (4)
15% - Tweed/Herringbone  (3)
10% - Paisley, Animal or 'Modern' (2 each)

Then, I quickly categorised my clothing by how much I like it:

A - It fits, it's comfortable, I feel great wearing it, it gives confidence, I would pay good money to replace the exact same or very similar piece.  I love it.  18% (26)

B - I like it, it's comfortable, goes with loads of things and I'm happy wearing it.  I would replace many of the these pieces, but probably most from thrift stores.  35% (51)

C - It's useful but not more than that; either the fit, the colour or fabric is somehow lacking.  I'm not inspired in the least.  44% (64)

D - These are not things I enjoy wearing anymore.  They are probably only kept because of sentimental reasons and I make myself use them now and then to justify keeping them.  3% (5)

The good news is that I like or love better than half (53%), but it did tell me I don't shop as wisely as I thought.

I wondered if I like things just because they are newer.  It sort of looks that way:

< 4 years - 64% of 'good' clothes (A or B)
< 7 years - 56% of good clothes
7+ years - 44%

And did I really like new clothes better than used?  Guess so.

I classed 84% of my New clothes as 'good' (As and Bs), but only 58% of my Used clothes as good.

However, 22 items of the not 'good' clothes (Cs and Ds) (32%) had been formerly loved.  They were just too old: an average of 7.5 years (range 4-18 years; median 6).  Also, the handmade items weren't in my favourites.

So, what did I learn from all this?

- I still LOVE data analysis - but only descriptive.  I've forgotten most of what I knew about chi squares and p-values and I no longer have the software to compute it for me.  No great loss, really.

- I have more clothes than I really need, but we both knew that before we started.  I'm sure it's a safe bet that you do too.

- My clothes are more formal than my lifestyle, a hang over from my working life.  I don't want more slobbing out clothes, but I definitely don't need so many dressy things.  I could attend a wedding, a party, a funeral or a working function (heaven forbid!) in every season, so I'm pretty well covered, not that I do any of those very often at all.

I hang on to my clothes for too long, even ones I don't love.  Mostly for sentimental reasons - something to do with Mom or Rita or when I was thin or young...silly, really.

- I have more clothes for warm than for cool weather, which is completely daft.  That is in part because I have visited the US in the summer and bought shoes that fit; summer styles are what are on offer then, you know?  Also, to be fair, a lot of Rita's clothes were for warm weather being as how she lived in Oklahoma.

- I get away with keeping my clothes for as long as I do because they are not trendy prints, which date very quickly.  I remember when I first started buying my own clothes feeling very annoyed that something was so out of date I was embarrassed to wear it, but not feeling I'd got my money's worth by a long shot.  I prefer classic styles for this reason, also because being petite they suit me better.

- Black became my go-to colour when I first came to the UK:  it survives travel on public transport better than anything else.  I never bought that much black when I lived in the US.  Dark colours seem to suit the mood here in the UK, I think; bright colours are for warm sunny places.  That said, the second group of colours were always my basics in Oklahoma and Utah...and I wore more red as a blonde.

- In spite of the fact that I do seem to love newer, newly acquired clothes, I wouldn't take this to mean I shouldn't buy second hand.  Only that I shouldn't buy something because it's a good price, something we all fall into at some point.  When I look at why I love the pieces I do, without fail they fit me to a T, which is easier said than done.  I need to hold out for the petite styled pieces that make me feel like I've come home instead of like a bag lady.  I clearly do still make shopping mistakes.  I'd far rather make a used mistake than a new one.

- I need to get rid of the clothes I really don't like (Ds and Cs are obvious candidates) and look carefully at why I'm hanging onto the really old pieces.  I have a trunk for sentimental clothes - the ones Mom knitted or sewed that no longer fit; they can go in there if need be.   Otherwise, why hang on to something that is over 7 years old if it's not an A or a B.

