Monday, 12 April 2010

Glorious April

I cannot believe how beautiful the weather is at the moment. I went into Blackburn on Saturday with my friend to do a bit of the old retail therapy....... and would you believe it was 25 degrees?????

Probably not hot compared to Winter in somewhere like Australia or Africa maybe - but unheard of over here for this time of year.

The only down side was ........ all the weekend visitors to the village who were hiking had pasty white legs hanging out of the bottom of karki coloured shorts. NOT a great look.
Which made me realise that I need to get a bit of colour into my OWN legs for the coming summer. Im lucky that I go really brown - but following a friend of mine having a skin cancer scare a few years ago, I stopped sunbathing. I still catch the sun on my face and arms - I cant really avoid it given my outdoors lifestyle and occupation. And I usually suffer from "Van drivers arm"........ I always have my right arm resting on the window of my car when Im driving in the summer, so inevitably that goes a lot browner than the left one. MUST stop doing that as they look like "before and after" shots.
But as for the rest of me..........I discovered the wonderful world of spray tans and fake tans.
My first experience of a spray tan wasnt what I expected. I opted for "Fake Bake" as the advertisement in the beauty therapists said all the stars were using it and it gave a natural deep tan with the look of an island holiday.

I dont know WHICH island they were talking about - as I ended up covered in streaks - maybe there is some place in the world called Zebra Island?????

I looked like I was just grubby - rather than tanned. And will say that it was absolutely minging. The worst part of the whole sordid episode was that they make you wear these horrid paper knickers that you can throw away afterwards (like you'd want to keep them?????? yuk) and you have to stand in a cubicle after being sprayed, with your arms out at the shoulder, and your legs sort of bent so you dont end up with 2 white diamonds at the back of your legs if you've got a flabby bum.
Talk about traumatic.
I then forked out another £45 for a St Tropez tan - dear lord - I was a lovely chavvy orange colour and it took ages before I could get the last remnants of it off.
But then - I came across Ambre Solaire spray on self developing fake tan. It's fantastic - and I can recommend it to anyone wanting to look like they have a natural tan rather than like they've been Tangoe'd.
Just one point to make............ DONT apply it when you have dogs around as Lorrie started trying to lick it off my legs last night and Ive woken up this morning looking like a Zebra all over again :-)
.........maybe the jeans will be staying on for a few more days after all!!!!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Vanishing comments !!!!!!!!!!!

I apologise profusely (even though it's not actually my fault) but Ive accepted comments from people on here and when I go back to reply, they aren't anywhere to be found.
I thought when it's happened previously that I may have pressed "delete" rather than publish..... but this morning I accepted a comment from Val and it's disappeared.

So -

Val - here is a reply to your comment hahaha

Why not try Tia Maria instead of Baileys??????? DAMN! I might actually do that myself now hehehe
Oh and the doggies are fine. Lorrie has lost loads of weight, and has got her paws well and truly under the table now. She has lots of funny little things about her (like attacking the Dyson and dragging it - and me - round the room when Im trying to clean up) but they are all what make her, well, her!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Baileys and White Chocolate Cheesecake recipe

I was going to email this one to Monix - but I dont want to be so selfish that I might deprive the rest of you in indulging in a bit of decadent pleasure. I made this for my friends last weekend as part of my birthday party, and I am sad/proud/disgusted in us all to say that the whole thing was polished off in one go (made up of a couple of helpings each - even serving it with ice cream, extra thick double cream and raspberries). What pigs we were !!!!!
Im giving you the recipe as I found it............


I made the base out of Oreos instead hehehe yum yum yum. Hope you try it and love it xx

3 ½ oz /100g Butter
8 ¾ oz / 250g Digestive biscuits, crushed (or Oreos if you're a complete porker like I am)

1 lb 5 oz / 600g full fat cream cheese
7 tablespoons Baileys liqueur (or do what I did and add more and hope to god the thing sets properly)

3 ½ oz sieved icing sugar
10 ½ oz / 300ml double cream, whipped

3 ½ oz /100g grated white chocolate (I admit this didnt look quite enough chocolate to me for a group of ladies on the wine, so I put more in)
7 in /18cm cake tin with removable base.

To garnish:
Cocoa powder lightly sieved
To serve with:
7 ¼ oz / 200ml double or single cream (choice is yours but I went with Sainsburys toffee and honeycomb ice cream and extra thick double cream and some fresh raspberries!)

1. Melt butter in microwave or on hob. Add crushed biscuits. Mix well until the biscuits have absorbed all the butter.

2. Line the cake tin evenly with biscuit mix and smooth with back of metal spoon Place in fridge until set. (You can speed this up by putting in freezer for about 30 mins.)
3. Prepare filling. Lightly whip cream cheese, beat in the Baileys and icing sugar. Fold in whipped cream and grated chocolate until smooth.

4. Take set biscuit base out of fridge and gently slide the biscuit base off the tin base onto a large serving plate. Place outside ring of cake tin over biscuit base.
5. Spoon filling evenly over the biscuit base.

6. Refrigerate and allow to set for around 2 hours .Once set carefully remove outside ring of cake tin. Dust with sieved cocoa powder. (I use a very fine mesh sieve which was a nylon tea strainer for dusting cakes)

7. Put finished cheesecake in front of friends and watch it vanish, as if by magic

Jaks x

Monday, 29 March 2010

Books I loved as a child

Going through the boxes that are STILL sitting in the little pink bedroom, I came across some old books that I had lovingly packed away when I moved house 11 years ago, and never unpacked again.

I thought that I would share some of them, as these were my favourite books when I was a little girl and would read them over and over, until someone managed to buy me a book that then took the "my favourite book" place, and was, in it's turn, read until it was dog eared and worn.

This one was a present from my Auntie Mo (Monix SHOULD remember this one as I think she had to read it to me every single night). I absolutely loved it - and think I was around 3 years old when this one made an appearance, given the "To my little precious, Happy 3rd birthday" which was written on the inside front cover. As a little girl, the thought of a cow wanting to see the world and floating down a canal was wonderful, and I think I drove everyone mad by the number of times I wanted it as a bed time story.

This was a Christmas present from my nan and grandad when I was 4 years old. I loved The Pogles. Little creatures that lived in the forest and occasionally "borrowed" items from people and then returned them. My favourite story was about a toy milk float that they found and used it to carry nuts about in.

This one was another great favourite, although by the time this one was bought for me at 5 years old, I was reading it myself so my family had some peace and quiet as I was always squirreled away reading it somewhere in the house.

Now this one has some special memories for me. When we used to go and spend the whole of the summer holidays with my Aunt and Uncle down in Portsmouth, they had (to my childs eyes) more books than the local library, so on rainy afternoons I would spend ages looking for books along their many bookshelves, and I loved this one. I think I was around 8 years old when I discovered it, and as my nose was always stuck in it, they gave it to me as a present when I was going home one time. I remember being speachless at the time - I couldnt believe that they were giving one of their treasured books to me - and I have treasured it ever since.

And finally, this one. I have no need to tell anyone what it is about as I think 90% of the known world has probably read it or heard about it. But at 8 years old, I started to read it (once again at Auntie M and Uncle N's house). Although I do remember being told "It might be a bit frightening in parts as it's really a grown ups book" and I admit the spiders and the trolls scared me to death - but I never told them, as I wanted to finish the book and was more scared that they would take it off me and not let me get to the end hahaha

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Giggles have set in AGAIN !!!!!!!!!!!

Ive spent a couple of hours on Facebook today catching up with old friends and generally having fun.

At the moment a few of us are having a bit of an ongoing competition to see who can come up with the funniest/wittiest status lines. This has been going on since Thursday. I thought that I would share some with you as they have really made me howl today.

Matt: I just opened the door to a 6ft cockroach. It punched me in the face and told me to **** off. Apparently there is a nasty bug going round

Dee: The kids next door just asked me to have a water fight - so I thought Id come and update my staus while Im waiting for the kettle to boil

Me: Im changing my name to Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz as the only men I seem to attract are either cowards, have no heart or dont have a brain.

Me: I just checked my bank statements and I have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life.....If I die tomorrow !

