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For Remembrance

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I wrote a poem for Remembrance Day based on Ecclesiastes 3 verses 1-8. You may know the original verses better as a famous Pete Seeger song.  First, here are the verses as they appear in the Old Testament. Following them is my own poem 'There is a Clock-Strike' Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (New International Version of the Bible) There is a time for everything,      and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2       a time to be born and a time to die,      a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3       a time to kill and a time to heal,      a time to tear down and a time to build, 4       a time to weep and a time to laugh,      a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5       a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,      a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6       a time to search and a time to give up,      a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7       a time to tear and a time to mend,      a time to be silent and a time to speak,

Evidence from your kitchen that you are not as young as you were

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1. You remember when scrambled eggs were cooked in saucepans.  2. You're not alarmed by one of these.  3. You own a ceramic mixing bowl the size of a canyon.   4. You feel fleeting remorse over bought pastry. 5. To you, a large apron is something you wear for baking, not an overhanging belly.  6. You have a book in which you have written recipes. Some pages are stained with syrup or oil.  7. You do own a bendy silicone muffin tin but you're suspicious of it.  8. You have cinnamon sticks in a jar but have yet to google 'What to do with cinnamon sticks'.  9. You've claimed you had a spiraliser as a child but found you were wrong ....   10. You've had a favourite knife since 1993 and still use it even though you have new ones.  11. When you make crumbles, you always say, 'This is how we did it in Domestic Science.'  12. You know about not slamming an oven door when there's a Victoria sponge in there.  13. You measure in ounces and if the recipe uses 

Evidence that there are all kinds of ways to choose baby names

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One remarkable fact about my mother, who took her own life at thirty-one after years of alcoholism, and was in most respects disorganised and chaotic, is that she named all four of her offspring before birth. We all had a name ready-made, whether a boy or girl.  It's one of the few positive memories I have of her parenting. But you have to suck the juice out of some situations.  So efficient! That's the birth-name equivalent of having everything in labelled Tupperware, arranged on your kitchen shelves in size order. I can assure you, my mother's kitchen did not look like this. So, she wasn't consistent, but the name idea counts in her favour.  Here's how it worked.  I am Frances. If a boy, I would have been Francis.  My brother was named Leslie. He would have been Lesley. My sister was Christine. She would have been Christopher. My younger sister was Michaela. She would have been Michael. Have you ever heard of anyone else doing this? Usually, you hear people say, &

Reasons why Fran misses her local post box

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The post box on the corner of my street has been out of use for months. It's encased in black and yellow sticky tape that makes it look like a crime scene. This may well be the case. Perhaps some bored youth popped a lit match in there as his contribution to the wellbeing of his local community. Whatever the reason, the Royal Mail seem to have decided not to reinstate it and that means that if I want to post a letter or small parcel, I can't just shuffle down our small street in my slippers without my upper lip plucked. I have to don shoes, a jacket and some pretence of respectability for the ten-minute trek up the hill to the local shopping arcade where the next nearest post box is. My efforts are nothing compared to those my gran would have gone to. Her corner shop was only a few doors down yet she still applied perfect lipstick, her best coat and a fresh headscarf merely to fetch a tub of Blue Band margarine or a tin of peaches.   'Gran,' we'd say. 'It's

Reasons Why Fran's bookshelf is suddenly stacked with nature books and poetry

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Before you click 'Join' for an online conference call or meeting, in which you show off your bookshelf behind you, which 10 books should you remove?  Haemorrhoid Hell: When You're Not Sitting Comfortably  Sex Without Socks On: The Ultimate Guide to Middle-aged Intimacy  Joyce's Ulysses : The Facts You Need to Fool your Friends  Rock-Solid Excuses for Parties, Weddings and Baby Showers How to Re-Gift Christmas presents by the 27th Warts and All: Advice about Ugly Growths in Awkward Places Unfollowing and Muting: Social Media Without Fear Kitchen Trickery: Making Waitrose-made-it Look Like You-made-it When Will They Bloody Leave? - 10 tips for getting dinner guests out of your hall and, of course, finally - The Pandemic Bookshelf - Because They Will Be Looking     

Reasons why Fran will avoid woods for the foreseeable future

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I arrived back on Friday from a week in Wales with my son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. (Just then, I typed 'groundchildren' instead of 'grandchildren', and soon you will see how ironic that is.) If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know not to expect post-holiday descriptions of lush landscapes, snippets of pastoral poetry or anecdotes about my daredevil surfing exploits.  Oh, okay, then. Here's a waterfall. But that's all you're getting of anything postcardy.    The weather forecast, as we left the Midlands to drive to Wales, was not favourable. In fact, we had packed raincoats, umbrellas, wellingtons and a book entitled 'First Aid for the Drowning.' For most of the week, however, the rain lashed down during the nights, then in the daytime the sun shone, burning and shrivelling any exposed face or limb without mercy. We slapped on sun cream but not as fast as the sun slapped our cheeks and foreheads.   Oh, all ri

Evidence that literary characters' school reports show early troubling signs

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Lennie Small - Of Mice and Men Lennie has been seated at the very back of the class so that other pupils can see the board. He cannot be faulted for effort in his academic studies but struggles with most aspects of the curriculum. He does love nature, especially animals, although since the unfortunate incident when Lennie was allowed to take the class gerbils home for the holidays, we have tried to divert his interests. He is generally well-behaved in school; nevertheless, he did receive a detention for shouting 'I like my beans with ketchup' repeatedly across the school dining room, upsetting the catering staff. Also, he has joined the after-school Film Studies club but continually insists they watch clips of 'Watership Down'; other pupils are wearying of this. Lennie usually does relate well to other pupils, but is less popular with the girls, most of whom have taken to wearing pastel colours to school. With further work on his social skills, Lennie should have a brig