- If there are old or unloved items that I actually 'need' - I should go shopping and replace them.  I can afford to do that; it's the whole point of being frugal is to be comfortably confident that I can afford what I actually need.

- One thing I've been learning from my 'colour of the month' game is that it is in fact possible to wear taupe every day of the month in spite of only having 3 pieces (and, OK, a scarf).  I am certain I wouldn't want for what to wear if I got rid of everything old or unloved. 

- Having scrutinised the clothing inventory in so many ways, I  already know what I would replace them with!  But that's another post...

Saturday, 25 June 2011


I seem to stumble on to ideas over and over these days.  I don’t know if it is because I’m paying more attention to the details or if it’s just the way of things and I make too much of it.  I’d add that the media are awash with the latest trends, but these aren’t current thoughts at all.  

For example, I was reading a Dick Francis book, Slayride, in which one of the characters was reading The Golden Notebook.  I’d never heard of the latter, but then ran across the name again when reading about Maya Angelou.  It’s a book by Doris Lessing and I’ve added it to my library reading list.

Frugal Scholar quoted Shakespeare one day, using the phrase ‘Sweet and 20’, which I realised was the title of one of my inter-war books I’ve yet to find. 

I picked up a Readers Digest to read one book, and discovered a new author from this very area where I live.

At the Sewing Group, one of the Joan’s had been away to Tenerife and brought back coconut macaroons.  These reminded Brenda of a recipe she’d heard about whilst visiting Canada last year, Impossible Pie.  I picked up one of Bill’s Phryne books, Dead Man's Chest, and it gave the recipe for the very same Impossible Pie.

Since you’ve been so good as to read this far, I’ll share that recipe with you:

Impossible Pie

1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
4 eggs
125 g butter, melted
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1 cup milk

Grease a deep pie dish and preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Put all ingredients except half the almonds and the milk into a bowl and mix well.  Then add the milk slowly and beat until you get a cake batter.  Pour into the pie dish, top with remaining almonds, bake for about 35 minutes.  It transforms itself into a spongy layered coconut cake which Ms Greenwood recommends be served with stewed fruit and cream.  

Friday, 24 June 2011

Walking the Race

This is a committee meeting that I chair – leading from the back as it were.  Its purpose is to plan a race.

We were walking the course to decide where we needed marshals and signs. It was a lovely evening for a change – the first time Bill and I walked this was in a winter rainstorm and I’ve rarely been that cold in my life.

What I find remarkable about this area is that it used to be a colliery, that would have looked something like this. It’s now a ‘country park’ and nature reserve; admittedly with a scrap yard in the middle.   We’ll just tell the runners it’s modern art or something. They’ll be used to that sort of cheek by jowl existence of things, though. There are farm houses with stables along one edge and surburbia across the road. That’s Britain for you.

There is an evil hill in the far side of the loop that forms the course, but one is rewarded with vistas over North Tyneside for one’s effort and of course what goes up must come down…most of the time, anyhow. It is definitely multi-terrain, on tracks and paths, mud and scree, but only 2.5 miles long, for each of three runners on the relay team. One of the team must be a female and one must be a veteran (M over 40; F over 35).

The winning team members get all of about £10, but also the option of a hot shower and a place to buy hot drinks and snacks and a lovely run through woodlands and fields on a summer’s eve amongst friends.

What could be better?

Thursday, 23 June 2011


Bill is reading the book of short stories, titled Lord Peter.  (I’m back onto Harry Potter; no point in owning them all if I’m only going to read them once, right?) 

He remarked that if Dorothy Sayers had any failings as an author it was her fascination with puzzles.  I admitted that after the first explanation of how to decode the messages in Have His Carcasewhich was admittedly very clever, I skimmed over the rest until the story resumed.  She tells more than the average reader wants to know about patterns of bell peels for churches in The Nine Tailors.

