Monday 30 July 2012

A new F-word!

Just happen to have a sabre and a foil!
I'm probably not alone in enjoying the word 'flunge', which has surfaced in the Olympics fencing commentary. It's a sort of forward lunge thingy ( f + lunge?) that allows you to cover a lot of space between you and your opponent as you advance with your sabre. One fencing website helpfully defines it as: 'A fleche without the crossover'. So now I've got to look up 'fleche': it's the longest extension a fencer's body can make, in case you're interested.

I'm proofreading a financial text at the moment and came across the word 'fungible'. Surely, I thought, that must be a typo? But no: it's a real word, meaning: 'interchangeable, exchangeable for something similar'. Good to know.

But below that my eye was caught by 'fungo: in baseball a ball struck high into the air for fielders to practise catching'. Scanning through the page I also saw 'furan', 'furbish' (what you do before you refurbish, I suppose) and 'furibund'. You could lose many an hour bouncing from one definition to the other.

Family legend has it that my late uncle - no mean writer - spent much of his childhood reading the dictionary for fun. That must be where I get it from.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Pork pie triumph

When my husband does the supermarket shop on his own, two things generally result: it costs more than when I do it, but we get nicer food. On his last trip, however, he came back without his habitual weekend pork pie treat, declaring that all those on the shelves were - well, I can't tell you what he said, but it wasn't very complimentary.

What he did bring home, though, was the wherewithal to make his own. All those years in the bakery trade come in useful in such crisis times. I was banished from the kitchen, while he put on his pinny and wielded his rolling-pin.
Ninety minutes later he revealed a pie of such beauty and majesty that it brought a tear to my eye! It wasn't one of those picnic-size morsels; no, this was a full-on 2lb example, with a hand-crimped crust decorated with pastry leaves.

'Leave it to cool,' I said, 'then I'll take a picture of it for my blog.'

Unfortunately I got distracted and by the time I went back with my camera the teenage hordes had been at. Even so, I think you can see from this picture that it really was a prince of pies. I have decided he can stay for at least another week.

Monday 23 July 2012

Boy genius?

There's an interesting tale on the website of my local paper, Northants Telegraph:

'When young entrepreneur Crawford Johnston came up with the idea of his Creative Writing Magic Money Cards he thought it would help him understand English grammar. Now, his cards, designed to help nine to 15-year-olds improve their creative writing skills, are being used by pupils across the country and have won praise from the National Union of Teachers’ magazine The Teacher and the Times Educational Supplement.'

Crawford is 14. Read his story here. I have no connection to this boy, nor have I seen the cards; I just thought it was a good story.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Going for Gold!

Well, folks, it’s nearly here. The Games of the XXX Olympiad are almost upon us – and much to my surprise I find that I’m kind of looking forward to it. I’m still appalled at the huge sums of money that have been spent – and in some cases wasted – and as for the G4S fiasco, words fail me. And yet, and yet…

A couple of weeks ago I stood in the rain to watch the Olympic flame go by. Actually I saw it twice, because it had a lunchtime stopover in our town, so I watched it arrive, popped into a café for a latte and a pecan Danish, repositioned myself at the other end of the town and watched the circus leave.

Despite myself, I was quite moved by the whole experience. There was a lovely atmosphere on the streets and thanks to the wonders of technology we were given real-time updates of the torch’s progress, until finally someone shouted: ‘It’s two minutes away!’ Then we all got very excited, even cheering the forward guard of policemen and support vehicles.

Certainly the sponsors weren’t backwards in coming forwards and the advertising element was a bit in your face – but I suppose I can’t complain about public money being spent and then grumble when commercialism steps in to help. Funding has to come from somewhere.

As to the events themselves – and let’s not forget that this is a sports competition, and not just a massive opportunity to showcase London as the tourist destination of choice – well, I can’t be doing with all the strutting and fretting that goes with the track and field, and based on the GB football team’s first outing the other night I don’t think there’ll be much there to captivate me. I’ve had enough of tennis for a while and I don’t understand the rules of quite of a lot of what’s on offer.

But I heard an interesting radio programme about some of the less well-publicised events and that has whetted my appetite. For instance, water polo sounds like it might be worth a look-in; and no doubt there’ll be back stories and tales of personal triumph that bring a tear to the eye.

So I won’t be glued to the telly for the whole extravaganza, but I shall definitely watch some of it. And I honestly want it all to go well. I want the transport system to work, the security to be effective but unobtrusive, the stadiums to be full and I want the sun to shine. And I really want Bradley Wiggins to win gold.

