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shewhomust

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Elizabeth Goudge: The Dean's Watch [Jan. 21st, 2018|05:42 pm]
shewhomust
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I took The Dean's Watch to London with me, because, of all the candidates for 'next book I want to read', it was the best combination of 'long enough to last the journey' and 'portable small paperback'. It was a good choice for another reason, too: it's not a Christmas book, exactly - the action spans some eight hundred years, from the Norman Duke Rollo to the Dean of the title, appointed in 1865 - but it moves to its crisis as Christmas approaches, and the final Christmas Day is crucial. In a better ordered world, I would have posted this before Christmas, and this extract would have served as a Christmas card:
All over the city men and women and children poured out of the chapels and churches exclaiming at the beauty of the day. It all looked as pretty as a picture, they said. The frost kept the sparkling snow from slipping away from roofs and chimney pots, but it was not too cold to spoil the sunshine. There was no wind. On their way home, whenever a distant view opened out, they could pause and enjoy it without having to shiver. The stretch of the snow-covered fen almost took their breath away, it was so beautiful under the blue arc of the sky. It was like the sea when it turns to silver under the dazzle of the sun. When they turned and looked up at the Cathedral its snow-covered towers seemed to rise to an immeasurable height. Then a wonderful fragrance assailed their nostrils. In steam-filled kitchens the windows had been opened now that the day was warming up. The turkeys and baked potatoes and plum puddings were also warming up and in another forty minutes would have reached the peak of their perfection. Abruptly Christmas Day swung over like a tossed coin. The silver and blue of bells and hymns and angels went down with a bang and was replaced by the red and gold of flaming plum puddings and candled trees. Everyone hurried home as quickly as they could.

The Dean's Watch is, technically, a realist novel. It has no unicorns, no domesticated lion, nothing happens which could not, at a pinch, happen in the real world. But in its own way it has something of the same enchantment as The Little White Horse, and this passage demonstrates that kinship: the juxtaposition of bright transcendent beauty and good solid food. And the wonderful image that asserts the compatibility of the two: "Christmas Day swung over like a tossed coin..."

On the one hand; on the other hand. Also, spoilers!Collapse )

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Winter and rough weather [Jan. 18th, 2018|09:54 am]
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Cut to spare the sensibilities of those who live with actual winter weather and acrual snowfall.Collapse )

According to the BBC's forecast this morning, the east of England, from York south, will be windy and unpleasant, the west will see some sunshine - and then over to Scotland. So there will be no weather in the northeast of England today. That's a relief.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Registering for self assessment: update [Jan. 15th, 2018|12:36 pm]
shewhomust
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This morning, all it took was two phone calls, an hour of prodding the HMRC website and a few tears to establish that I don't actually need to do this.

I would feel relieved not to have to fill in a tax return, but since I have done all the work of gathering up the information I would need to do the job, it's a bit of an anti-climax.

Short, though maybe not short enough, explanation: once upon a time, interest on savings was taxed at source, and the bank dealt with the admin. As of the last tax year, the banks now hand over the gross interest, and it is up to the saver to sort out the tax - with the sweetener that the first £1000 is tax-free. I had assumed that I'd need to declare my income from savings, although it would fall within the tax-free limit. It turns out, if I have understood this correctly, that I don't have to fill in a tax form; I do have to tell HMRC about my savings, but I have just done this over the phone to the nice Scot who was explaining this to me.

Things that wind me up about this:
  • quite apart from the difficulty of finding out what I do and don't have to do

  • that tax-free £1000 is a bonus payment to people like me who are actually quite well off, thank you. I don't hear the government telling people on benefit that the first £1000 doesn't matter.

  • Further, the relaxed attitude about not having to fill in a form seems to be passing on the message that income tax is a bit optional.

  • If I've got this right. But the whole transaction was carried out over the phone. I have no written record of what happened. (Except this, and you only have my word for this.)

  • We have to use the phone, apparently, because e-mail isn't secure. Whereas the phone is...


Oh, well. For what it's worth, something that was hanging over me has been done. Come April, I suppose it will have to be done / not done again. But for now, moving on...

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Thwarted [Jan. 14th, 2018|03:45 pm]
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My plan for today was to submit my tax return online - and then to post, triumphantly, that I had done this, and how much I disapproved of the changes in tax law that made it necessary.

