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2017-04-26 06:32 pm

Lots of longsword

 If anyone would like to see a wide selection of longsword dances, try my Pinterest page -https://uk.pinterest.com/judithproctor/longsword-dances/

Some are picked because they are good examples from other countries, some show details of a move that is almost impossible to understand from a written description, some are old traditional dances and some are excellent modern ones.
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2017-04-26 12:26 pm

Southern Star Longsword dancing

My fledgling longsword team is slowly gaining people.  We have two figures of one dance and one figure of a second dance at a reasonable level now.   (a 'figure' in longsword is equivalent to a whole dance in any other tradition)

Southern Star Longsword dancing 'Yorkshire Pudding' at Wimborne Model Town.  this was the first public performance for many of the side, and only the second time out for the rest of us.  This is a dance I wrote for the days when we only have four dancers.  (We had six on this occasion, but I didn't keep the video of the six man dance as it had several mistakes in it!)  



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2017-04-26 07:46 am

Maypole weekend

 I'm going to be pretty croaky by Sunday evening.

Today I'm teaching maypole and longsword dancing at a local school.  I do this every year on Wednesday afternoons in the run up to Wimborne Minster Folk Festival.  The children will perform on Saturday at the festival and they always do me proud.

Saturday, I'm calling maypole at the Dorset Venison Fair for two half hour sessions.

Sunday, I'm calling maypole at a private event at Rockley Park and teaching a longsword workshop as well.

May bank holiday weekend is always a busy time.  We turned down a request for May 1st as we knew we'd be knackered by then.  (We being Anonymous Morris, who will be dancing at the two weekend events)

The catch is that calling for dances, even using a mike, always leaves me with a rough voice.   Time to get out the glycerine!
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2017-04-15 06:00 pm

'Thomas the Rhymer' by Ellen Kushner

 Thomas the Rhymer is a character who exists in ballads and folklore. He is taken by the Queen of the Elves to Elfinland and lives there for seven years.
 
Kushner has taken the traditional tale and given it her own twist and it works really well.
 
I loved this novel for many reasons.   Firstly, I love the use of language.  The language is not obviously archaic, nor is in rhyme or anything like that.  Yet, there is a flavour to it that feels slightly apart from everyday English and part of a folk tale - without me being able to put a finger on how the writer has achieved this.
 
Secondly, I love the old couple who give Thomas shelter from the storm at the start of the novel.  They are very much individual characters and very believable.  They have no children of their own, and Thomas develops the habit of dropping by at irregular intervals, using them as a stable point in his wandering life.  They welcome him, give him his share of the work to do, listen to his songs and stories and give him affection that has no conditions set upon it.  (for a travelling harpist/singer, life is lived on the edge - people always want his music, but the rich in no way consider him an equal)  They aren't fooled by his tall stories (Thomas has a habit of exaggerating his importance), nor do they fail to be aware of his womanising habits, but they also see his strengths.
 
Thirdly, Thomas himself is an engaging character.  He has his faults, but like the old couple, you come to see his better side as well.  

Thomas comes to love a girl who lives not far from the old couple, but when offered the chance of sex with an elven queen, Thomas hesitates not.  She takes him back with her and a curious relationship develops.
 
This is Elfinland the way I feel it should be (I was reminded a little of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell - though, of course, Thomas is the older book).  Time is out of joint and humans can become very tired and drained.  It can be beautiful and yet distorted.  Nothing is as it seems and elven politics are complex and superficial all at once.
 
Kushner weaves another Child ballad into her narrative and it's likely that when you reach the end of the book you will be hitting You Tube to listen to Martin Carthy singing the song that Thomas writes in the book after encountering a human ghost in Elfinland.
 
 Of course, being the teller of tall stories that he is, Thomas has real trouble getting anyone to believe him when he finally returns to human lands.  He also has a gift from the Queen that is a bit of a mixed blessing...
 
This is a book that I will definitely be reading again.
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2017-04-15 02:45 pm

The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh

I enjoy Dorothy Sayer's novels about Lord Peter Wimsey and was willing to try out a writer continuing the series, but this one didn't really work for me.
 