Friday 13 July 2012

'Somewhere over the rainbow'

It's not been the best of days. My much anticipated tax bill has arrived. Then just before 5pm all the electricity in the house went off. And there was me mid article! Grrr. I'd also got my tea cooking. But I re-set the fuse thingy in the kitchen cupboard, checked that the cooker had come back on and went back to work.

An hour later, tastebuds tingling at the prospect of a tasty meal my hopes were dashed when it became clear that what had caused the power to fail was the withdrawal of labour on the part of the heating element in the oven. So no tea, then. Just the prospect of an expensive phone call to the repair man.
Copyright Julia Thorley 2012

On the other hand, just look at this fantastic picture that I took out of my bedroom window. How cool is that?

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Release your inner geek!

Our older son is back home at the moment but a move is imminent, so he has been having a bit of a clear-out. In the depths of what used to be the 'toy cupbard' (a long time ago, I should add, since he is now 23) he has unearthed boxes and boxes - and boxes and boxes - of Warhammer 40000 models and ephemera. This is a tabletop miniature wargame set in a dystopian science-fantasy universe. It involves building teeny figures and painting them to create various armies of fabulous creatures and then battling them in line with complicated rules, all set out in various codexes and dependent on the role of a dice. It is, apparently, great fun, if a little expensive. Over the years, we must have spent hundreds of pounds in Games Workshop.

Warhammer 40,000: RulebookChatting with some of his friends about his impending disposal of his brave soldiers, they decided to get together for one last battle for old time's sake. Somewhat predictably he is now reconsidering his decision to get rid of all his stuff. Not only that, but when I came home from teaching last night he and his younger brother (who is also old enough to know better) were sprawled on the floor in deep concentration, gluing and painting Citadel Miniatures, bless 'em.

A change of plan means that they have decided to get rid of some models, but to keep others. They do, after all, have some young cousins who might be interested in playing at some point.

I'm secretly quite pleased about this development. There is plenty of time to be a boring grown-up, and it's really important that we hold on to our inner child and have something in our lives to be passionate about. 'Put away childish things'? I don't think so; not yet, anyway.

Sunday 8 July 2012

What a week!

This week has flown by. I've haven't known if it was half-past two or Good Friday, as someone once said. 

Monday's Olympic Torch trip went well. In the end I saw it twice, once at either end of the town. I decided not to take any pictures because I can either look at what's going on or record it for posterity. Whether this is because my digital camera doesn't necessitate my looking through a viewfinder, which makes me feel disconnected, or whether I'm just stupid is for others to say. (No money earned today - too busy to work!)

Tuesday was taken up with 'discussions' with Virgin about my erratic broadband service, ferrying sons about and last-minute choir rehearsals for Sunday's performance - see below. (Also managed to squeeze in some teaching and some editorial work.)

Wednesday: So it rained again. My poor gooseberries have taken a hammering, so I dashed out between showers to scoop up what fruit I could, then turned it into jam (with some strawberries), some crumbles and shoved some in the freezer. Proper domestic goddess. Also, having missed Zumba on Monday I went today instead. Found myself volunteering to be part of a demonstration troupe at a forthcoming village fete. Oo-er! (More words subbed and more yoga taught.)

Thursday: I've got a new column! Having written regular features for OM yoga & lifestyle magazine, I am to become a monthly columnist. My first will appear in the September issue. (More words, more yoga.)

Friday: Worked flat out day - the tax man cometh at the end of the month. (Sad face.)

Saturday: All day at the allotment. Can't work out why all the runner beans we planted have disappeared without trace. Replacement seedlings have been installed. Saw five magpies sitting in a row on the shed of the adjacent plot. Anyone for silver?

Sunday: Supportive family members arrived from up north to come and hear my choir sing, bless 'em. A good time was had by all - no doubt enhanced by the provision of some fabulous cake.

I'm going to loosen my stays and have a BIG glass of wine now. Night, all.

Monday 2 July 2012

Least Exotic Marigold Pot

Ever with an eye for a gardening bargain, we picked up a tray of bedding plants in Asda the other day that had been reduced to just 10p.
Admittedly one of them was dead and another didn't look as though it had a lot of life, but we've crossed our fingers, sprinkled some optimism into the compost and transplanted them into a 14-inch tub. They look better already, so I hope I shall be able to post a picture of a splendid display later in the month!

And speaking of optimism, I'm off into town in a moment to watch the Olympic Torch Relay pass through. It's raining, but I'm sure it'll brighten up in a minute. I'm listening to local radio, where the presenters are doing a great job of keeping energy levels high. Apparently there are thousands of folk lining the streets, so I'd better get a wiggle on.