Monday, 1 December 2008

Sound Christmas Shopping Advice for Men



Now I can't take all the credit for this post. A colleague of mine wrote some of it and I added some bits.

It's a well-worn cliche that many men put this task off until Christmas Eve - but have you ever wondered why that is? It won't necessarily be because he's lazy or disorganised, no, it's far more likely he just hasn't got a clue and has that "can't do right for doing wrong" mental block.
We're here to help, so all you worried men out there, read on....

Christmas shopping for the woman in your life can be daunting, but knowing a few basics about the noble art of buying gifts for women can help you on the way to a harmonious festive season:

1. It's About Her, Not You!
This has to be the cardinal rule: Do not, under any circumstances, buy her something that's on your own wish list. So, nothing from the DIY shop, no sports DVDs, no gardening implements. Most women will not have "Plasma TV so I can watch my favourite footie team" at the top of their must-haves.

2. No Household Appliances
You might think you're being helpful by getting her a chop-o-matic or one of those nifty new hoovers with a ball instead of wheels, but believe me, go that route and it's highly likely you'll be spending Christmas night in the local casualty department. Christmas is a time for gifts she wants, not stuff she needs.

3. Look and Listen

Take time to go shopping with her if you don’t already. I know it's purgatory for some men but if you want to survive, just do it. Then watch and listen! Ask around. If she has girlfriends, sister etc check with them. They usually know what’s suitable.

4. Apply the Mother-in-Law Test
Each idea you have must be put through this rigorous testing procedure. If you think your Mother would like it, forget it. Move on and quickly.

5. Big Pants or Black Lace?
Neither! It's entirely possible that your loved one just might like some new lacey knickers or a nightie that you would like. But, you must strike the right note - half-way between granny pants and your wildest fantasies should be about right. Another hint, satin may look and feel sexy but.....you slide all over the place in bed and the cat's claws play havoc with it!

6. Don't Attempt to "Do" Fashion
Clothing may seem to be an ideal gift, especially if your partner loooooves clothes. However, the point is, if she does love clothes, she probably has a very strong idea of what she does and doesn't like, honed over several thousand hours of window/online/real-life shopping. She knows what makes her bum look big! I bet you're no shopaholic! So how can you hope to compete with that level of experience?

7. Take Care with Perfume
I’ve thrown out or given away lots of very expensive gift sets because I hated the perfume. Everybody's skin reacts differently to perfume and everyone's sense of smell is different. What smells great on one person could smell like cats pee on another. Believe me I've been there.

They produce these amazing gift boxes at Christmas they look absolutely gorgeous and cost the earth. I'm convinced they're made especially for men (mugs) to buy. (Women would just go for the perfume and ignore those other lotions and potions they don't really want or need.)
You know the boxes that the wonderfully made up girlies in the shops just love to sell them to men looking a bit lost wandering about in the perfume department.

You feel really guilty chucking these expensive boxes of stuff out which increases the annoyance factor too. Unless you know she loves the perfume, don’t risk it. She can’t take it back!

8. Chocolates
Take care here. I've received boxes of lovely chocolates at times I've been struggling to keep the weight off and smiled through gritted teeth. So make sure she's not cutting down before you buy.

9. Remember What You Bought Last Year
Always keep a record of what you buy for Christmas and birthdays especially if your memory is bad. There’s nothing worse than getting the same thing two years in a row. I should know, I did for the last two years!

10. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute!
Definitely not the week before Christmas. The shops are just too busy for you to browse and it’s likely that if you see something that’s just the ticket, they won’t have the right, size or colour. I know because my husband used to get my daughter to go with him to Marks and Spencer on Christmas Eve when she was young. There was usually nothing left!

Now for the positive bit!
A far better idea is to figure out her favourite shop (ask around or check the credit card statements). Buy an extravagantly generous voucher and then buy a lovely fancy box. Wrap it up beautifully - layers and layers of silk, pastel tissue paper, ribbon, satin rosebuds, little notes in between each layer, a photograph of you both, a couple of luxury chocolates and maybe cinema or theatre tickets. Anything to disguise the fact that basically you wimped out and got her a voucher!

Remember, Love Conquers All
There's probably very little chance you will ever get it 100% right, because we women are a capricious bunch. But, if she can tell you've at least thought about it, and curbed your urges towards the mundane, the easiest option or the downright lazy, the chances are you will avoid the spectacle of your Christmas dinner ending up on the dining room wall.

