Category Archives: Community and shopping

My Royal Wedding

Not my house, sadly

I had a lovely day on Friday 29th April.  At ten o’clock we went round to Mrs Cecil’s house to watch the Royal Wedding on her big telly.  We ooh-ed and aah-ed at the dress (which I thought was stunning) and the bridesmaids (the eldest of which was generally thought to be stunning also), picked all the guests’ outfits to pieces and laughed uproariously at Eugenie and Beatrice’s attempts at individuality.  We joined in with all the hymns and rejoiced in the amount of Parry on the programme.

At lunchtime, more people arrived and we swanned about in the garden eating lovely food.  I then took the chaps to Slawston Village Hall for a Royal Wedding Tea which had been arranged for the village and to which we were invited on the strength of the residence of their father.

Admirable re-use of decorations

It was such fun.  The hall was awash with Union Flags and red, white and blue balloons (with Golden Jubilee on them which had been found in someone’s attic) and there were delightful sponge cakes with ‘Kate and William’ stencilled on them with icing sugar.  There was wine, and tea in sage green utility cups and saucers.  I felt completely at home.

Quiche La Reine

Boy the Younger was delighted to find one of his school friends in attendance and as soon as the last ham sandwich had been stuffed down their throats, they disappeared off into the village never to be seen again.  Well until the other boy’s mother knocked at the Father of My Children’s door and told us where to find them.

Royal Wedding toast

I eventually went to fetch him and ended up staying for a couple of hours, drinking jolly nice wine and chatting amiably.  I know the boy’s mother, Mrs Ursula Wold from school and from my increasingly infrequent attendance at the Friday morning coffee meeting and it was lovely to spend time chatting with her and Mr Wold whom I have only previously met in passing.

We eventually rolled home at about 9.30pm having had a thoroughly pleasant day among thoroughly pleasant people.  Such a day would not have happened without the excuse of the Royal Wedding, so thank you William and Catherine and I sincerely wish you a long and happy marriage.

Gawd Bless 'em

Boy the Elder indulges in a little guerilla patriotism. Note the Converse...

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Filed under Community and shopping, History, Life in general, Slider

The importance of a well fitting bra

Today I had a really nice experience.  Last night the underwire snapped on my last decent bra, so I went down to The Little Big Bra Shop in Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough, an independent and relatively new business, and had a proper fitting.

When I was skinny, I rarely wore a bra and I had my very first fitting at the age of 32 when Boy the Elder was still being cooked.  For the last few years though, having put on weight and had two children, foundation garments have come into regular usage.

I’m not very good in shops.  I don’t like trying on clothes, and the harsh lighting makes me irritable and badly behaved.  And I don’t like being measured and messed about with as it just reminds me that I’m wobbly and my chosen underwear won’t look like it does on the models..

I walked into The Little Big Bra Shop and asked for a fitting.  A charming and diffident woman showed me to the changing room and asked me what sort of thing I wanted as I took my top layers off.  She took a quick measurement across my back, stared at me for a second, then came back with a bra which fitted perfectly.  She then brought a couple of others to try for style and colour.

The best bra I've ever had

What was really nice was that she treated the bra like any other item of apparel, checking that the colour suited me and that the style was flattering as well as being supportive and comfortable.  I chose a beautiful pinkish-red bra that is, without question, the most comfortable I have ever worn and a pair of matching pants.  It cost me £24, which is more than I normally spend, but by crikey it’s worth every penny.

“Do you want to keep it on?” she asked, smiling.  “Absolutely!” I answered, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t be arrested in the street and be required to explain why I was carrying a grey and shapeless undergarment in my handbag.  On the other hand,  I was quite keen to be run over so that my gorgeous new underwear would be seen to pass muster.

It is absolutely essential to have a well fitting and comfortable bra.  Breasts become more and more subject to gravity as we get older and our skin gets less elastic – a saggy bust does no-one any favours.  A decent bra will also improve your posture because it naturally holds your back and shoulders in the right position and, consequently, will make you look slimmer.