It has to be done by the end of the month, and of course I should have done it sooner. I haven't been ignoring it, and I had already ascertained that in order to register online I would need to receive a login number by mobile phone, and no I couldn't use e-mail and they couldn't send it in the post, text-message only. Yes, I know, this shouldn't be a problem, but text is probably my least favourite means of communication, and Id choose anything else in preference.

But I had bitten the bullet, and set about gathering up all the necessary figures so that, having received my one-use-only login number, I could log in and complete the form. This afternoon I entered my mobile number in the appropriate place, received the resultant text-message, typed the number in the box, and moved on to the next step, establishing my identity.

This done, I was set to register for self-assessment. All I have to do is give them my National Insurance number (again) and my unique tax reference. My what? But there's a handy pop-up box which explains that my unique tax reference (UTR) is a number which will be issued by HMRC when I have registered for self assessment. [personal profile] durham_rambler and I have both read this several times, and it really does appear to say that in order to register for self assessment I need a number which will not be issued until I have registered for self assessment. When it will be sent to me in the post.

So tomorrow morning I shall be on the phone to HMRC. Meanwhile, there's some bread dough proving which I shall go and pummel.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Tim Peake, meet Timothy Hackworth [Jan. 12th, 2018|08:24 pm]
shewhomust
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We've reached the last few days during which Soyuz TMA-19M, otherwise known as Tim Peake's landing capsule, is on show at the Locomotion railway museum at Shildon, so [personal profile] durham_rambler and I took the morning off and went to have a look. There's am optional Virtual Reality experience, and [personal profile] valydiarosada enjoyed it, and thought it worth the extra charge (the museum itself is free), but neither of us was tempted. We just wanted to see the thing: an actual Soyuz space capsule, which has been in actual space, and hurtled down through the atmosphere in actual flames (just look at that corrosion):

Soyuz capsule


I hadn't expected the Rapunzel's silky braid that tethered the capsule to its parachute, and had to keep reminding myself no, the parachute doesn't open until after the hurtling in flames is over.

More pictures under the cutCollapse )

We had planned to visit J, and to give her a bookcase rendered surplus by the grand shelving of the spare bedroom, which [personal profile] durham_rambler has taken to calling the library. But it was too big to fit in the car, so we couldn't - she gave us lunch anyway, which was very generous of her!

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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The year's first... [Jan. 9th, 2018|12:10 pm]
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On Sunday, I baked the first loaf of the year
using the hazelnut flour I bought at the organic supermarket on the outskirts of Dinan. The first time I tried this, the result was disappointing: heavy, and not as nutty as I'd hoped. So I've mostly been using the flour in fruit crumbles, where it works very well. Now, very near the bottom of the bag, I took the last chance to try a hazelnut loaf, cutting back on the proportion of nut flour, and adding a handful each of dried cranberries and chopped hazelnuts. This made a very sticky dough, but it was just about manageable with a spoonful or so of (hazelnut) oil, and since the wetter dough tends to rise better, I let it be. The result is still heavy, but the more open texture actually brings out the flavour of hazelnut, and it's very tasty - less is more, for once. Though not when it comes to greasing the tin: there wasn't quite enough butter left on the wrapper, and the loaf refused to come out (when I eventually chivvied it out, there was a long corner of crust left in the tin).


Yesterday we went swimming for first time this year
later than I would have liked. Later in the year, because we have both had a lingering cough (yes, the second of the winter) and decided to skip last week; later in the day because there is a sweet spot in the afternoon before the after-school cohort arrive, and we caught some but not all of it - I didn't complete my 40 lengths because I got caught up in a ball game. Also because I was beginning to cough again. I feel better for even that incomplete swim, but this morning we are both coughing more.


My timing was off yesterday afternoon
because I set up the ironing board to watch Countdown for the first time of the year, and discovered it had been replaced by darts. For the first time but won't be the last.


I have bought the first book of the year:
Clockwork Boys by the fabulous [personal profile] tkingfisher, an actual dead-tree book! Hooray!


[personal profile] durham_rambler is at his first meeting of the year -
we actually set the alarm this morning (first in quite a while) so he could get out of the house for nine o' clock. And since these things never come singly, there's another meeting this evening.


All of which adds up to a New Year moving into not being all that new any more, I suppose...