Me: Some people are under the impression that I think the world revolves around me. What utter nonsense. Everyone knows the world revolves around the sun.........which shines out of my arse!

Mark: I just asked my granny if she had seen my LSD pills that I left on the table. She said "Sod that. Have you seen that dragon in the kitchen?"

Debbie: just failed to stop a noisy fart leaking out in the queue at Tescos. Helloooooooooooo Asda

Ian: For sale. One parachute. Used once. Never opened. Small stain........

Tina: Freezing tempertures in Liverpool this morning. Reports say it was so cold a scouser was seen with his hands in his own pockets.

Matt: Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see us without an erection, make us a sandwich.

Matt: If you watch Thelma and Louise backwards,its about 2 women with a flying car who slowly realize their place is in the kitchen

Tina: So, is it too soon to ask Whoopie Goldberg if she's heard from Patrick Swayze yet?

Totally irreverant, not particularly PC, but I love every one of my "off the wall" friends x

Shhhhhh !!! Dont tell anyone but.............

Ever been guilty of doing this? It's usually because you have something you are so desperate to share with another person that you just cant keep it to yourself any longer - but you dont actually want it advertising in the national press at this stage.

So it's generally revealed to a close friend. Or at the very least, someone who is totally unconnected in any way, shape, or form to the "news" you are about to deliver.

And woops!!! I did it on Friday.

And double woops!!! It got repeated to someone else with the same caveat attached "Shhhh - dont tell anyone but Jaki just told me that she.............."

Bugger bugger bugger.

Thankfully it's not really about anyone else - it's about me. Well, no, it's sort of about someone else too, but probably not in the way you may think.

Sh*t -Im being too cryptic.

Anyway, needless to say this bit of "gossip" will probably be round the office by Wednesday at the latest. And Im wondering what is the best way to deal with the potential fall-out. And by fall-out I mean repercussions.

They wouldn't be horrendous - as it wasnt bitching or anything. Just that I may end up with a slightly red face and have now got to decide whether to brazen it out, or deny deny deny.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm !

If the person concerned hears this little snippet.......well things could go one of two ways.

I could be writing a blog next week with me dancing around like an idiot and very very happy.

Or I could be curled up al la Bridget Jones drinking vodka and listening to Chaka Khan.

I will keep the world posted. That is, if anyone has even got the remotest idea what Im wittering on about, and would have a clue whether they were following me or not.

Friday, 19 March 2010

I saw the deer. I saw the deer !!!!!!!

Well, actually it isnt the first time that Ive SEEN them - but usually they are just grey blurs and the flash of a white tail as they vanish into the forest.

But every night this week, on our evening walk up to the moors, we have seen one or two on the top track - just before Murphy spots them and then tears off after them into the undergrowth.

Last night, we went right up into the forest - we normally only skirt round the edges, as me being as accident prone as I am, I didnt fancy falling over a log or something and ending up dying of hyperthermia before anyone found me, so we generally stick close to the main tracks within "shouting for help" distance.

But I was feeling a bit adventerous, so myself Murf and Lorrie took off on a mammoth treck. The views from the loggers clearing are spectacular (another reason why I need to buy myself a decent camera), and I didnt realise exactly how high up we'd actually gone until I stopped to look and spotted the village down in the valley.

The dogs were having a grand old time, sniffing everything and running like lunatics in and out of the trees. So we went deeper in, where the trees are so close together that the light is very dim, and the only sounds were the creaking of the pine trees in the wind - which was a bit eerie.

And then I saw them - a little herd of deer bounding through the trees about 50 yards in front of us, heading down the hill towards the tracks and the woods nearer to the village. There were about 10 of them, and it proved a little too much for himself, so he went peeling after them and finally came back panting and wagging his little docked tail, feeling very pleased with himself.

We did another hour through the forest and then rejoined the track and started heading for home as the light was almost gone and I admit Im a bit of a scaredy cat in the dark on the moors (I never did get over watching American Werewolf In London) :-)

And as we rounded the bend near the ruins....... there was a small group of Does in a little clearing. Murf spotted them but my very firm "STAY" made him stand still for a few seconds whilst I got out my phone and snapped the following photo. Now forgive the very very poor quality as it's not the greatest in the world, but if you look in the centre of the fuzzy image, you can see the 5 Does...... just before the temptation became too much and Murphy went after them and chased them back into the forest again

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Top o' the morning to you !!! Happy St Paddy's Day

Here's to everyone out there with a smidgin' of the Oirish in 'em and everyone else who will be making SURE that they do today/tonight by downing a grand old helping of "The Black Stuff".

I, myself, am sitting here typing with a nice glass of Guinness "off the shelf" as I remember my Grandad always saying it tasted better than a cold one. I have to agree.

And I am also going to be enjoying an evening of "Father Ted". That show makes me laugh until my sides are hurting and the tears are rolling.

Most people in the UK know all about Father Ted - but just incase you dont......

Father Ted lives on Craggy Island (a cruddy little place off the coast of Southern Ireland) with Father Dougal (a bit like the village idiot in a cassock) and Father Jack (retired alcoholic priest who is wheelchair bound and who has a fear of nuns and swears a lot). They are looked after by Mrs Doyle the housekeeper who is obsessive compulsive about overfeeding everyone (a very Irish trait) and insisting everyone has "a nice cup of tea".

Some of my favourite quotes are:

Dougal: God, I've heard about those cults Ted. People dressing up in black and saying Our Lord's going to come back and save us all.
Ted: No, Dougal, that's us. That's Catholicism.
Dougal: Oh right.

Mrs Doyle: Now what would you say to a nice cup of tea father?
Father Jack: "FECK OFF CUP"

And if you haven't ever watched it and can cope with the madness, please have a look at the episodes on You Tube and see what you think.

And as it is St Patricks day, and the Irish are so very very funny - I am going to leave you with probably one of the funniest signs I have EVER seen.... and this is actually a genuine photo ...........

A picture of an Irish Scarecrow

Saturday, 13 March 2010


I can see me getting blacklisted in this village. And all it takes is one like minded individual to lead me astray.

Let me explain.........

What I like about this place is that although it's a very small and tightly knit community, it's also the sort of place where people actually do care about their neighbours without being "in your face" which is something I love.

My last home, well there was always someone knocking on the door to complain, have a whinge or pester me for something (it was a farm and we had 20 plus horses on there at livery) and the horse owners never really bothered to think (or care) about the fact that I worked a full week at my "day" job and wasnt actually there at their beck and call for minor whinges at 10pm on a week night when I was up at 5am the next morning. So this place is like a breath of fresh air.

This was brought home to me yesterday when Zoe (who lives a few doors up) came and knocked on my door as she was a bit worried that my car had been parked outside for 2 days and she hadnt seen me out and about. As it happens, I've got a bad back (an old riding injury which crops up every few years) and have been in agony with sciatica for a week and have been working at home since Wednesday rather than endure the trauma of being shaken all over the place driving my Land Rover to work every morning.

So I invited her in, and she was very sympathetic when she saw me hobbling around like a very very old lady. And I thanked her sincerely for being worried enough to check I was ok.

We sat down for a cup of tea and a natter, and I mentioned that a note had been posted through my door by another neighbour further up the road, inviting me to join the village "Womens Group".

This ended up with Zoe shrieking "How old do they think you are? 70?" before rolling about on the sofa almost crying with laughter when I handed her the flyer to read.

When I had first been verbally invited, it was made to sound like a rather fun thing to do "It's not like an old womens group" I was told "We can just all get together and have a laugh up at the cricket club when our husbands/boyfriends are out doing whatever THEY do - a bit like Loose Women on ITV - and we can chat and discuss things in a lighthearted and fun way" ......... so I actually thought that would be a good and informal way for me to get to know those people I haven't already met, whilst obviously enjoying a few beers and letting my hair down.


Zoe (between howls of laughter) started to read out the agendas for the weekly meetings. It's sadly a sort of a cross between the W.I. and something from a Nursing Home.

"Chair Aerobics????" she screamed.
"Well that might be handy for me at the minute" I laughed.
I admit her hysteria set me off and I ended up wheezing for breath inbetween clutching my back and telling her to stop before I slipped a disc.