Size is another important factor.  Today I discovered that I have been wearing a bra with a cup two sizes too small and one size too big around the ribs.  Women with large breasts really must have adequate support in order to cope with the extra weight at the front of their bodies.  Wide straps are essential as well as good structure from the sides and underneath.  Heavy breasted women can start to develop a dip in their shoulders and invariably suffer from back problems in later life if they don’t wear a properly fitted and appropriate bra for their size and shape.

Cup shape plays a crucial role in how you look in your clothes.  If the cup is too tight at the top, it can form an unsightly crease and bulge known as ‘double busting’ which doesn’t look nice and can be most uncomfortable.  Small breasted women can achieve a lovely, natural looking shape with a carefully fitted bra.

It is also important to put your bra on correctly.  You should lean slightly forward so that your breasts drop into the cup.  Once on, you should slip your hand under your arm and pull your breast forward into the cup.  Apparently a lot of women wander around with their boobs under their armpits.  Who knew?

Oh – I nearly forgot laundering.  Unless the bra states otherwise, you really should hand wash it if you want it to last.  Machine washing soon causes the material to stretch and weaken and the colour will fade, no matter how expensive your washing powder.

The modern day bra is a relatively recent invention.  Women have historically used corsetry to change and support their bodies and these corsets simply pushed the breasts upwards.  There were some garments which were suspended from the neck and attached to the corset with suspenders (garters) which must have been fiendishly uncomfortable.

Breast shape and size have also been subject to fashion over the centuries.  Breasts have been pushed up, flattened out and lumped together, and it is easy to see why feminist reformers saw the management of their breasts as political as well as practical.  The desire of women to be released from the social and physical strictures of their corsets played a big part in the development of the bra.

World War 1 can be said to be partly responsible for the bra.  Many women took on men’s work, as the men were all abroad being pointlessly slaughtered, and gender roles and ensuing social attitudes began to change.  Women were no longer pretty things mincing stiffly about in suffocating and unhealthy whalebone, they were drivers and factory workers and labourers who needed comfort and freedom.

1930s bra

Although the prototype of the modern bra had been created in 1907, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the ‘brassiere’ started to be commercially manufactured and generally known as a ‘bra’.  The manufacture of new materials such as Lycra and Elastene have had a major impact on the comfort of bras, as well as many other garments, and this has allowed the flourishing of styles and designs with which to enhance or modify breast shape.

I walked out of the The Little Big Bra Shop feeling like a different woman.  I was more comfortable for a start and I felt ever so slightly taller and thinner.  I was also thrilled to be told I had bigger bosoms than I thought I had, although there is the danger that if I lose some weight, I might lose those as well.  Oh well, you can’t have everything.

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Filed under Community and shopping, fashion

French Markets and a guest appearance by Rowan Atkinson

What is it about French markets that are so  much better than English ones?  I hate lazy, cultural stereotypes, but it would appear that, in some areas, the French definitely have more flair than we do.  A French market comes to Market Harborough a couple of times a year and it really is a joy.

Take a look at these photos and tell me if you’ve ever seen anything this appealing on an English market stall.  And while you’re at it, have a listen to this wonderful song from Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Live in Belfast’ album from 1980.

a veritable creperie

Sausage

Let's hope the next stall sells parsley

Savon

Tray bonbon

Sadly, French biscuits look better than they taste

The Lavender Hill Mob

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Win Free Beer with The Dabbler and Bath Ales!

Golden Hare, Ginger Hare, Wild Hare, Rare Hare, Gem… 

Four pints of heaven

… this may sound like The Wartime Housewife’s shopping list but it is, in fact, a few of the wonderful names given to Bath Ales of Bristol. 

I’m a regular reader of The Dabbler, a cultural magazine blog.  It covers a broad range of subjects, is often humorous and always readable.  I contributed myself only a few weeks ago in their ‘6Clicks’ feature, so they are clearly people of discernment.  If you’re even vaguely interested in art, literature, music and the wider world, give it a go.