My last office was in Milburn House in Dean Street, Newcastle, next door to the St. Nicholas Cathedral and working past 6 pm on Wednesdays was impossible, because of the bells.  Dead annoying if you were trying to meet a deadline, but then the whole building was shut and locked with lights out at 7pm as I recall, so there were some limits to the insanity of work hours.  But back to Dorothy Sayers.

Apparently puzzles were very fashionable during the inter-war years.  Crosswords were first invented in 1890, they only became widespread after WWI.  More than wide-spread:  they were the latest craze. 

Imagine a world without crossword puzzles.  Not that I do much with them.  For all that I love words, I’ve never been any good at crosswords and crosswords in a (still) foreign culture – I get nowhere at all.  Mom loved them, though my Dad preferred the daily cryptoquote; he showed off by doing them in his head and writing the answer all at once.

One wonders what all those crossword fanatics did with their time and brains before crosswords came along?  Probably all those useful and practical things that people did before computers were invented…

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Pretty Spam?

Months and months ago, this guy 'commented' on a post with just the web address of something called 'ptolemy prints'.  I've no particular interest in Egyptian stuff, but I look at what people send me just in case.

He has a whole load of 'blogs', some about antique maps, which are nice, but also about Art Deco images, which is very nice.  If you love Art Deco, I can suggest you visit Gazette du Bon Ton and ArtDeco Gazette du Bon Ton.  I can't figure out what this guy is about, but he has some pretty images on the pages of his many blogs.


Sunday, 19 June 2011

Funny Little House

There are loads of small brick buildings all around Britain that I’ve no idea what they are.  Some have windows and are labeled as are police ‘huts’.   Others Bill tells me house electrical works of some kind. Some huts are metal, like the watch house for the North pier, also labeled.

There is another brick building that for years and years had no windows and only a plain blue wood front door, in need of paint.  It was situated on a triangular piece of land at the end of what used to be a school playing field.  I sometimes wondered what it was for when I passed, but I never expected it to change into something else, so I never thought to take a ‘before’ photo!

For several weeks I watched this building get a facelift: a glass front door, some fancy roof trim, a big south-facing window,  a skylight and some plants set to grow up the trellises to dress up the brick walls.

It already came with big trees and flowers and I really wanted this to be someone’s little enchanted cottage, but the glass front door seemed to argue against it.

I even stopped one day and asked the workman what it was going to be. He said he didn’t know and went back to doing whatever on the floors. I decided his wife had put lemon instead of milk in his tea that morning.

Then the interior walls went in and I could imagine a sitting room/kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom, but there were no windows in the bedroom. If it had to be a business I decided it should be a florists.

But no: it’s a beauty salon and the back room is the ‘treatment’ room. According do the sign on the door they do ‘St Tropez’ which I gather is sort of like taking yourself to the auto shop for a spray paint job. I’m sure that’s a better idea than sunbeds but it still strikes me as a ridiculous thing to do; just shows my age I suppose.

I have to say I was disappointed at the purpose of the building, but still really pleased it got its own beauty treatment. I’ll be curious to see how long it stays a beauty salon. It’s certainly made me look at some of those boring brick buildings differently!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Thrifty Fix

I read this post ages ago (maybe even in March 2009 when it was written).  Taking an asthma tablet is part of my night time routine and so water and a glass are a fixture in the bedroom.  I also try to drink more water; I don't have a definite goal, just more than I do now, which isn't that much.  I haven't consumed the recommended two litres a day since I was training for the London marathon 10 or 11 years ago...I spent all my time in the loo as I remember.  

It seemed to me that having water handier than coffee would help and so perhaps a carafe in the East wing might be useful.

I liked this lady's idea and found a way to copy it.  My solution was a wide mouthed glass we had on hand and a coffee jar...  I get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction in finding this sort of solution.  It's a far better 'fix' than shopping gives, but perhaps that is an acquired outlook.