She is very much like me - we have a similar sense of humour (bawdy at it's mildest) and both live on our own (her excuse being "I am NOT having that slob - her boyfriend of 10 years - living with me, I like my sanity too much")

When she got to the agenda for 7th April "Desert Island Essentials - what can you not live without" this then started a WHOLE list of things from Zoe that would most definately not be fit for the ears of what I suspect are going to be ladies in the 60 plus age bracket.

And it turns out that Zoe didnt get an invitation to join - probably, as she said, because all the women on the "committee" are nosy old busybodies who just invite "incomers" so that they can find out all about them and then tell everyone else next time they're in the post office. It also appears that Jean, who lives next door but one to me, hasn't been invited either.

We then decided that we would be far better off setting up our own village group for the "outcasts" such as herself, me, Jean, Chris, Glynis and the ladies from the Tea Shop who like nothing better than a bottle of vodka and a pizza and a good old laugh.

I spoke to Jean last night when I was out taking my dogs for a hobble and she was giggling about Zoe and her Desert Island essentials. I should give you a clue about the way Zoe's mind works when I tell you that for the meeting on 24 March, the theme is "Book Review - bring along a book you love or loath to discuss" and Zoe (between choking laughter) said she would give them all something to gossip about by taking along a copy of The Karma Sutra and watching all the slack jaws hit several pairs of support-hose-clad knees hehehehehe

I think this village is going to be a very fun place to live indeed :-)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

At last.........

Due to my work committments, Ive not had a great deal of time to get online. And have also had a few "settling in" problems with Lorrie - ie. very upset tummy (her not me) and then discovered her and Murphy doing something they shouldnt be doing - ie. she had come into season (turns out - BIG SHOCK - she wasnt spayed as she was a show dog and the vet thinks that the upset of moving and everything else probably brought it on) and he hasn't been "done" so you can imagine the fun Ive had trying to stop them. He managed to "do the dirty deed" once (I was eating my dinner at the time and wondered what the pair of them were up to behind the sofa) at which point I shrieked and pulled him off - and then they were kept apart until she came out of season.

Now Im on the horns of a dilemma. They cant spay her until at least 4 weeks from the end of her season - and the vet has said that if she is carrying puppies then he would just "get rid of them" at the same time. And this one is keeping me awake at night as Im obviously looking at it that Murphy has scored a goal. Ive argued with myself, Im trying to be objective - but I don't know if I can do that to her.

Im a responsible dog owner and feel now that Ive been really irresponsible for not realising. My last bitch was spayed at 12 months old as I didnt want any unplanned puppies - there are enough dogs in the world that need homes. Murphy has never been castrated as (a) he has a bad reaction to anaesthetic and I was terrified he might die if I had him knocked out again (b) he has never been any trouble with straying or leg humping or fighting and has never been allowed to just run amok and be around unspayed bitched - plus he is actually very obedient and will come away if commanded (c) he's actually fathered planned litters before as he is well known in this area as a gun dog and his puppies are doing really well at field trials and working.

If Id realised what was going on (she showed no signs) Id have separated them right away. It was only the once - but once is enough as the saying goes.

So as you can imagine - Im in a real quandry.

Anyway - that aside - Lorrie is fantastic. The most placid collie Ive ever come across. And she follows me round like she has been here all her life. She loves the forest and the moors, and ignores the chickens at the farm (much to Murphys disgust). She is a real worker though, and the horses got a shock last night as it was the first time Ive introduced her to them and wasnt sure how she would react. She brought them in from the fields with me and was herding them into the stables (lucky for her they dont kick as she gave them both a bit of heel work when they went a bit too slowly for her liking hehe).


She is overweight (I suppose thats to be expected for a dog that has had virtually no exercise for a year) but Ive already noticed a distinct difference in her weight over the last week and a half as she is being walked 3 times a day and doing at least 10 miles of running - she is also on one meal a day (same as Murphy) and having no treats (apart from a huge leg bone that she can chew on).

Lorrie unconscious after her evening walk.

All in all I have found the perfect dog, and Murphy is totally in love with her. She is a bit of a bossy boots and pushes him around - but not in a nasty way - and more fool him, he lets her do it. And for the first time in almost 5 months, Im not worrying about my boy when I have to leave him, as yesterday I got home from work and the two of them were curled up together fast asleep...........on my bed (she knows how to open doors tee hee)

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Some photos of where I live

Im not the best photographer in the world (as you will be able to tell from the photos) but I thought that I should upload all the pics from my phone to make room for all of the pics Im going to take of Lorrie tomorrow :-)

These were all taken yesterday and today (19 and 20 February 2010 after yet another snowfall).

This was across the road from my house at 7.30am when Murf and I were going for our morning walk.

This is where I keep my horses.

Crazy Mazie in the field wondering what the hell I was doing sitting on the wall.

This is from the field behind my house - you can just see Anglezarke Moor in the centre of the photo appearing above the trees.

Murf just watering some grass on our way to the forest.

Forest on our right, with the moor above and this watercourse is The Goit. This is our favourite evening walk.

This is Drakeshead Mere which is to the left of the previous photo.

These are my girls at sunrise (about 6.45am) and very inimpressed at having been taken out of their warm stables.

This is from the farm looking back towards Roddlesworth Moor at sunrise.

And this one is the view from the front door of my cottage up onto Anglezarke.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Being green

Well I cant really be employed by The Environment Agency and not actually try to live in a green and sustainable way, can I?

So although I dont want to bore anyone to death and come across like a loony lefty green tree hugging sandal wearing preacher of all things environmentally friendly - I thought that I would give people a few tips that I use, having spent more than a decade trying to change my lifestyle.

Some of these things, well I suppose most people do (or try to do), but one or two things Ive picked up along the way you may NOT do so here you go.

These are some of the things I do
Use energy saving bulbs in all of your light fittings (even your table lamps).

Switch electrical appliances off at the wall - dont leave them on standby.

I joined the MPS (mail preference service) which is a free service that removes your details from UK mailing lists and therefore reduces the amount of junk mail you receive - check out their website for more information

Only fill your kettle with enough water for what you need - dont fill it up to the top if you're only making one cup of coffee or tea - a quarter of all energy used in households goes on boiling kettles.

Get a Hippo for your cistern (or a brick) and drop it in. This will reduce the amount of water used with each flush. And I heard a very funny (and handy) phrase when I watched the film "Meet the Fockers".... Dustin Hoffman proudly announced his tip for saving water when you flush... "If it's yellow, let it mellow. But if it's brown - flush it down" hahaha

Dont leave the tap running when you brush your teeth.

If you have a bath leave the water in rather than letting it run away. This will help to heat your home (believe it or not) and then when the water is cold, use it to flush your loo by filling a bucket and pouring it down the toilet instead of using the flush (this is especially great if you are on a water meter - you really will notice the difference).

If you have the option of switching over to green energy then go for it - here is their website - please check it out.

Buy locally produced fruit, veg and meat - check where it's come from and know what is in season locally. By refusing to purchase these items that have come from overseas, not only are you helping local farmers/the local economy, you are also reducing the "food miles" and helping the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. Better still, try growing your own where possible. I grew chilis, peppers and garlic on my window ledges, and am going to make a little herb garden this year in my tiny yard.

Staying on the gardening theme - get a wormery. My worms sadly died over the horrible winter, but I will start my wormery off again in the spring. Most food waste can be put into the wormery, the worms eat it, it comes out the other end of the worm (Im being polite here so use your imagination), and you are left with a fantastically rich home made fertiliser/plant food. Perfect for your home grown fruit and veg.

Do you really need to drive? Walk or cycle if you can. Use public transport if it's practical for you rather than taking your car into town.

Im currently being a guinnea pig for a work mate who is making his own bio diesel out of used cooking oil from his local chip shops. And so far it is working a treat. Ive just put 25 litres into my old landrover and although every time I put the heating on, I feel really hungry as it smells of fish and chips (always a down side haha) it works out at a cost of around 10p a litre - which is a HUGE difference from 112p a litre for diesel.

Think about having a green roof if you have a decent roof to utilise.