At the moment, The Dabbler is running an exclusive competition to win some Bath Ale.  I have only recently converted to drinking beer on a regular basis and I have to admit that I would buy these based on their labels alone.  Apparently, Bath Ales produce the best beer in the known universe – as Brit explained here – and The Dabbler has been in touch with these lovely people to wangle one of you a free case.

Bath Ales use traditional brewing techniques blended with cutting-edge technology.  They are an independent micro-brewery established in Bristol in 1995. Their founders all come from a brewing background and have combined a complementary range of skills with a shared passion for real ale. They have also just opened a new bottling plant and brewery shop.

It’s so heart-warming to see these micro-breweries springing up all over the place and we should be supporting local breweries wherever they appear.  There is so much revolting alcoholic crap being touted around in pubs and clubs these days, that it is sheer joy to experience properly brewed, well-kept beers, made from real ingredients and that taste divine.  Wild Hare at 5%?  Give me three pints at once.

Read The Dabbler and go in for their Bath Ales competition.   You won’t regret it.

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Filed under Community and shopping, Food, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Regional

Is it OK to build on Green Belt land?

In which the Wartime Housewife draws your attention to GASP, a pressure group in Buckinghamshire, and offers explanation and discussion about what Green Belt and Brown Field sites really are.
Recently, Sister the Second announced that she had been on a Demonstration.  Now, I spent large chunks of my late-teens to mid-twenties marching, demonstrating, campaigning and generally sounding off about a variety of political and social issues, but Sister the Second has never had an obvious militant tendency.  I beat her over the head with a placard and demanded to know what it was about.

The owners of Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps Rugby Clubs want to leave Adams Park (their current ground) and build a new stadium development. Wycombe Air Park is their preferred site. This is Green Belt land next to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Wycombe District Council is proposing to support and part-fund the project through substantial ‘enabling development’ i.e. selling off land owned by WDC for housing development – possibly 2000 homes. The project is likely to cost tens of millions of pounds.

Group Against The Stadium Proposals (GASP) was officially formed on Monday 15th November 2010 when concerned representatives of independent groups representing some 13,000 residents came together to unite against the stadium proposals by Wycombe District Council and private enterprise. Groups include parish councils, residents’ associations, sports clubs and conservation bodies from both the local and wider area.

Whilst each group has their own individual concerns, many are shared by all groups, including loss of countryside in the Green Belt, concerns about access to and from the stadium and housing development.  To learn more about their campaign, log on to http://www.gasp-no.org
 

What does Green Belt actually mean?

A Green Belt is an allotted space of land that is held in reserve for an area of public open space and for recreational purposes. Greenbelt land is normally undeveloped or sparsely populated land, which has has been set aside to enclose developments, prevent towns from merging and provide open space.

The beginning of the Green Belt was in 1935 and was established by the Greater London Regional Planning Committee. It was not until 1947 that the Town and Country Planning Act allowed Green Belts to be included in their development plans and it was not until 1955 that the whole idea was beginning to be used throughout the UK.

There are a few set purposes for these greenbelt areas which include preventing large areas from getting larger and keeping them in one area, to keep neighboring towns from growing together, to protect the countryside from development, to preserve the character and history of smaller towns, and to help with the rebirth of derelict areas within the urban area.

Green Belt map of England

13% of England is Green Belt, the largest being the London Green Belt, at about 486,000 hectares. The smallest Green Belt is the Burton-Swadlincote Green Belt at just 700 hectares. There are around 14 Green Belts throughout England.

Green Belts were necessary because London and other major cities kept on expanding, and there had to be intervention to stop the countryside being concreted overIt has been said many times that once an open space has been built, on it will almost certainly be lost forever – no-one is ever going to look at a housing estate and say “Let’s knock this down – we could grow barley here”. 