Of other possible note: 
  • lamp from flea market
  • salvaged night stand painted by Bill
  • heart with lavender from Rita
  • worn coaster recovered with scrap of old towel
  • Books by Jill Paton-Walsh and Shiela Quigley

Friday, 17 June 2011

Fairy Band-Aids

I have an old linen table cloth that is past its best, frayed around the borders with holes worn in.  I’m not certain, but I believe it belonged to my first mother-in-law, who lived in Crown Heights and had nice things.  She was always kind to me, but died only three months after I joined her family.  I’ve kept the table cloth, not because it belonged to her but because it was beautiful fabric. 

For a while I worked on mended it with bits of other white fabrics.  I cut and sewed stars and hearts from organza and tulle and patched holes and worn bits.  My whimsical thinking was to ‘fairy band-aids’ to strength the cloth but not necessarily to hide the honourable signs of wear.  After years of washing the material has a wonderful hand and I refuse to turn it into rags just because of a few flaws.

It reminded me of an acquaintance I quite admired named Blanche.  She was an English teacher from Texas who talked about growing up in the South in a poor but proud family.  Their linen napkins might be patched, but they still had linen napkins.  It’s the sort of thing my Mom would have understood perfectly.

 Strangely enough, I was in the attic one day looking for something when I found a plastic bag full of folded white cloth.  It had more texture than sheets but as my hands were dusty I didn't dare touch.  I took it downstairs for further investigation.  It turned out to be three very large table cloths that Bill believes may have been his grandmother’s.  In perfect condition,  they make my raggedly old table cloth redundant and so I’ve stopped applying fairy band-aids for now.  I may try making it into a soft summer shirt, with some strategic embroidery or appliqué. 

What do you do with beautiful old cloth?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Universal Pesto Sauce

I learned the idea of 'universal' recipes from The Tightwad Gazette and I'm certain that it's saved me a fortune (well, more or less).  From the time I read the idea that I didn't have to run out and buy celery, but could substitute another green crunchy substance, such as bell pepper for example, I've never again been very challenged by a recipe.  My favourite example of a 'universal' recipe is 'rice dish', but she also devised a universal seafood casserole, a bread recipe, and several others.

It has never honestly occurred to me to make pesto sauce at home, mainly because tomato or white sauce seemed sufficient for flavouring pasta, but since I've incorporated nuts into my cooking schedule, pesto has looked more and more attractive.

I don't know if it was An Oregon Cottage or The Simple Dollar that first awakened me to the possibility that pesto doesn't have to mean pine nuts and basil, but if I had any further doubts, Wikipedia convinced me and I've never looked back since!

It turns out that 'pesto' is anything made by pounding (ie with a 'pestle' in a mortar)  or in these modern times more likely with a blender.  We enjoyed sunflower seeds and fresh parsley one night.  Personally, I think anything with garlic and olive oil is going to turn out well; I may or may not add the Parmesan cheese.  I used the blender stick that I now don't know how we ever lived without to zap the parsley, but the seeds successfully evaded the blades.  No matter, it was just crunchy sauce and very nice all the same.  I've not mastered a specific recipe, but generally look at another pesto recipe to get a rough idea of proportions.   I've tended to cut the amounts right back, but hope next time to freeze the extra as recommended.

Consider that the vegetable/herb portion might be one or a combination of arugula, coriander, bell pepper, basil, parsley, tomato, mint, spinach, mushrooms or several other substitutions (maybe even home grown!); also that the nuts could be almonds, cashews, walnuts, pine nuts, or (the most frugal unless you have your own tree) sunflower seeds.  

I always feel rather confined by ordinary recipes whereas universal recipes really make me feel free to create!  Jami, over at An Oregon Cottage, also talks about adding pesto to a creamy white sauce, to further dilute the herbage flavour, which is another thing I'm looking forward to trying!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Truth and Fiction

Bill is still reading Phryne Fisher books and I’m also into VI Warshawski these days.  Funny thing is, they all mention Wimsey, Millhone or Marlowe at some point.  It’s a small world, detecting, even in fiction.   I expect it's a small world in real life as well.  Bill and I were surprised to see this business sign in Nice, but a Google search easily finds detectives in your area, should you need one.  