I was looking forward to the prequel of how the Attenbury emerald mystery was solved, but the writing style of the first half with it's first person recollection  of events in the past told by Wimsey and Bunter felt clumsy and not like a Sayers novel.  When events moved to the present and later events befalling the emeralds, the style felt more familiar, though I did notice that the characters tended to quote from books that would probably still be familiar to modern readers (eg. Pooh bear and Alice in Wonderland) rather than Sayers wider range.  (you may regard this as a good or bad thing depending on your preference)
 
The solution to the plot relied on a horrendous number of coincidences, which I guess I can't really complain about given that Sayers was almost as guilty in Clouds of Witness....
 
However,  I'm not currently inspired to try any more of Paton Walsh's Wimsey novels.

If anyone wants a free paperback copy, just ask.
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2017-04-15 11:39 am

German Easter Wells

 If you share my love of folk traditions, then you'll love this post by Selenak.  Many people are familiar with Russian decorated eggs, and I showed you Czech ones the other day, but the German painted egg tradition is different again.

At  Easter, the wells are decorated with garlands of hand-painted eggs and greenery.  The designs are usually pictorial rather than abstract and cover a wide range of themes.  There's very little repetition and the effect is lovely.
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2017-04-12 10:29 pm

PHotos

 It's taken setting up an account on Flickr to do it, but I can now share my decorate egg photos - http://watervole.dreamwidth.org/629427.html

I used to link to my google photo album, but you can only view it from Google+, which is pretty useless.

Even better, Flickr picks up all my tags and comments from Picassa!

Now I've worked out how to do it, here is a gratuitous photo of Southern Star, taken last Sunday.  Our first proper dance out at Wimborne Model Town.


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2017-04-12 02:37 pm

to close LJ or not to close LJ...

 So many of my friends have moved to DW, that there's a bare handful of people left on LJ that I regularly read.

If  la_avispa, and vjezkova, start posting on DW, then I'll probably kill my LJ account and read everyone on DW.  I'm getting far more comments on the Dreamwatch posts.

I know la_avispa has a  DW account, but I don't know if you're going to start cross-posting or not. I guess the Russian language speakers on LJ may be a plus for you.

vjezkova - do you fancy going on DW and cross-posting (you can set it up automatically)

aunty_gillian,  Graham M and Bill Hay, you may want to swap to reading my DW account, just in case this one does close. I'll warn you if it happens, but you may want to be premptive.
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2017-04-11 10:54 am

Decorating Easter Eggs Czech style

 vjezkova on LJ introduced me the the Czech method of decorating eggs.

It's done with melted wax crayons.  I used a scent burner with a tea light to provide heat and once I'd got some empty tealights, I used them to put wax in and just put them on top of the scent burner to reduce the mess (and retain wax for next time).  You apply the wax with a pencil with a blob-headed pin stuck in it.  Takes a bit of practice.  The wax must be warm, not just melted and it's best if you touch it to the egg, pause for a moment and then do the draw move.  (I'll link to a video further down, but the voice over is in Czech)

Here is my second attempt (the first attempt was done with Oswin and consisted mainly of blue dots all over the egg)





Video - the beeswax is optional (I asked Vera) 

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2017-04-08 04:02 pm

Gardening and what people don't know

 Chatting to the lady next door  who has a small pear tree.  It had one pear last  year when it had 12 the year before.  She had no idea why.

After discussion I discovered that she'd transplanted it from her mother's garden last year.  So transplant shock would account for a lot of it.

However, when I suggested adding some garden compost, she was surprised at the idea that it might need feeding....

She's no idea how to prune it either.  Fruit trees only bear fruit on horizontal branches - you have to prune regularly to get a good crop (I don't even have a fruit tree, and I know this, but my mother in law probably told me as she lived in an area with lots of orchards.)

She also didn't know that the flowers were where the fruit would eventually appear.  I was a bit flummoxed by that one.  I thought fertilisation of flowers was school biology level.

So, how much of what I assume to be general knowledge, is actually general knowledge?

How much do you know about where apples and pears come from?


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2017-04-06 03:21 pm

Livejournal and Dreamwidth

 I'm seeing a large number of people shifting over to Dreamwidth as they don't like the new LJ terms of service.  Some are using it as their main journal and cross-posting, others are deleting their Livejournals and only using Dreamwidth.

If you're moving over, I would suggest importing your journal content to Dreamwidth  BEFORE abandoning it. (assuming you want to keep your old posts)

IF you look on the Dreamwidth 'profile' page, under the 'organise' tab, you'll find the 'import content'.  As long as you can remember your LJ password, you can import your Livejournal and comments in total. (there will probably be a delay as a lot of people are importing at present)

I'm 'watervole' on Dreamwidth as well.
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2017-04-02 03:37 pm

Iron tablets

 Interestingly enough, I'm now thinking twice about the iron tablets.