There are five purposes for  designating Green Belt land: 

  1. Check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
  2. Prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another
  3. Assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  4. Preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
  5. Assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land 

 There are also five threats to Green Belt land:

  1. Short term planning gain – over-riding the permanent nature of Green Belts by shifting the boundaries enabling towns to expand.  The 2005 draft Milton Keynes and South Midlands Plan produced for the ODPM (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) talks of shifting the Green Belt to enable existing towns to expand.
  2. Housing pressures.  For example, in the South East of England (Kent, Surrey, Sussex etc) the government is asking for 500,000 more houses.
  3. London overspill.  People who currently live and work in London and are finding it too expensive and too crowded to live in London which is reducing their quality of life.  As a result, they are moving out of London to live in surrounding towns.  This is increasing the pressures for more housing in the Home Counties
  4. It is easier and cheaper to build on green field sites because brown field sites can be expensive to decontaminate.  Technically, developers have to demonstrate ‘special circumstances’ to build on Green Belt.
  5. Inappropriate development which reduces the openness of Green Belt land.  For examples, click here for appeals against refusal of permission to develop on Green Belt land

Between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010 there has been a net decrease of 80 hectares when compared with the latest 2008/09 estimates. This is due to two authorities who adopted new plans which resulted in a real net decrease in the area of Green Belt.  Since these statistics were first compiled in 1997, there has been an increase in the area of Green Belt, but this is because a huge chunk of the New Forest National Park was redesignated as Green Belt in 2005.

So what is a Brown Field site?

A Brown Field site

Brown Field land development is previously developed land that may or may not have been contaminated. Today, you will find literally thousands of Brown Field sites that were previously used for industrial use. Because of this, these sites potentially present dramatic risks to people’s health, along with the environment.

With the problem of these sites being so significant, the UK government has stepped in, initiating programs to help redevelop Brown Field sites, calling these cleaned up areas Green Field sites. The program defined by the government is to take up to 60% of Brown Field sites and use them for new housing developments. The goal is to eliminate stress on green belt areas of the country.

Land that has not had industrial activity on it does not usually have contamination issues and its use is dependent on the regional councils having the will to use it and the impetus to encourage and incentivise developers to move into these areas.

One of the problems with Brown Field land development is that the public are much better informed and understandably wary about the potential liabilities associated with building a new house on previously industrial land.

Brown Field land development could be successful if waste and chemical risk is removed, making the land stable. Although new processes are being reviewed, the current steps involve redevelopment through a planning process for both environmental and economic relief and growth. This must include stringent surveys to ascertain the history of the land, groundwater testing, subsurface soil testing, and so on.

Landfill sites are going to become a huge problem in the future because it is so hard to decontaminate the site to use the land for anything useful.  Have a look at this previous post for more information.

Ultimately, we have to decide whether we are happy for our green spaces to be slowly but surely eroded.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone.  No going back.  No reclaiming land for agriculture or farming, no knocking down of stadiums to build a nature reserve or a green space to stop us all going bonkers.  And no more back-handers for corrupt planning officials.  Now there’s a thought….

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Filed under Community and shopping, Environment, Politics, Science and Technology

Some Last Minute Christmas Tips & Ideas

Balls

If, like me, you’ve left everything to the last minute, here are a few Christmas tips and ideas for food, cards, presents and activities.

If you’ve only just made your Christmas Cake, feed it with a teaspoon of brandy three times a day for the next week, then apply the marzipan.  Leave it overnight to dry.  Buy a ready mix packet of Royal Icing Mix and spike it all over.  Supermarkets now have some super and classy-looking ready-made decorations, so pop one of those on the top.

If you’ve left it too late to post your Christmas cards abroad, go out with your camera and take a photograph of something Christmassy.  E-mail this with a short note, and a grovelling apology for your wretchedness, to all your foreign or ex-patriot friends and family.  This could also work with other friends if you’ve really messed it up.