Funny enough, they list the same sort of work that you read about in the novels...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Wooden Cars

Knowing that Bill likes old cars I often snap photos of them when I see them.  I'm not sure why, when it's his thing more than mine. 

In this case, though, I was intrigued by the wood trim on the thing.  Cars are supposed to be made of metal, not wood!

And look at the doors that open at the back.  It's a sort of station wagon ("estate car" in English), but with French Doors or something and no back seat.  Or maybe it's just a two seater of the day.  

And it's tiny.  Two adults would completely fill the front seat.  When this car was manufactured, people were definitely skinnier than they are now.  Maybe if we all had to drive tiny little cars we'd eat less, like having a tight pair of jeans (before Lycra) as a constant reminder...

Saturday, 11 June 2011


A couple of our neighbours have tried their hand at topiary.  This train is obviously a source of great satisfaction for the old gentleman who created and maintains it.  His office is at the front of the house and, seeing me taking photos, he came out to talk with me about his remarkable hedge.  This is a different picture I took on the fly as we were walking past; must look for those other photos some time, but they were taken with a different camera, I believe.

Another neighbour has what I would have sworn was a snail.  

It used to have sharper 'feelers' than this.  It would be a fitting creature to have around here as snails are a definite feature in the warm-ish wet weather that passes for summer.  

Bill thinks this is morphing into a cat, which would also be appropriate, as there are many of those around here as well and they are often seen perched on the walls, waiting for a word and a scratch from passers-by.

What do you think...a cat or a snail that needs a trim?

Friday, 10 June 2011

June in Retrospect

Some times when I find a new blog that looks full of interesting stuff, I'm frustrated that I can't read it all, or even most of it, at one go.  Blogs just don't lend themselves to that, being posted 'backwards' the way they are.    Sometimes I just read the current month for each year and, if the blog really holds my attention, eventually I've read the whole thing.  But that doesn't happen often; there are far too many distractions.  Do you have that problem too?  I think of these retrospective posts as helping a new reader to find what I think are the most appealing bits.  Hope you think so too.


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Blaydon Races

There are any number of historic races that are run - or were run - in the North East.  The Morpeth to Newcastle road race began in 1904 and was run for 100 years.  Traditionally set on New Year's Day, when I did it the distance was 14.1 miles.   It sounds a daft thing to do, but it was a great way to start a new year.  Sadly, modern society's demands for shopping 365 days a year, the costs of holiday pay for police and other public officials involved and the growing protectiveness of health and safety requirements caused this tradition to end.  At it's height it drew only about 700, mostly club runners, and the race was no longer financial viable.   Here are some videos for 1929, 1931, 1932 and 1934.  The same guy, a Glaswegian named Duncan McCleod Wright won it every year, the course is the same (still today mostly), it rained every year.  The Brits are great ones for tradition...

The Great North Run, a half marathon (13.1 miles), goes from Newcastle to South Shields.  It is billed as the largest half marathon in Europe, with around 50,000 runners every year.  It started in 1981, the same year as the London Marathon.  It attracts nearly as many 'fun runners' as the London Marathon, with thousands running to raise money for their favourite charity, many in very strange costumes.  I've run it several times, the last to help John raise money for Marie Curie.  He played the accordian all the way along the course, dressed in a tam o'shanter and wearing a bill board displaying his cause.  Bill, Bob and I followed behind him with buckets to collect money from the supporting crowds.  The looks on their faces when they heard and then saw John was a total riot.  It was a great day out.  [Must find those photos and add them here!]