Just show her you care enough to follow the above rules, and I'm prepared to bet my Christmas pudding that you'll see her smiling at you over the sprouts this Christmas.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Seventieth Anniversary of The Kindertransport

Frank Meisler's Kindertransport Memorial
Liverpool Street Station, London

© Wikimedia Commons


I’m ashamed to say that until today I had never heard of the Kindertransport and I have no idea why. I heard about the anniversary on the radio this morning and decided to find out more.

It was a very moving event starting in 1938, involving the transport of over 10,000 babies and children, mainly Jewish from Nazi occupied territory in Europe in 1938. Following the rise to power of the Nazis in 1933 the anti Jewish laws brought in led to businesses being closed, their homes taken away, Jewish doctors and teachers not being allowed to practise, harassment and deportation and to concentration camps. Jewish children and students were bullied and beaten and finally banned from schools and universities.

The ferocity of pre-war persecution of Jews reached its pinnacle on November 9 and 10, 1938, known as Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”), when German and Austrian Nazis burned and destroyed 267 synagogues, killed 100 people, smashed 7,500 Jewish stores and incarcerated nearly 30,000 in concentration camps.

The majority of Jewish families were unable to travel abroad because of lack of cash and the stringent visa controls imposed by countries such as Britain and the USA. The British Refugee Committee put pressure on the British government to relax immigration controls for a limited number of children. They agreed, but sadly they refused to accept their parents. The Quakers and organisations like Red Cross organised the transport and the first train carrying Jewish children away from Nazi persecution left Berlin on 1 December 1938. The last left on September 1, 1939 - just two days before Great Britain's entry into the war, which marked the end of the programme. By that time, approximately 10,000 children had made the trip.

What a terrible dilemma those parents must have faced, sending their children to an unknown future. Many of them did not survive to see their children again seven years later at the end of the war. Of the six million who died in the concentration camps, a million and a half were children.

How traumatic it must have been for the children, leaving everything they knew and loved to go to a foreign country and have to learn a new language. It was hard enough for the British children who were evacuated within the country, it's hard to imagine how much harder it must have been for these children. The older children lived in hostels, others were lucky enough to have caring loving foster families although a small number were treated cruelly by foster families. Some eventually went to the USA and Canada.

It’s a magnificent story saving over 10,000 children but how sad we weren’t generous enough to take their parents.

You can get more information about this story on the following sites:

The Children Who Cheated the Nazis

Wiki


American website Kindertransport Association.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Tag Backlog!

I've got a backlog of tags and a couple of awards I haven't done anything about yet. Apologies to everyone.

The first came from Gill a little while ago asking for 6 interesting facts about me. Well I have to say I couldn't think of 6 facts that were interesting, I'm very ordinary. So I have dithered about trying to think of something.

Then Patty asked me to name 6 random facts about myself. Next was Patsy and I have to think of 6 facts you didn't know about me.

Well I'm trying to rationalise this or I'll never get it done. So I'll try to think of 6 random things you don't know about me that may or may not be interesting. Here goes:

1. I'm a Barcelona addict! I'd love to live there for part of the year. I fell in love with it the first time I visited in 1963. I was 18 years old and I went to stay with a penfriend, I still visit her family. I've been learning Spanish for more years than I can remember. I don't get any better at it because I keep stopping. My ambition is to go and live in Spain for a while so that I can improve my Spanish, it's the only way. I look after my granddaughter a lot so at present it's not possible. One day!!!!!

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (© Wiki Commons)

I love this buiding, when I look at it I feel so many emotions. To me it typifies Barcelona and makes me want to go back again. One of these day's I'll write about it.

2. I don't drink tea. I stopped drinking it when I was 5 years old but I can't remember why. Now I can't stand the smell of it, I use tea bags for my husband and I try never to make a pot of tea or use loose tea. My Spanish friends don't believe that I'm English! However I wish I liked it because if ever I'm ill I go right off coffee and can only drink water.