Following up on a couple of comments people made, I decided to do a bit more reading.

Liquid iron supplements can stain the teeth, but not tablets, so that wasn't an issue.

However, the interesting question is the causes of iron deficiency.

I eat a diet with a reasonable amount of beans, green veg (veg box and allotment), brown rice and a small amount of red meat, so should have enough.  Therefore, it was either the pain from the pulled chest muscles that was causing the tiredness, or, if I am actually anemic, there is probably an underlying cause.

In people over 60 (and I'm on the good side of that by fewer years than I'd like...) one of the potential causes of anemia (once you rule out several that are unlikely to be me) is bowel cancer.

My mother-in-law died of bowel cancer that was diagnosed too late.  She was diagnosed as anemic and put on iron tablets for a couple of years, but it's clear from the NHS website that she should have been tested for bowel cancer at that time.

I would be extremely angry about this, except for the fact that she had gone blind.  Her quality of life had dropped dramatically and she was bored to tears.   She had an active mind and was no longer able to read the book she loved, do her cryptic crossword or even garden reliably.  I nearly cried when I realised she'd planted half her cyclamen upsidedown.  Her garden was her life.  The cancer gave her an escape from a life she no longer wanted.

(brief pause while I cry.  It's eleven months since Molly died and I still miss her.  I have many of her plants growing in my garden and I tend them with loving care)

Back again.  To cut a long story short.   I should stop taking the tablets and if I find I'm getting tired again, I should visit the doctor and get a blood test to see if I'm actually anemic, and if I'm actually anemic, whether there is an underlying cause.

So, let's do this scientifically.  

I'm going to stop the tablets today and see if I continue to improve.


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2017-04-01 08:28 pm

Health improving

 Fingers crossed,  I seem to be getting better.

I've had a lot of problems since my last bad asthma attack  (you have to be me for a bad asthma  attack to be an automatic forerunner to pulled muscles)

Firstly, the weather is getting warmer and that means fewer people burning wood in their stoves, so that pulls the air pollution down a bit.

Second, the pulled muscles are healing up - stretches help, and I'm now well enough to start exercising to build up my strength again.

Thirdly, I've been trying iron tablets to see if they help with the feeling of total exhaustion - I know I have low iron levels as I frequently got turned down as a blood donor (though I was told that I wasn't anemic at the time).  They may be helping, or it may just be the reduction in pain that's making me feel more energetic.

I managed three dances last morris practice (at intervals, not one after the other), before feeling wiped, and that's better than I've managed in quite a while.

I'm also making progress in the garden.  Several beloved plants are being rescued from a sea of ransoms or celandines.
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2017-04-01 08:24 pm

Elephants

 Been a couple of weeks since I last posted, so here goes.

Because it's cute - have a baby elephant.


A baby elephant eats in a swamp in Amboseli national park, Kenya

He's celebrating the fact that China is shutting down it's ivory trade - http://www.itv.com/news/2017-03-31/china-shuts-down-a-third-of-ivory-factories-and-shops-ahead-of-formal-ban/
There's a risk that the trade may move underground, but this is still good news.  Reducing demand is likely to have more long-term effect than catching poachers (though both are necessary)

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2017-03-20 03:09 pm

book review -Clean Sweep by Illona Andrews

 I've just finished this book.  It only cost a few pounds for the Kindle version, so it was worth what I paid for it, but I didn't enjoy it enough to buy the next in the series.

It's an urban fantasy featuring Dina, who is an innkeeper.   Innkeeper in her case means that she has a symbiotic relationship with a building that is semi-intelligent, can modify its shape, produce defensive weapons and various other tricks besides.

The task of an innkeeper is to provide a safe place for aliens visiting Earth.

Rather disappointingly (from my viewpoint) the aliens to date include vampires and werewolves.   I must admit that I've had too many vampires and werewolves and I get bored with attempts to use bad pseudo-science to make them believable.  I cannot think of any kind of twist on genetic engineering that will convince me a werewolf can gain large amounts of mass when it changes form.

The inn suffers from the same problem.  I love the idea, but the claim that it is advanced science that can't be distinguished from magic fails to convince me.

I'd rather have real science or pure magic.  One masquerading as the other just annoys me.