However, the 9th of June is the date of the Blaydon Races, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. It's a short race - 5.9 miles and it also began in 1981. The course starts in Newcastle's historic Cloth Market (a street), in front of where the old Balmbras Music Hall was once situated, and travels along Scotswood Road, over Scotswood Bridge to Blaydon.  It has grown to capacity with 4000 runners and this year filled up within 4 days of releasing entries.  Dr Jim Dewar, a member of Blaydon Harriers, was the race organiser and it was his Geordie-language race entries that first taught me to read Geordie.  I still have a couple around here somewhere.  For example, runners are referred to as 'lads n' lasses' and the older age catagories are 'gadgies and dames'.  Jim was a nice man and it was a sad day when he passed away, in 2004.   

However, the name Blaydon Races isn't just about a road race of the 20th and 21st Century.  It's the name of a music hall song from the mid 1800's about going to the horse races back then (apparently the Blaydon horse track closed in 1951).  This song is practically considered a 'national' anthem for Tyneside (the area around the River Tyne, inhabited by Geordies).  It is sung at football (soccer) games and rugby matches - and of course before the start of the road race, which it inspired.

Here are the words (as with Jim's entry forms, it helps to read them out loud).  If you want to hear it sung and sing along, here is a YouTube video with the words provided.  Otherwise, Bill says this Owen Brannigan version is the most traditional.

Aw went to Blaydon Races, 'twas on the ninth of Joon,
Eiteen hundred an' sixty-two, on a summer's efternoon;
Aw tyuk the 'bus frae Balmbra's, an' she wis heavy laden,
Away we went alang Collingwood Street, that's on the road to Blaydon.

Ah me lads, ye shud only seen us gannin',
We pass'd the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin';
Thor wes lots o' lads an' lasses there, all wi' smiling faces,
Gawn alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races.

We flew past Airmstrang's factory, and up to the "Robin Adair", Just gannin' doon te the railway bridge, the 'bus wheel flew off there.
The lasses lost their crinolines off, an' the veils that hide their faces,
An' aw got two black eyes an' a broken nose in gan te Blaydon Races.

When we gat the wheel put on away we went agyen,
But them that had their noses broke they cam back ower hyem;
Sum went to the Dispensary an' uthers to Doctor Gibbs,
An' sum sought out the Infirmary to mend their broken ribs.

Noo when we gat to Paradise thor wes bonny gam begun;
Thor was fower-an-twenty on the 'bus, man, hoo they danced an' sung;
They called on me to sing a sang, aw sung them "Paddy Fagan",
Aw danced a jig an' swung my twig that day aw went to Blaydon.

We flew across the Chain Bridge reet into Blaydon toon,
The bellman he was callin' there, they call him Jackie Broon;
Aw saw him talkin' to sum cheps, an' them he was pursuadin'
To gan an' see Geordy Ridley's concert in the Mechanics' Hall at Blaydon.

The rain it poor'd aw the day an' myed the groons quite muddy,
Coffy Johnny had a white hat on - they war shootin' "Whe stole the cuddy."
There wes spice stalls an' munkey shows an' aud wives selling ciders,
An' a chep wiv a hapenny roond aboot, shootin' "Noo, me lads, for riders."


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Year of Style – June

Romance is the theme for this month…probably something to do with weddings. Other than the very occasional Royal Wedding, I have to say that weddings are one of the least interesting subjects I can think of, so I don’t think about them much. I know I'm odd that way.

Frederic’s advice includes:

Shop for clothes after a pleasant lunch, when you feel relaxed. If you are tense, you will never be satisfied with what you find. (Also, I might add, you’ll choose clothes that include room for lunch, but I don’t think he intended that part).

Keep a sun hat in the back seat of your car. I hate wearing sunglasses and much prefer a hat.