Use rain butts to catch rainwater (something we definately arent short of in the UK at this time of year). I use it for washing the car, washing the dog, watering plants, and have set up a drinking system at the stables for my horses so that I have a secondary water supply when the butts are full to reduce the usage from the main water pipes.

Do you have a real fire? And do you know anyone with sheep or horses? I used to make my own fire bricks by compressing and then drying out their poo in a paper press I bought for making fire bricks out of used paper. And it actually doesnt smell as you would think it should. Saves buying coal or logs and it gives out a great heat (and its FREE).

Shop at charity shops - no better way to recycle and as we all know, everything comes back in fashion sooner or later.

Addicted to using air fresheners? Buy an essentail oil (scent of your choice - but I love lavender), pour it on a cloth and wipe your radiators with it. The scent as they start to warm up is beautiful. Also another tip is to re-use the fabric conditioner cloths that you can put in with your laundry. Roll them up and put them down the back of the radiators too once you've used them - dont just throw them away. You'll be surprised how nice they smell.

Try to reduce what you send to landfill. Buy items with a reduced amount of packaging. Recycle wherever possible - most local councils now have green waste schemes and promote recycling of paper/plastics/glass/cardboard. I only fill one black bin bag (refuse sack) every 5 or 6 weeks with things that I cannot recycle. Not bad going considering my single neigbour easily fills two per week (Im slowly trying to convince her to try my methods).

I know that there are loads more things that I do, but I also dont want to make anyone yawn - if you want some more tips to not only help save the planet but help you to save money, just give me a shout.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Re-discovering literature

I cant say that I was ever the worlds greatest fan of poetry. I found English Lit tedious when I was at school. Probably because the teacher was the most boring old fart in the world. He was just counting the days until he retired and used to plonk books in front of us, tell us to read whichever bit of Shakespeare he had picked out, and spent the entire lesson with his feet up on his desk smoking his pipe and giving us no feedback whatsoever. He sometimes even fell asleep - and we would then do what any responsible and well brought up young people would do............ start having spit ball fights and writing graffiti all over each others work books.

What a waste of 3 years of my life.

And then in my early 20's, I discovered a love of English poets that I never knew was lurking alongside the love I had (at the time) for dance music, partying, tequila and cigarettes. And although the only one of those young loves I still have is for music (it now extends beyond dance music you'll be glad to hear), my passion for poetry has just grown and grown.

I sat here musing about my favourites. What is the one poem that makes me sigh every time I read it? And I have to admit, after a long time thinking about it, I will step out onto the ledge and say it is "To Autumn" by John Keats.

For anyone who has never had the pleasure of sitting in a field in the English countryside, as summer slowly turns to Autumn, watching the farmers bailing the straw. If you have never spent time staring at the golden stalks they leave behind in the stubble fields, and havent watched the swallows diving and swooping before lining up on the telephone wires waiting to leave for the winter, the following is for you.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind,
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twin├Ęd flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Im so excited - Lorrie comes on Sunday !!! yayyyy

No - Im not having a hot date with someone called Lorrie (nor am I having a rather large van delivered either).

On Sunday, I shall be going with Murphy to pick up the new addition to our little Moorland family............Im getting a new dog.

She is absolutely beautiful and her name is Lorrie.

Ive always had 2 dogs, until my ex partner decided to "steal" one of them and he has point blank refused to give her back - even though she was my baby for almost 12 years. I hoped that Murphy would settle for being an "only dog" but despite me leaving it for 4 months to see how he got along on his own, he is still desperately sad without canine company. So I made the decision to get another - and to be honest, I actually miss having two of them creating merry hell in my home.

As much as I love puppies, I know a young pup isnt practical for me, and there are enough dogs in the world that nobody wants, so I decided to rehome an older dog. Then struggled with myself over which breed.

And I kept coming back to Border Collie every single time. I swore after Minstral (my other dog) that I would never have another BC because she was such a handfull when she was younger. She came from a farm at 6 months old as she was refusing to run sheep and I fell in love with her when I saw her....until she started to eat the house. Every night I came home she had done something else - like eaten the floorboards (honestly), chewed a hole in the wall, or ripped up the carpet. But they have such intelligence and personalities that I couldnt resist getting another to replace her - and besides, they are the only breed of dog that has the stamina to keep up with "himself". And he loves Border Collies - Im sure he thinks whenever he sees one that it's Minstral coming back.

Anyway - Im digressing a little here.
So I started trawling the dogs homes (but after ending up in floods of tears outside the last one I visited as I couldnt pick just one dog and leave all those other dogs with their sad faces wondering "why didnt she pick me?") I decided to check out the private rescues and rehoming centres.

And lo and behold I was put in touch with one of the top Border Collie breeders in the country who had just had one of her dogs returned to her after 6 years. I still cannot fathom why someone would turn their beloved pet over for rehoming after that length of time - I would never part with Murf - not even if it meant I had to live on the streets. He's my baby. But I am not going to start going through the whys and wherefores of the whole thing. Because at the end of the day, other people making silly decisions has resulted in me finding Lorrie.

And wait until you see some photos of her which I will post hopefully on Sunday sometime. She is a stunner. And such a lovely placid and friendly girl. She is the same age as Murf so thats a bonus, and she was also a top show champion when she was owned by her breeder and even appeared at Crufts - although the people she was sold to at 3 years old didnt do very much with her after they bought her.

Ive got her spot set out for her bed, and have bought her a new feed bowl and a lead. Murf and I bought her some Markies (a firm favourite with all dogs) but he decided that he wanted to try them to make sure they werent poisoned - and so we need to now buy another packet for Lorrie :-)

The whole village know she is coming on Sunday, and so I expect we will have a reception party waiting to meet us when we come home with her. And I really hope that she will settle here with us. Because one thing I know how to do well is love my dogs. And I think she will like us, because for the last year with her previous owners, she was locked in a house for 14 hours at a time with very little exercise.

She's going to get such a shock when she sees the farm and the woods and the open moors. And I know that Murphy is going to have her tearing round like a maniac with him chasing the chickens and the cows and hunting for rabbit in the brambles, and running after the deer up on Anglezarke Moor.

I cant stand to think that a lovely dog has been neglected in any way, so I regret to say that I will probably be spoiling her rotten with cuddles and squeaky toys and lots of loves on the sofa with me and Murf. I also have a sneaky suspiscion that he will have a quiet word with her and say "if you sneak up on the bed in the night, and give her the puppy dog eyes when she tells you to get off, she'll let you stay up there" "Oh and if you jump up and grab your lead every time she gets up out of her chair, we get an extra walk - especially if you start whining"..... I can see me being taken for a complete and utter mug.

Dogs eh? Dontcha just love 'em? :-)

Saturday, 13 February 2010

"EX"nic Cleansing

To all the losers who left me, the lovers who lost me, and all you lucky buggers yet to meet me.........Happy Valentines Day !!

As it is Valentines Day, and I woke up amazed to see, once again, a mountain of cards behind the letterbox (yeah right!!!), it got me thinking about the people I WOULD have got cards from if things hadn't gone disasterously, and spectacularly, wrong.

Last night I was invited over for dinner by one of my oldest and dearest friends. Her fiance has just gone out to Afghanistan for a 4 month tour of duty, and they are due to get married in June after he gets back.

As girls do, we chatted about everything from our dogs, to fashion, to our horses, to funny memories, and then began to wade through the monumental cock-ups regarding men that we have made in our respective love lives.

Now none of this was done in a bitter or sad way, as we were both crying with laughter at one point, especially when we reminded each other of certain people from our past, and each of us, in our turn, would shriek and roll about crying "Oh my God, what the hell did I ever see in HIM...arrrhhhhhhgggg" interupted by peels of laughter.

And then I had a very sobering thought - what if THEY are doing the same thing about us at this very moment?????

She (in her usual witty way) said "Oh Jaks, they wont be, because we are both perfect hahahaha". And although I'd like to think/pretend or even lie to myself that I am, I know only too well that I am far from it and have my own mountain of weaknesses and faults, just as everyone else has (no matter how much you may try to deny it to yourself).