If you’re really stuck for a present for someone, most supermarkets now have a fantastic range of gift cards for both local and larger High Street shops.  I think vouchers are a great gift, especially for difficult teenagers for whom there is absolutely no chance of getting it right unless they’ve given you a list.  Monsoon, HMV, iTunes, book shops, cinemas, restaurants etc – you can’t go wrong.  Click on these links to High Street Vouchers and  The Gift Card Centre and see what’s out there. Fed up with buying expensive wrapping paper that just gets ripped off and thrown away?  Wrap your gifts very neatly with newspaper and tie up the parcels with thick brightly coloured ribbon.  The ribbon can be rolled up and used again and so can the paper.

Can’t think of a gift for an older female friend or relative?  In this cold weather, skin really suffers.  Some really nice hand cream, eg. Crabtree & Evelyn, Molton Brown, Aveda, Floris, and The National Trust does a lovely range of flower scented hand creams and co-ordinating products.  It will be well received, I can assure you.

Men can be terribly difficult to buy for, particularly if the chaps in your life don’t have any discernable hobbies or interests.  Again, vouchers for HMV or a favourite clothes shop will never go to waste, but the following sites have some good ideas.  Presents for Men or Find Me a Gift could give you some clues or what about buying them an activity gift to get them interested in something?  Also a decanter and a bottle of something nice to put in it would surely bring a smile to any bod’s face.  A local antique market would be a great an inexpensive place to start or many high street jewellers sell them now.

Don’t be afraid to ask people what they want.  My family doesn’t see enough of each other to know what we have in our houses and we want to spend our money carefully on something the person really needs or would like as a treat.  Get everyone to make a list and then you know you’ll get it right.  This isn’t cynical and horrid, it’s practical and sensible at a time when people want to spend their money wisely.

CHRISTMAS FOOD

Don’t tear your hair out worrying about making Christmas Lunch for the family.  Think of it as Sunday Lunch XL!  It doesn’t have to be a great extravaganza; after all the point of having people over is to share Christmas with them, not to show off how clever you are in the kitchen.  Planning is the key and prepare as much as you can in advance. 

Starters – an unusual soup can be prepared the day before and reheated. Smoked Salmon with some coloured salad leaves and a twist of lemon will never be sneered at or failing that, buy some pre-prepared salmon mousses wrapped in smoked salmon and pop them on a bed or rocket.  Lovely. 

Pudding – Christmas Pud can be reheated in the microwave then served with fresh cream or brandy butter.  If some people don’t like Christmas Pud, make a trifle or make/buy a special ice-cream dessert.  A good cheese board with nice savoury biscuits and fruit takes no effort and can be brought to room temperature while the dinner is cooking.  More importantly, allow people to help you.  There are no prizes for being knackered and grumpy because you feel pressured and put-upon.

Christmas Tea – most people will still be stuffed from lunch so don’t go overboard.  Have a cold collation prepared: cold turkey, nice ham, a bowl of salad and a choice of dressings, some good bread, crisps, Christmas Cake, Mince Pies.  Alternatively buy a selection of party nibbles from a shop and dig in.  Again, get people to muck in and help.

If you’re going to be flying around in the style of a fly with a blue bottom, the trick is to think ahead.  Make (and freeze) or buy a curry sauce and make sure you have some rice in, then on Boxing Day or the day after, if you can’t face any more cooking, a turkey curry can be knocked up in 20 minutes.

ACTIVITIES

Christmas can be a time when people can get grumpy and dyspeptic if not carefully managed.  Think about having a walk before it gets dark to allow the grown ups to walk off their lunch and to let the children run off a bit of steam.  Everyone will feel better for it and it breaks up the day.

Have some games planned that everyone can join in with and have a laugh.  Charades or Give Us a Clue can involve the whole family as can Trivial Pursuit.  Heads, Bodies and Legs is easy for little ones and more fun than you’d think, likewise Consequences, where everyone writes a line of an agreed story and then passes the paper round and everyone writes the next line etc.  Kerplunk had us all in  stitches last year as did the game where someone sticks the name of a person on your forehead and you have to ask questions until you guess who it is.