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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I'm sorry, I'll read that again [Jan. 7th, 2018|11:03 am]
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From the Guardian's Corrections and Clarifications column:
A review of Peggy Seeger's memoir quotes her description of her early impressions of Ewan MacColl and how they fell in love, saying he had a "hairy, fat, naked belly poking out, and was clad in ill-fitting trousers, suspenders, no shirt, a ragged jacket and a filthy lid of stovepipe hat aslant like a garbage can". The context we omitted was that MacColl was appearing in a production of The Threepenny Opera (First Time Ever, 30 December, page 5, Review).


This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Phantoms at the Phil [Jan. 5th, 2018|12:42 pm]
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Once again, we gathered last night in the magnificent library of the Lit & Phil to hear a trio of new ghost stories read by their authors; once again, the technically ghost stories were outnumbered by the miscellaneously chilling, and once again this didn't matter in the least - in fact, last night's clutch of spooky tales was a particularly good one.

First readers was guest apparition Shelley Day, who explained that her story, Billy and the Cart Shed, was something she had started several years ago, and never been able to finish. The invitation to appear at Phantoms made her realise that what it needed was a ghost. I wonder how many other unfinished tales are just waiting for that crucial ingredient? The story was double haunted, because it was set several generations back, in the Ouseburn (the 'cart shed' of the title is under one of the arches of the railway): the descriptions of that squalid and impoverished area were overlaid in my mind with the gentrified arts quarter it is today.

Sean O'Brien's Holly and Ivy was delivered with the warning that "they" had required that it contain absolutely no flaying. This appalling restriction - no flaying, no dismemberment, no gore of any kind - had inspired him to a seasonal tale of snow, family disharmony and carol singers, a piece of freshly invented folklore. "They" (who turn out to be Candlestick Press) are to be congratulated on their part in one of Sean's best Phantoms tales.

Gail-Nina Anderson wrapped up the evening with a tribute to a text first published two hundred years ago, to the week if not to the day: An Eye for a Giant Eyeball warns the unwary that eBay has its dangers, and that little old ladies are not to be trusted.

After which we drifted into Mario's in Pudding Chare, where four of us dined in solitary splendour. I believe that Mario's does get busy during the day - and it should, because it's good value and friendly service - but we seem to be the only people who go there at the end of the evening.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Not over 'til it's over [Jan. 4th, 2018|12:32 pm]
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Our New Year guests departed yesterday, back to their home and their cats. We saw the New Year in quietly together, which is fine by me: my views on the subject are those expressed by Sara Pascoe in yesterday's Guardian (May I be the first to wish you a Happy New Minute. May all your dreams remain subconscious expressions of what scares you.). We lit a fire, we listened to Radio 3's World Music broadcast from Sheffield (because Sheffield is part of the world...), we dozed and woke and raised a glass to the coming year.

The first outing of the year was to to a funeral. Since our New Year festivities are always pretty muted, this didn't necessarily put a damper on the proceedings, but it didn't do anything to make them livelier, either. Still, as funerals go, we did our best to be celebratory, with a sea of blue and white football scarves, and the resolve to Be more Tim.

And today I am back at work. But the festivities aren't over yet, because today is [personal profile] desperance's birthday, and we are celebrating in the most appropriate way we know how, with ghost stories at the Lit & Phil.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Winterlude [Dec. 29th, 2017|12:26 pm]
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We woke quite early this morning to a heavy frost, and by the time there was enough light to see how white it had painted the ground, snow was falling. And is still falling, and settling. D. and [personal profile] valydiarosada have chosen an interesting day to drive up for their New Year visit...

[personal profile] durham_rambler had an errand this morning, but before he went out he set up his iPad so I could watch The Red Shoes through the iPlayer. That's my memory of childhood Christmases, watching old films on television while snow fell outside (how often did it happen? well, at least once!). I've seen it before, of course, but had forgotten everything about the plot except the Hans Andersen elements and the ballet. I had also forgotten how very intense the colour was: Technicolor loves the red shoes themselves, of course, but it also loves the location shots. If the Monaco Tourist Office weren't paying for that exposure, someone was missing a trick (oh, and look! there's Covent Garden still functioning as a vegetable market!). I wonder if Gene Kelly had seen The Red Shoes: as the main ballet sequence progressed, I was reminded of his Broadway Melody from Singin' in the Rain, and once I started thinking of The Red Shoes as a rather highbrow musical, I couldn't stop. It has that sort of plotting, where people do completely idiotic things for no better reason than that the plot (such as it is) must be advanced from here to there.

[personal profile] helenraven sent me a peekaboo puffin: winner in the under-12s category, British Wildlife Photography Awards (doesn't seem to allow direct linking - sorry).

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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