All of us (unless you are the most incredibly lucky person on the planet) have suffered heartbreak in love at some point. And at the time it's all happening, when everything is falling apart around you, you really can't imagine that a few years down the line, you will be sitting drinking tea with a friend and laughing until the tears are rolling down your cheeks about the very person who made tears roll down your cheeks for very different reasons all those years ago.

Selective memory is a funny thing. When you go through a break up, and you are so bloody miserable and heartbroken, all you can remember and think about are the wonderful and happy times you had together - which make you even more miserable.

Once you've got over the whole thing, all you seem to remember are the bad things, and why you are SO much better off not being with whichever piece of "pond slime" just used your heart as a punch bag (even though at the time, if ever your friends had called the object of your affection "pond slime" you would have never spoken to them again).

And then years down the line, you are finally able to remember the good AND bad things, and laugh about everything with your friends.

2 years ago, if anyone had said that in a couple of years, I would be sitting talking about Dale without crying, I would have said something very rude to them and gone off in a self pitying sulk to think about my "ideal" relationship and what I must have done wrong to have ended up as one half of the perfect couple.

I tend to always blame myself - you know how it is.....did I say something? Did I do something? Am I too fat? Am I too thin? Am I too ugly? Am I not witty enough?

And dear old Marshy said last night "You know what mate? You always seem to pick the emotional retards. What is it with you? You have nice men who want to take you out but you dont want them, and yet you ALWAYS say yes to the handsome tossers that everyone else can see coming a mile away"

This then started a whole other avenue of discussion. Her conclusion is that I am far too laid back and easy going with people. I forgive people too easily (although I always thought that was supposed to be a good thing to do), and I try to avoid conflict by just accepting things that happen, rather than kicking and screaming and laying some ground rules down like "normal" (her words) women do.

That woke me up a bit as I have only ever had three rules I ask people to abide by, and now I think about it, these shouldn't even be rules - they are my moral code and I just expect other people to have the same ideals:

(1) No cheating - if you do, then jog on!
(2) No lying - if you lie about little things then you'll lie about big ones and I want to be able to trust you
(3) If you want out, just have the balls to say it rather than letting something drag on as it's unfair

Anyway, after all of our soul searching and laughter, and memories, Marshy said "Well, Dave (her ex husband) did me a favour because if Id never found out about his affair, Id have still been with him, and would have never met Colin, and he is the true love of my life."

And Im so happy for her because out of all my friends, she really does deserve it the most.

She asked me what I thought was my biggest mistake. After pondering this for a while I have to admit that I think it was Tony. We were too different, our backgrounds were as far apart as the sun and the moon regarding upbringing and morals and standards. But I never judge people and when I met him he made me laugh. And I really do think that he was trying to change so that we could be together - but some things you just can't alter in yourself. He came from a very rough area in Manchester, and had a very dodgy youth. I tried to mix with his friends but I used to feel like a fish out of water. People were always calling me "Brain box" or "HRH" and if you knew me, those would be the last things you'd call me.

Ive never been a snob as I have no right to be. I am no better than anyone else. But the cultural and educational differences between me and them was like the Grand Canyon. Their lives revolved around drinking, taking drugs, buying "knock off" in the local pub and claiming benefits. Nobody wanted to better themselves. And every single day was like the one before and the one that would follow. Tony hated coming to mine because he hated the countryside. He is a city boy and always will be. And I hated the inner city.

And so it ended. Which was sad. And I do miss him being around sometimes. But what we ended up rolling about on the floor over last night, laughing until our sides hurt, was because I said that one good thing about being with him, was that I actually got to know what it would feel like to live out an episode of "Shameless"


Thursday, 11 February 2010

So who exactly are we? part 5

Please remember this was done for a bit of fun, to try and break down the silly thing we have about being "English", "Scottish", "Irish" or "Welsh"

Im going to give you some little clues if you want to try and work out who really is in your blood.

Now, I suppose that you could "guess" to give you the desired outcome, and argue in every single direction until you reach the conclusion of your choice - I personally would be horrifed if I suddenly found out I was decended from a Welsh/French/Roman horse eating raider.

Blood Types

In the UK (and Eire) the predominant blood types are O+ and A+

This blood group carries the genetic imprint of the very first humans, the Cro-Magnon hunter-gatherers. So the very first people who came into this country, well, everyone would have very probably been type O. And this can be picked up by countries such as Ireland, with a very dense "Celtic" population. Roughly half of the current population carry this blood type

In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Germany (basically all the countries where our other invaders came from, so that means "Anglo-Saxons" "Vikings" and "Normans") - the predominant bloody type is A+.

This is the second oldest blood group and dates back roughly 25,000 years.

So we will say (for the sake of arguement as Im not a geneticist) that Celts and Picts were highly likely to have had O+ blood types. And the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings and Normans would have been predominantly A+

Im going to leave the Romans out of this one, as the current figures are misleading. So Im going to make a very sweeping statement and say "They probably wouldnt have mixed with the locals anyway as they would have thought we were far too inferior" (thats my way of saying - ermmmm)

So, if you know for a fact that you have got no other "foreign" blood in your family in recent history, do you fit into either of those blood types?

Thats your first clue.

Secondly - look to where your family came from. Im not talking about your mum and dad - because in the last 40 years, people have moved about more and more, entering new communities. Whereas in the times of our great-grandparents, this was comparitively rare. People were born, raised and died in the same local area. If they moved at all, it was generally within a 20 mile radius.

One slight variation to all of this is those who had relations who came from Ireland in the mid to late 1800's. Although, those people tended to marry within the same communities once they had settled in this country, so there wasnt a great deal of "marrying out", at least not for the first 50 years or so.

Did your family originate from somewhere inside "The Danelaw" in England? Were they from an area of Scotland that was occupied by the Norsemen? Did they come from somewhere like Dublin that was a massive Viking settlement? Or did they come from a very remote area, inland (such as central southern Ireland or the Scottish Highlands), that would have been harder to get to 1000 years ago? Well, as far as this last example goes - if you have a type O blood, and your family were living in that community for generations, then you could brag and say that you're likely to be decended from the original inhabitants of that local area. You might have something else thrown in, but you are predominantly British.
Well done!!!

Now skin and hair colouring is a whole other ball game.

We all have the image of Vikings and Saxons as being tall with blond flowing hair. And when we think of Celts we either think of the Irish or Scots, and we put a nice mop of ginger hair on their heads.

So if you have Scandinavian ancestors you will have blonde hair? And if you are Celtic you will have red hair???

NOT strictly true.

I'll use myself as a little example of this.
My mum was blonde and her family history would say to us all "Irish/Scottish" as although we know that they came from Ireland, they have a Scottish surname, which would probably indicate crossing between northern Ireland and South West Scotland one or more times in the distant past. Which is ok in itself, as both peoples would have probably had the O+ blood group, and had very strong Celtic links to each other.

My dad is ginger and his family originate from the far north west of Scotland.

My younger sister is blonde and taller than I am with fair skin.

I am dark and short (at 5ft 2) with a slightly more olive look to my skin.

Both of my mums sisters and her brother are dark haired and fair skinned.

So either my mum brought the wrong baby home from the hospital, or Im just a bit of a throwback. I also have a different blood type to my sister - who is O+.
Im actually A+ and have since found out I have the same type as my dad.

So to break that down, I cant use my skin or hair colouring to determine my origins. If I go off my blood type, it would maybe give me the excuse to say Ive got Scandinavian ancestors. Which would stand to reason as my dads family were from a coastal region in NW Scotland - and one that was occupied by the Vikings.
So my sister got the colouring and I just got the blood type :-)

One other little pointer (although this is on a much more sinister, and sadder, note), is the predisposition of certain races to particular illnesses, conditions or diseases. Below are details of two of them.

Dupuytren's Contracture
Dupuytren’s disease is an ancient affliction of unknown origin. It is a shortening, thickening, and fibrosis of the palmar fascia which can cause your hand to have a clawed look, and making it impossible for you to straighten your fingers. Tradition has it that the disease originated with the Vikings, who spread it throughout Northern Europe and beyond as they traveled and intermarried. Two very famous sufferers of this disease were Ronald Regan and Maggie Thatcher. Dupuytren’s contracture is virtually confined to people of European descent. Its highest incidence is recorded in Iceland. As expected, the incidence is also high in Scandinavia.