On the plus side, the novel is very well written with excellent descriptive text.  The characters are engaging (I particularly liked the mass murderer using the inn as a safe place.  Not a character I would ever want to meet, but well and entertainingly written)

If the book had had original aliens I'd probably have enjoyed it more.  However, what is a minus for me may well be a plus for others.

If you like your werewolves strong and with buckets of sex appeal and your vampires to be clannish, scheming and to have complex, devious politics, then I recommend 'Clean Sweep; to you.
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2017-03-17 06:21 pm
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2017-03-16 02:15 pm

Books

 As I'm recovering from the winter's asthma  and it's after effects   (fog traps air pollution and there is more pollution in winter due to wood fires, high air pressure, etc.  Asthma means a course of steroids.  Steroids lead to muscle loss. Hypermobility combined with muscle loss means that I inevitably injure some muscles while trying to regain muscle strength.  Muscle injury leads to chest pain, etc.)  the brain cells are returning and I'm reading more books.

I seem to be buying a lot of books recommended by or written by friends. 

Currently in the reading queue are: Clean Sweep by  Illona Andrews (recc'd by  ([personal profile] feng_shui_house), Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambley, (might have been http://sallymn.livejournal.com/ ), Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner (think that was a friend of a friend) and The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft.  There are some other recs that I need to go back to now I'm in a better state of mind.

Just completed 'Remnant Population' by Elizabeth Moon.  She writes excellent Space Combat novels, but this particular book is very different in nature.  It's the slow-paced story of an elderly woman who chooses to stay behind when her colony is evacuated to another world.  She's a very believable protagonist.  Aches and pains, a love of gardening and a good touch of bloody-mindedness.

Being on her own allows her to do as she wants and to throw off some of the social conventions that have irked her.   She can value herself on her own merits, rather than being subject to the whims and opinions of others.

It's also an alien first-contact story with a twist that I love (even while conceding it to be improbable)

I've read this book before, and I'm sure I
 will read it again.


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2017-03-16 09:48 am

Oswin and Daffodils

 Children have wonderful imaginations - unfettered by knowledge of what is possible.

Oswin (my granddaughter) will be three in April.  As yesterday had real sunshine, we spend quite a bit of time in the garden.  She's fallen in love with daffodils, especially the big yellow 'King Alfred' ones in my back lawn.   She interacts with her favourite flower as though it's a person.  She talks to it, turns its head so it can see what is happening elsewhere and keeps popping back into the garden to see it again.

After the stalk got bent through too much tlc, we snipped it with a pair of scissors and put it in a vase "so it could have a drink".  The vase was placed on the kitchen table next to some cress she is growing, so they could keep each other company.

Later in the day, she was pretending to be a daffodil.  As far as I could tell, the daffodil did exactly what little girls do, but who am I to argue!

Oswin takes a real delight in life -when we go for walks, we often run and jump on all the water meters, manhole covers, etc, in the pavement.  She's very good. I can trust her not to go onto the road without waiting for me to say it's safe.  We've drilled her very carefully in that one.

BTW, if anyone wants book recommendation for small children, her current favourite is the delightful 'Owl Babies', which combines realism with a lovely little story and a touch of humour.  

By realism, I mean that the illustrations actually look like owls and the owls do things that real owls do.
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2017-03-08 11:54 am

Three Musketeers

 I recently read Will Hobson's translation of the Three Musketeers and found it a much better translation than the previous version I'd read.

The problem is that he doesn't seem to have translated any of the later books.

Does anyone know of a good modern translation of the later books? (you can get all six D'Artangan books for about £3 on Kindle, but  the translation is clunky to say the least and doesn't tempt me to buy it even at that price)
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2017-02-21 08:49 am

Yorkshire Pudding

 Good longsword session last night in spite of my voice being crap.

My possible new dancer did show up and she enjoyed herself.

Even better, her daughter did too.  Not dancing, but sitting down reading the library books. Her daughter has Down's Syndrome, but she was in her element sitting in the children's corner with all the picture books.

In spite of the usual problems of being a small group (the odds of being below critical numbers are high, as it only needs a few people to fall ill...) we managed to work on the new four man dance I'm writing - now called 'Yorkshire Pudding' -and progress further  on Lingdale - a traditional 6 man dance.

It's starting to come together, but once people master the basic moves it becomes important to work on the timing and that's where we still need to improve.

Not sure if any of you will be at Redemption this weekend, but if you are, come and join in the longsword workshop!