Buy a pair of hoop earrings. They are so pretty with a summer dress and a tan.   I’d like to say that they are just pretty. Tish at A Femme d'Un Certain Age is always going on about these. They make you look French, she says. I think it works with or without the tan.  A word of caution:  creoles and studs around your ears along with hair scraped back into a ponytail, track suits and too much make-up (or none at all) is not a good look.  I think it's called chav.  I'm just sayin'... but then they probably haven't read Tish or Frederic, right?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Writers and Fighters

It's been a while since I studied my list of 100 influential women and so I want to pick that up again.  In the next batch of five, as they come in chronological order, we have

Jane Austen (1775 - 1817), ranked 13th by the author Deborah Felder in her book, The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time.  

I won't write about Jane as I've written about her before.  If you are big a fan - and that club is quite large - I'm guessing you'll already know quite a bit about her.

Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802 - 1887), ranked 31 out of 100.  

She was an American activist who lobbied Congress and state legislatures on behalf of the indigent insane.  She was responsible for the establishment of the first mental asylums in the US.  Prior to this any insane person who had no family to look after them was placed in the care of an individual who received money from the town funds.  With no regulation and poor funding, there were many instances of abuse and neglect.  Prior to becoming an activist she wrote a book, Conversations on Common Things, a sort of comprehensive text book for your 1824 student.  You can read it yourself here.  I have a graduate degree and I don't know half those things!  Dix also served as Superintendent of Army Nurses during the Civil War.  It could be argued how successful she was in this role, as she was often in conflict not only with the  doctors, but with the nurses she managed as well.  Her unstinting care for both Confederate and Union soldiers alike did however earn her the respect and admiration of the Confederate South.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was ranked number 20. 

Originally named Isabella Baumfree, she renamed herself around 1843.  Born into slavery, her last owner promised her freedom a year before the New York legislature abolished slavery there, if she worked hard for him in the meantime, but changed his mind later.  She did the work she felt owed, spinning 100 pounds of wool, before she walked away to freedom.  She said she didn't run, feeling that was dishonest, but walking away was acceptable.   When later, after the abolition of slavery had passed, she learned the former owner had illegally sold her 5 year old son to an owner in Alabama.  She took her case to court to get custody of her son and was the first black woman to win a case against a white man.   Sojourner is best remembered for a speech, "Ain't I a Woman", for which there are different versions, depending upon the recorder.  Truth's own account of her life can be found here.    She helped recruit black soldiers for the Civil War.  She did a lot of public speaking - at a time when this was highly unusual for women - supporting abolition, of course, but also women's rights.

I nearly titled this post, The Sisters Grimke, for Sarah Grimke (1796-1873), ranked 25th, and

Angelina Grimke (1805-1879), ranked 24th.  

These sisters were among 13 children born to a judge, an Episcopalian and plantation owner in South Carolina.  The sisters were very close and both found slavery abhorrent.  They were also frustrated at not being able to pursue the educational opportunities granted to their male siblings.  They rebelled, first against the Episcopal church, then left the Presbyterian church to join the Quakers.  Even the Quakers, however, found their public speeches about abolition to be inappropriate activities for women and they did not support Sarah's intention to train as a minister.  When they attended the Convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society, they were the only women present.  Angeline addressed the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1837 concerning abolition, and was the first women in the United States ever to address a legislative body.  She pointed out that the North abetted slavery by buying products grown or made in the Southern slave states.  Both sisters seem to have spent a large part of their lives fighting the establishment of the day on behalf of themselves and others, though in their later years they each settled down to quieter personal life due to ill health.

Though Truth was illiterate, her story has been published a number of times and all the other women were writers of speeches and letters as well as books.  Jane Austen, of course, wrote anonymously, as well bred women of her time were not supposed to publish books.  All of these women pushed the boundaries on issues we recognise today as important, but they were highly unique in their own time.  Reading about them is really quite humbling, not to mention exhausting!  I'm not cut out to be a fighter myself, and my writing is pretty much limited to this blog, but if nothing else, I can pay homage by reminding you as well as myself about what amazing things they accomplished.