I would also suggest that you discourage the children from sitting in front of their new computer games all day.  It’s rather bad manners to ignore everyone else like that, the game isn’t going to go away.  Take the opportunity to make the day something out of the ordinary and have a bit of fun!

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London – Part 2: The West End

Now before we go any further, if you are planning a cultural / sightseeing/ shopping trip to a big city, and money is at all limited, the first thing you must do is to pack a picnic.  As I mentioned yesterday, eating at the site of an accepted landmark is reckless and foolhardy.  Their sole purpose is to fleece hapless tourists of their hard earned euros / dollars/ yen and no amount of weeping and cries of “I’m not a Tourist, I’m a Free Man!” will melt their hardened capitalist hearts.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.  Backpack, picnic, flask of cocoa; thirty quid more in your pocket to spend on fridge magnets and fudge.  That was Top Tip No. 1

Oxford StreetWe left St Paul’s and headed along the Central Line to Oxford Circus, where we emerged into a throng of more people than I have ever seen in my life, despite being a Londoner by birth.  Apparently, last Saturday is the busiest Saturday of the year.  Top Tip No. 2 – do not visit the West End of London on this day. 

In the past, Selfridges department store has had the most fabulous window displays; marvellous dioramas of fairy tales or children’s stories, or cats or something, all with moving figures and sparkly stuff.  This year there were groovily arranged piles of merchandise with mannequins with Betty Boop style heads on.   Boy the Younger liked it because it was bright and colourful, but Boy the Elder and I felt that we’d walked a sod of a long way to see a Shrine to Mammon.  We wandered around the store for a few minutes but were totally overwhelmed by the people and the stench of perfume nearly set my asthma off.

We went back into Oxford Street and walked slowly along, looking at all the shops and enjoying a variety of people you simply don’t get in Market Harborough.  Remind me another time to talk about hats.  A lot of the shops were having a fun with their displays and there were loads of hospitality girls and demonstrations going on.  Debenhams had a fashion show in their main window which was brilliant, hosted by a really gregarious and attractive person who, whilst showing off some really nice gear, nevertheless had his tongue firmly in his cheek. 

Window display at HamelysWe bought some freshly baked triple chocolate cookies from a tiny shop in an arcade and proceeded with all speed to Regent Street for the Hamleys experience.  The windows there were really lovely; huge bears in clothes doing baking and moving about.  That’s more like it.  There were so many people trying to get in, that there were security staff on every door, stairwell and escalator and they were letting the shoppers in in batches when enough other people had left.

It was completely overwhelming and again, although the boys loved it, there was none of the sense of ‘specialness’ that one used to get in Hamleys, the feeling that you were in a special place full of special toys.  We have a toyshop in Leicester called Dominos which is equally good and considerably cheaper.  I gave the chaps £5 each to spend as they saw fit; BTE bought an Airfix model and BTY found a Lego figure which he adores … which was lucky as there was precious little else they could have afforded.  Top Tip No. 3 – support your local toy shop, if you are still fortunate enough to have such a thing.

Regent Street lights

Home beckoned, and we sauntered down Regent Street, enjoying the ‘Narnia’ themed lights, to Piccadilly Circus.  It was quite touching how excited BTE was to see the huge flashing advertising board on the corner in real life and to see Eros silhouetted against it.  We fought our way onto the tube and settled into the inevitable monologue of BTY reading out every single station name and counting the number of stops left until Hatton Cross.

We arrived back at the Aged Parent’s at about 7 o’clock, to be greeted with steaming plates of sausages and mash, tired but thoroughly excited by our day.  When Granny asked the boys what had been their favourite bit, I was hugely gratified when they answered (with absolutely no prompting from me) that it had been St Paul’s.  With the triple chocolate cookies coming a very close second.

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