3. I was a mature student at university. I left school as soon as I could when I was 16 years old because I hated it. After I had my children I went back to studying and when I was 39 got a BA Degree in Geography, Religion and Development Studies. It was around the time of the Willy Russell film, Educating Rita, one of my favourites. I knew exactly how she felt! There were very few mature students back in 1981 but the Polytechnic as it was known then, treated us brilliantly. The younger students thought we were a bit weird but I absolutely loved it. Education is wasted on the young!

4. Weird but my children ask me how to use things on the computer. Have to say I'm no expert and have never done a course. I changed jobs about 17 years ago and shared a room with someone who had a tiny little computer standing in the corner of the room. It seemed such a waste as she only used one programme on it and even that was a rare event. My curiosity got the better of me and I stayed back after work to have a look at it. It got to be a habit and I started to teach myself how to use it. That was in the dark old DOS days before Windows! It just growed after that.

5. I used to be a careers adviser and I loved it. It's a wonderful job helping guide young people and planting seeds of ideas and helping raise their aspirations.

6. I don't like driving and I didn't learn until I was 39. I was doing my degree when they changed the bus routes and I had trouble getting to the lectures, so I had to do it. I won't go on long drives for holidays, I'd rather get on a plane anyday than get in a car. It's much safer!

I'll have to look back to find the postings about the awards.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Skywatch - Friday 28 November 2008

We tend to think the sun never shines in the UK but it does, occasionally! When it does, the skies are beautiful and when the wind is from the west, it's a fantastic place to be.

Although last summer was one of the worst I can ever remember (I can remember quite a few), the sun did shine a few times, the skies were blue and on 9 June I captured the evidence below.


This is part of the beach at Seaham Harbour in the North East of England. As beaches go it wouldn't win any prizes, but I like it. I love walking in the water along a beach, any beach, anywhere really, I don't mind. Although I like living in Washington and it's only a twenty minute drive to a few beaches, I miss not living next to the sea.

I lived in Seaham until I got married in 1969 and now it seems to me that when I was little, we spent most of the summer on that beach. The summers were longer and hotter, the days were sunnier and the beach was definitely cleaner. Well I said that's how it seems to me.

The beach certainly got dirtier because the coal dust from the pits in the area was dumped it into the sea. Eventually as coal production increased the sand got blacker and the water got dirtier. Not a pretty sight!

Dawdon was one of several pits in Seaham, it was sunk in 1905 and employment grew to 3,300 with an output of 1 million tons in its heyday. It was closed in 1991 a few years after the 1984/85 miners' strike.

All the pits are long gone now, courtesy of Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative Government. The loss of the industry hit places like Seaham really hard. My great grandad, both my granddads, my Dad, all my uncles and my brother worked at Dawdon Pit. The area has never recovered despite the development of new industrial estates.

(Dawdon) "...suffers from severe deprivation, with many
households surviving on welfare benefits, poor health, poor educational attainment and significant child poverty."
Dawdon Community Appraisal

On the plus side there has been a lot of work done redeveloping the area. In addition the sand is clean again and the water is much cleaner. However the sea seems a whole lot colder than when I was young!

Beach top car park

They have been doing a lot of work to improve the area at the top of the beach. I think the designer of this wall must have been having a bit of a Gaudi moment. I really like it.

Is this a sea monster?

The church on the left of the picture is St Mary the Virgin. It's an Anglo Saxon church dating back to 7th Century. It's supposed to be one of the 20 oldest churches in the country. To my shame I've never visited it. Something I must do this summer and I'll take my camera, if it's allowed!

Why not join us at Skywatch Friday and post your photos? We'd love to see them.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

It's National Curry Week 23 - 29 November 2008

Curry is certainly one of Britain's favourite dishes, whether it's a Chicken Tikka Masala, Prawn Korma or Rogan Ghosh. Indian cuisine has become so popular that now, every year we have a National Curry Week.

All over Britain Indian restaurants, caterers, pubs, canteen, schools, clubs etc are invited to celebrate the cuisine and culture with special dinners, record-breaking attempts, raffles, auctions and more. This is all in aid of contributing to the alleviation of poverty by supporting Oxfam, the appointed charity for 2008. You can eat out during the week and donate to the cause or send £1 per person to Oxfam.

Find out more about Oxfam here and how you can get involved.

Use the links to the recipes below and have a special curry.

Take a look at the National Curry Week recipes, there's curries and kebabs and lots of other international dishes.

There are also lots of delicious recipes here

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