The next disease I know very well, through bitter personal experience, as my mum was a sufferer, so maybe the Viking blood had crept into what I suspected was a pure Celtic family after all..........

Multiple Sclerosis
This was from an article in The Independant in 1998, where genetic studies had shown that Scotland had twice as many people suffering from MS as England and Wales. A Scottish newspaper also ran the story that if you have a Scottish surname, you can double that risk again.

"Scotland – the mainland around Aberdeen, the Orkney and Shetland Islands – has the highest risk (of MS]. The best explanation is that this reflects the genetic background because those are areas where there is a very high influence of Nordic genes, probably delivered by the Vikings. As I understand it they were in the habit of leaving behind their genetic material in the most generous way" Alastair Compston, professor of neurology and head of the department of clinical neurosciences at Cambridge University.

According to the Viking Hypothesis the global distribution of certain northern-European genes which appear to be present in cases of MS, may be attributed to a time of Viking expansion around 800AD when the population of Scandinavia increased rapidly. Thousands left their homeland to search for new land to feed their families, bringing their language, traditions and genetic material along with them.

So maybe my mums blonde locks were an indicator after all?

Anyway - I am not going to finish on a sad note. I hope that those of you who thought "Us Brits" were a nation of elitist pure bred snobs, can now take great satisfaction from knowing we're as confused about our ancestry as everybody else.

And I also hope my potted version of the invasions of our lands have cast some light onto an area which Im passionate about, (you probably already gathered that), and that it might have sparked an interest in at least one other person to want to learn more about their own history.

Thank you so much for reading all of this.
J x

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

So who exactly are we? part 4

I dont want to bore you with all the little details - as this isn't meant to be a history lesson (as such), so I will keep the introduction to this part as brief as I can.

Im going to skip a couple of hundred years of detail as it's just too messy with different "kings" and "kingdoms" in the British Isles, and all the bickering and fighting, and political intrigue.

But I want to give a quick mention to King Cnut.

Everyone knows the story about him allegedly sitting on his throne on the beach commanding the tide to go back. But that is a slight exageration so Im going to clear that one up before we start.

The story of Cnut attempting to turn back the tide is one that is meant to demonstrate his piety, rather than the way it is often told as a vainglorious king with an overblown belief in his powers. Cnut, in effect, was saying to his nobles: 'Look how insignificant my power is compared with that of God.'

And something else a lot of people in this country dont realise is that King Cnut was about as "English" as Thai Green Curry.

He was probably the most powerful king ever to rule over Anglo-Saxon England. And the bit that most people dont know is that.........he was the son of the Viking king, Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark, who conquered England in the reign of Ethelred the Unready, but died almost immediately. So one of Cnut's first acts as king was to conquer the country again before taking complete control at the end of 1016.

By the end of his reign, he was not only king of England and Denmark; he also controlled Norway and parts of Sweden. He enjoyed overlordship in Scotland; he had married Emma, the widow of the former Anglo-Saxon king, Ethelred; and when the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad, was crowned in Rome in 1027, Cnut made the journey to stand at his side as an equal.

And now the trouble starts.

Cnut died in 1035, and for the next 6 years his son Harold Harefoot ruled.

In 1041 the crown was snatched back from Viking rule by the Saxon Edward The Confessor. He was Cnut's stepson (son of Emma and Ethelred).

He had fled to Normandy as a boy in 1016 when Cnut took the throne, and stayed there until he got it back in 1042.

And so we come to the really interesting part - which is going to be so difficult for me to keep brief, but Im really going to try.

When Edward the Confessor died on 5 January 1066, no fixed procedures were in place to decide who should succeed him on the throne.

The Witan (a supreme council of wise men) had to make the decision, and they had four candidates to choose from.

Edgar the Atheling, closest blood claimant to Edward
Edgar, a Saxon prince and nephew of Edward, was a sickly fourteen year old boy.

Harald Hardrada, Viking king of Norway
Hardrada was king of Norway and a direct descendant of the kings of England. He was related to King Cnut.

Harold Godwinson, powerful noble in England, a good soldier and a gifted politician
Harold was born and bred in England and popular with ordinary people. He was son of Earl Godwin, the most powerful noble in England. Harold was a leading Saxon Lord and the brother of Edward's wife. He had won a number of battles for Edward.Harold did not have a direct blood link to the king. He was not of royal birth.

Harold was chosen by the Witan (the King's council) to succeed Edward the Confessor. He also said that it was Edward's dying wish that he, Harold, should have the crown (There were no witnesses to Edward saying this)

The day after Edward died, Harold became King Harold ll of England.

And here we have the final fly in the ointment.......

William, Duke of Normandy, from over the sea in France
William was a distant cousin of Edward the Confessor and wanted to be the next king. He claimed that both Edward and Harold had promised him the throne, but English supporters of Harold challenged this.
Edward invited William of Normandy to his court in 1051 and supposedly promised to make him heir.

After a shipwreck in 1064, Harold was handed over to William of Normandy, who forced him to swear an oath that he would help William become the next king of England when Edward died. It was said that the oath was given over a box that unbeknown to Harold contained the bones of a saint. Oaths were important guarantees that were considered binding in the Middle Ages, so this particular oath bound Harold to helping William, and made Harold’s own claim to the throne look illegal.

William had been a very successful ruler of Normandy and he thought he could do an equally good job for England.

So needless to say, William was pretty p****d off when the crown went to Harold Godwinson. And so he began the Norman invasion of England.

This culminated in The Battle of Hastings, which began at about nine o'clock on the 14th October 1066 and lasted most of the day.

King Harold was killed, and William took the throne...being known forever after as William The Conquerer.

But before you get excited thinking we have now got pure French blood coming into the mixing pot of genes, there is one little twist to the tale about the origins of the Normans..........

The name Normandy comes from the French normand, meaning Norsemen.

Although they were people who lived in Normandy in Northern France.....they were originally Vikings from Scandinavia.

So we're back to the bloody Vikings again.

We've possibly got Celtic, Pictish, Scottish, Roman, Angle, Saxon, Jute, Viking or French blood in our veins. Can I just say though, as someone from England, and knowing our colourful history with the French (Im a horse owner and some things such as eating them cant be forgiven hahaha), Im laying a disclaimer to say that regarding French blood, we only MIGHT have a TEENY WEENY and certainly INSIGNIFICANTLY small amount of it - IF ANY!!!!

In the next (and final) part of my very concise history of our origins, Im going to go through some pointers to help you decide who you think that YOU are.

So who exactly are we? part 3

Britain was settling into a nice (ish) peaceful (ish) time of farming and small village communities. The "new" religion of Christianity was prevalent in almost all of the country of England, Ireland and Scotland (although some small pockets of the old religion flourished in more rural and isolated parts).

Of course there were wars between different groups within the country, but on the whole, it wasnt too bad a place to be.

Until in the 8th Century, bands of fierce raiders began to attack our coasts. They were the Vikings (or Norsemen).

Sorry about this - but does anyone else instantly think of Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis whenever anyone says "The Vikings"? Plus Im now humming the theme tune trying to write this hahaha

They came across the North Sea, just as the Anglo-Saxons had done 400 years earlier. Vikings is a generic term we use for them, but they were from 3 separate Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

"From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord."

The first place the Vikings attacked in Britain was the monastery at Lindisfarne, a holy island situated off the Northumberland coast in the north east of England. A few years later the island of Iona (off the west coast of Scotland), came under attack and its monks were slaughtered.

Soon no region of the British Isles was safe from the Vikings. They attacked villages and towns in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and England.

No matter how many times the Vikings were beaten, they always came back.

The last of the Picts appear to have vanished some time after the Viking invasions of Northern Scotland. Were they wiped out? Or did they just become swallowed up and inter-marry with the new rulers of their homelands? Possibly some clue can be gathered from the town names in places like Shetland and Orkney. They are mainly of Norse or possible even Celtic origin. There appear to be no remaining town or settlement names that sound remotely like anything else....which could indicate mass extermination of the race of Picts.

I only say this because if you look at places such as Australia, there are still many places with Aboriginal names because the Aboriginal people are still there. But in places like Tasmania, where the indiginous population was virtually wiped out, there are very very few.

Just a theory, but maybe the right one????

So a very few lucky people living today on these islands could have some trace of Pictish ancestry - but as we have no genetic markers to compare this against (at least not yet) I guess that whole point is just hyperthetical for the forseeable future.

There is no doubt that the Vikings slaughtered a whole lot of Anglo-Saxons, Celts, and the decendants of the Romans, but they didnt kill everybody.

Why not? Well there are indications that there was a pretty strong slave trade going on between Scandinavia and the British Isles. Very profitable! And also, how do new rulers build their empires and armies? On taxes and tithes - and you need people to work the land if you want to fill your coffers.

But they didnt defeat the entire country. Saxons still retained a strong hold in the south and so the country was divided into two.The area eventually settled by Vikings was called the Danelaw. It formed a boundary separating Anglo-Saxon England from Viking England and was defined in a treaty between the English King Alfred and Viking King Guthrum in 880 A.D. It lay north of Watling Street (a Roman road running from London north-west to Chester) and covered northern and eastern England. It included counties north of an imaginary line running from London to Bedford and then up to Chester.

We can tell where the Vikings settled by place names of towns and villages today. Some of the names of places in Britain are made up of Viking words.

Place names ending in –by eg. Derby, Rugby, Whitby, Selby, Grimsby
–by meant farm or homestead (village). These places mark the earliest Viking settlements.

Derby - A village where deer are found

Place names ending in –thorpe (or -thorp, -throp or –trop) eg. Scunthorpe and Grimethorpe-thorpe meant farms.

Place names ending in –toft or-tofts.
A -toft referred to the site of a house or a plot of land.

Some other lasting legacies of our Viking ancestors (or not if you still think you're not a mongrel at the moment)

The Vikings left their imprint on the island in many ways: in government, legal procedures, language, and even arithmetic.

They transmitted to the English with whom they dwelt, among other things, their duodecimal system (counting in twelves instead of tens); therefore, establishing to this day the marketing unit of a dozen, the measuring formula of 12 inches to a foot, the monetary equation of 12 pence to a shilling, and the legal entity of a jury of "12 good men and true".

Maybe they weren't THAT barbaric after all?

And another little snippet before I leave part 3........ Today all the multitudes of familiar English and American patronymic ending in son; such as Jackson, Robertson, Thompson, Stevenson, Johnson, etc. clearly manifest their Scandinavian origin.

But dont relax just yet, as I have more to add before we can try and figure out exactly WHO or rather WHAT we are !

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

So who exactly are we? part 2

Oh Im going to love confusing you all now.

Just to recap - we've briefly covered the Celts and the Picts.

The Picts lived in Pictland, and the Celts lived...well, everywhere else in the British Isles!

Until, of course, yet another race of people decided to visit mainland Britain...... THE SCOTS!

Who came from (drum roll) .............Northern Ireland.

There are a few different theories about the origins of the Scots (or Scoti/Scotti), but one thing everyone agrees on, is that from the Emerald Isle they came, and that they were a Celtic tribe.
It's thought that the name may mean something along the lines of 'raiders' or 'pirates'. In any event, people who would have been recognised as Scots may have been living in Argyll as early as c.300.

Other Celtic tribes or factions also moved across the sea from Ireland and settled in Wales.

Ok - so who came next in our chequered past?

Shall we try the Romans?

The Romans ruled Gaul (Gallia as they called it) although today we know it as France. In 55 B.C. the Roman General Julius Caesar led his army across the sea from Gaul to Britain. He wanted to make Britain part of Rome's empire.

The British Celts fought bravely, and Caesar soon gave up and went back to Gaul.

Next year, in 54 B.C. the Romans came back. This time Caesar brought 30,000 soldiers. He had a few fights, managed to capture a Celtic hill-fort, then he left again. He didn't think Britain was worth a long war, and he wanted to get back to Rome.

Nearly a hundred years later, 43 A.D., the Romans returned. Emperor Claudius sent an army to invade Britain. The army had four legions, and this time the Romans conquered the southern half of Britain, and made it part of the Roman Empire.

The Romans ruled over England for 400 years. But in 410 A.D., the Romans left England because their homes in Italy were being attacked by fierce tribes and every soldier was needed.

Which then left Britain virtually undefended and it became possible for the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from across the North Sea who had been raiding the coast of Britain for a hundred years, to increase their pressure. Instead of raiding and then withdrawing, by about 450 A.D they were beginning to settle here. The invasion consisted of a series of attacks on different parts of the country over a period of years and under a number of leaders.

The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes are known as the Anglo-Saxons. The Angles and the Saxon tribes were the largest of the three attacking tribes and so we often know them as Anglo-Saxons. They shared the same language but were each ruled by different strong warriors.

The Jutes settled mainly in Kent and referred to themselves as 'the Kentings', which means the men living in Kent.

The Angles settled in East Anglia.

The Saxons settled in areas of Essex (East Saxons), Sussex (South Saxons), Middlesex (Middle Saxons), and Wessex (West Saxons).

So who do we have so far in our little cooking pot of genetic material?

Celts, Picts, Scots, Romans, Angles, Saxons and Jutes.

Confused yet? Well save your confusion for the time being as Ive got quite a bit more to add in part 3.

Monday, 8 February 2010

So who exactly are we? part 1

For many many years we have been described as "Anglo-Saxon".......but is this description accurate?

You hear many descriptions of the British as being "a nation of mongrels" and I suppose to a certain degree, that is probably a pretty fair description of the majority of the population of the British Isles (even though very few of us would EVER want to admit it).

I mean, we were invaded enough times by so many different peoples to cause so much of a mix of genes that are there REALLY likely to be many of us who can claim to be "pure Brits"?

But before going down that whole route, wouldn't "Anglo-Celtic" have been a better description for us as a combined race, rather than Anglo-Saxon? The Celts were around a lot longer so why do they get no mention in our heritage when we describe our race to the rest of the world?

What made me start this train of thought was a conversation I had with a friend in America, when I started talking about the English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish. He thought we were all just "one lot of people" and didn't realise we had so many different "national" identities.

My response kind of shocked him a little, and I realised I'd been pretty vehement in my denial of having any Welsh blood and probably no "English". We do get pretty defensive if someone doesn't acknowledge our (perceived or otherwise) origins.

So I am going to try and break it down a little for anyone wondering about "us lot over here".

The Celts. The start of our roots?

So, we must first go back to go forward, to a time shortly after the last ice age and our hunter-gatherer Mesolithic past (8000 –4000 BC).

Iberian hunter/gatherers moved through France and lower Britain and finally entered Scotland around 7000BC. Isn't it amazing that the very first of these people would have actually walked across what is now the English Channel, between France and the south coast of England?

The islands off the West coast of Scotland give us further evidence of the movement of these Mesolithic people, by the finds of large shell mounds and various tools such as fish hooks and harpoons. But artefacts from this period are quite rare.

This then leads me off at a slight tangent...., as not only did we have Celtic origins, there were also a whole other race of people to take into account. The people we know as "The Picts" up in Scotland.

Who were The Picts?

The years 2500 – 700 BC saw the entrance of the Beaker People from Northern and Central Europe and the start of Scotland’s Bronze Age. The beaker people are known by this name for the remains of their dead being cremated and buried in pots and interred in single graves, unlike the Neolithic people who buried their dead in groups. It is also recognised that the beaker people were the ones to introduce metalwork to Scotland. There is no record of any conflicts between the two peoples in Scotland although their lifestyles were very different in many ways. That leads to the theory that the Picts were an aboriginal race and non-Celtic. The difference in language must also be taken into consideration with this theory, as it is believed that the Picts did not speak with a Celtic tongue.

The Picti (or "Painted People") were named as such by the Roman Eumenius in 297 AD. These fierce warrior tribes, certainly north of the Antonine wall, indeed appeared to be non Celtic in their origin.

Next we have the controversial area of language.

Doesn't it stand to reason that if the Picts spoke a form of Celtic, at least some of the spoken word would be the same? This does not seem to be the case, as St Columbus biographer states that the Irish saint needed an interpreter when he preached to the Pictish King Brudei in 565 AD on the banks of Loch Ness.

The ‘Ogham’ (the written language of the Picts found carved on some of the standing stones in Pictland) is also shrouded in doubt. Although the markings are similar to that of the Celts, the script is not in Celtic context and is barely, if at all, decipherable.

So, that's got the first 2 of our potential ancestral candidates out of the way. Watch this space for part 2.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Cumbria floods of 2009

This is going to be a hard one to write about. But I feel that I should record my thoughts on this, due to my involvement.

The flooding that occurred in November 2009 in Cumbria shocked the nation. We had what was classed as a 1 in 1000 year event. Cumbria was hit by what is now being called "flooding of biblical proportions".

But I dont want to talk about the facts and figures. I want to talk about the feelings that I experienced, and the things that I saw. I want to offer a dedication to PC Bill Barker who tragically lost his life when the North Side Bridge collapsed in Workington and he was swept away into the raging River Derwent.
PC Bill Barker

I want to pay my respects to the wonderful people of Cumbria, and their magnificent spirit. And to show my pride in my colleagues at the Environment Agency who worked round the clock to the point of exhaustion without ever complaining.
Some of my colleagues working through the night in Cockermouth

Glyn talking to a local MP in Workington

Workington and Cockermouth were the places most reported on, but there were so many other places that were hit by the rising waters. And so I went (along with one of my colleagues, Lynsey) up to Keswick to see where we were needed and what we could do.

The drive to Keswick was scary. The roads were flooded, and on either side of the A66 fields were under water, making the whole landscape look more like an estuary or huge wetland rather than fertile farm land. The bridge in Keswick had been closed for safety reasons, so to access the part of the town that we needed to get to, we had to drive a long circular route and come in alongside the River Greta (shown here in full flood).

The flood waters in Keswick had receded at this point from the streets, but the River Greta was still a raging, vicious looking monster, and we were expecting more rain. And so we went and set up a mobile information centre on the car park of the local Catholic Chuch "Our Lady of the Lakes and St Charles Borromeo" with the kind permission of the priest, Father Peter Sharrock. The photo of the church was taken on a nice sunny day before the flooding.

This second photo was as the flood waters were rising, taken from the chuch car park towards the gates.

We were joined by members of Cumbria County Council, the local Flood Action Group, and the Red Cross. We wanted to be on hand for any residents who needed information, had enquiries, were concerned about any more predicted rainfall, or just wanted someone to talk to. Even if all they wanted was someone to listen and to care, and even give them a hug. What more can you offer to someone who has just lost their home and everything they owned? Words at a time like that don't mean very much. But we cared. Very much so.

Across the road from our centre (we had kindly been granted the use of the mobile library by the council), occupants of the houses were busy dragging out ruined furniture, carpets, (and anything else they could move) onto the street to be collected and taken away. People who had already finished this very sad task were taping little notes to the inside of their front room windows giving contact details incase people needed to find them. Some of these were the addresses of relatives, or emergency centres.

I was amazed at how these people were coping. Neighbours were hugging each other, and standing out in the street together talking quietly, and surveying each others ruined possessions. Nobody was screaming and shouting (that was probably what I would have been doing if it were me - wanting to vent my frustration and grief at someone or something).

But the Cumbrians are a very hardy people, with great spirit and resilience. I work with them every day and I love them dearly.

A few of the locals were using the church car park as a short cut and spotted Lynsey and I standing outside in the pouring rain, with information sheets, and our name badges and Environment Agency jackets on so that people would know who we were, and that we were available.

A little old lady, who I had just watched throwing her things into a skip outside her devastated home, came over to me, grabbed my hands and said "Now, you are ganna get your death stood out here. Can I get you a cup of tea?"

I thanked her and said "no thank you, we'll be fine. Is there anything we can help YOU with?", to which she replied no there wasnt, and then laughed and said unless we wanted to send any young and good looking firemen her way as she was very upset at missing out on being carried from her home like some of the pensioners in Cockermouth had. I waited until she had gone back across the road to her home, and then I burst into tears. I could not believe the generosity being shown. Or the humour that these people were finding at a horrible time like this. Everyone passing had a joke to make "Hey lass are we ganna need our wellies tomorra?" "Shall ah trade me car in for a boat?"

God bless every single one of them.

Usually, even in a crisis, I can be relied upon to raise peoples spirits, and have a laugh and a joke with my colleagues. But this day words failed even me. I remember driving into Keswick and just staring open mouthed. I remember Lynsey gasping and saying "Oh my God" at some of the homes we passed. Other than that, and discussing our plan of action and the information we were to give out, and making sure that Lynsey was feeding back to the office any information we could gather, we didnt really say a great deal.

The drive back to our office in Penrith was a very sombre one. We were cold, wet and hungry (we hadnt even taken anything to eat or drink with us when I dashed out of the office 8 hours earlier, grabbing the car keys and shouting to Lynsey to come on). Both of us were wrapped up in our own thoughts. We were to go to Cockermouth the next day, and although in a crisis things are very exciting - and by exciting, I mean you are so pumped full of adrenalin that you are performing your duties without even having to think what they are - neither of us were looking forward to it one little bit.

Nothing in the years I have worked for the Environment Agency prepared me for the shock I would feel, or the depression that settled upon me like an icy cloak that night. I sat at home and listened to the news reports, and tried to get some sleep - but in a situation like this you dont sleep. Your mind is turning over and over, reliving the sights and sounds. Trying hard not to imagine what those poor people were thinking. And squeezing back the tears at something as simple as being offered a cuppa by an old lady who had just lost everything she had in the world, but yet still found the time to care enough for two "girls" she thought would freeze to death standing in the rain on a deserted church car park.

I was amazed at the extreme effort put in by all of my colleagues. Caroline who was heavily pregnant, but worked every single day - even over the weekend - dealing with the media enquiries and VIP visits to the county. And Sarah who was pictured on the front of the News and Star, with such a look of desolation on her face as she tried to comfort a friend, that it sent shivers down my spine. Our Ops delivery guys who worked round the clock clearing debris, and sandbagging to give additional protection to the flood defences. All of the staff who volunteered to come off their usual day jobs to man the Incident Room and take phone calls just to relieve the pressure from the staff who were right in the centre of things. And our North West Comms Team. They kept the world informed. The requests going to that office were incredible in their volume. The phones rang constantly, and staff were on call throughout the night. I spent one late night shift with them observing their professionalism. The accuracy of the information they delivered, and the speed with which it was obtained would put any International News Agency to shame. And what you have to bare in mind is that none of this information is available on a computer screen. Each request - sometimes with under a half an hour dealine - involved phone calls, requesting the most up to the minute data, getting this checked and approved (and this was from staff who were already being bent out of shape trying to keep this data coming in and collated, along with answering their own enquiries from other parts of the business) and then feeding this back to whichever reporter or News Desk had requested it.

There are so many more people who deserve praise such as the police, fire service, ambulance crews, mountain rescue teams, and the army and RAF. Every single person involved gave 100% of what they had.....and then still managed to give more, despite incredible fatigue.

But as you read this, please spare a thought for the hundreds of our staff who dropped everything to work 24 hours a day, under tremendous pressure to support the people of Cumbria. We had volunteers coming in from other regions such as North East, Midlands, and Head Office (Bristol). We very rarely get praise - and that is not what Im looking for now, and I know it's not what any of my colleagues would want either. We don't just do this because "it's a job" - we do it because we genuinely love what we do and believe that we can make a difference.

One success we can take away from the Cumbria floods of 2009 are the Carlisle Flood Defences. This multi million pound scheme was started following the terrible flooding in Carlisle in 2005. Even though the scheme had not been finished and parts were still under construction when the flood waters of November 2009 started to rampage through the county....they held.

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This service proved invaluable during the Cumbria floods, and our warning system ensured that the emergency services were well prepared and were able to evacuate the majority of residents before the worst of the flooding hit. It also gave thousands of residents, who had already signed up for the service, advanced warning. This enabled people to prepare themselves for the likelihood of a major flooding event, such as removing valuables to an upper floor of their homes or businesses; sandbagging; and making sure that elderly or infirm neighbours and relatives were being helped.

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