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New Years Eve 2020 – an occasion of mixed emotions



New Year’s Eve is an occasion of mixed emotions, the celebration of the year ahead mingled with nostalgia for the years past.  The singing of Auld Lang Syne brings tears to the eyes of many, especially if there has been liberal imbibing of alcohol in the hours before midnight!  The Scots are renowned for the celebration of Hogmanay and some of my earliest memories of New Year’s Eve in the nineteen sixties ( yes, I can remember that far back) are of Andy Stewart appearing on a black and white television set, singing “Come in, come in its nice to see you. How’s yourself you’re looking grand. Man, you’re welcome here’s my hand.”  Andy would entertain the home and studio audience until midnight with Scottish dancing and singing, when no doubt the test card appeared as the BBC shut down. 

My New Year’s Eve celebrations have on the whole taken place with the television on in the background. This included the celebration of the Millennium. London was promised a spectacular firework display, with the Thames being turned into a river of fire. Unfortunately, it turned out to be literally a damp squib, as the chain failed to ignite after the first explosion. The Sidney fireworks were of course magnificent, and I have always been particularly fond of seeing the Eiffel Tower display. In 1999, I scored over my neighbour, who went to spend the evening with friends and missed the display entirely. There was no rewind, as there is today, just a brief catch up on the news.  I do remember that the air was thick with smoke on New Year’s Day, as my immediate neighbours seem to have been doing their best to rival London!

I know that New Year’s Eve is almost the last chance I shall have to enjoy my Christmas Decorations, which were put up so cheerfully and will soon be consigned to their boxes again until December 2021. Since 2020 has been an” annus horribilis,” going well beyond the partial burning down of Windsor Castle, its passing will be met with relief and a real hope for a better 2021. The pandemic has caused families to mourn their dead, while others may be left to carry on with a prolonged illness, known as “Long Covid” The fourth of January sees the start of the roll out of vaccines, brilliantly discovered by virologists, to combat the disease of Covid19 and (fingers crossed) its mutations.  The start of 2021 hopefully marks the end of the beginning, until later in the year, we hope to see the beginning of the end, of the spread of the virus. 
I imagine that the start of the years 1919 and 1946 must have been celebrated in a similar spirit of relief and hopeful renewal. The end of the first and second World Wars in 1918 and 1945 saw the rebuilding of countries, often physically from rubble and the regeneration of economies, that were scarred by national debt. Unlike those times, there can be no public celebrations this year, due to the invisible enemy that requires us to keep our distance. Once again, I shall be sitting  in front of  screen on New Year’s Eve watching a pre-recorded display of lights from the London Eye. At midnight, once again, it will be time to wish friends, & neighbours “Happy New Year” , although I guess it can wait until morning. 

In the nineteen sixties I worked in London stores. Worked as an Insurance Clerk in the City of London during the nineteen seventies. Divorced in the nineteen nineties. Now I am a retired Civil Servant, managing home and garden and escaping onto social media whenever possible.

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My Hobby – Instagram Photos – of Home and Garden



Winston Churchill stated that it was necessary to have at least three hobbies to gain full mental benefit from them, 
“Change is the master key. A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by constantly using it and tiring it …. the tired part of the mind can be rested and strengthened, not merely by rest, but by using other parts. It is not enough to merely switch off the lights, which play upon the main and ordinary field of interest, a new field of interest must be illuminated ….” Churchill He also said “If it wasn’t for painting, I couldn’t live. I couldn’t bear the strain of things” He also enjoyed card games, listening to music and reading. 
In the current pandemic, people are sometimes using their enforced leisure to take up new and existing hobbies. The Merrian Webster dictionary confirms Churchill’s experiences, by defining a hobby as ” a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.”
My hobbies have included writing poetry and acrylic painting, but my main hobby these days is Instagram. I find it extremely relaxing to scroll down the screen, knowing that I will largely be presented with the posts of people I have chosen to follow. There are also sponsored posts, which may lead to finding a new person.  Instagram has enabled me to travel the world, seeing photos and videos taken by people across the globe. There are wonderful mountains, lakes and sunsets as well as historic buildings to enjoy. Sportspeople, artists, politicians, and of course, celebrities are also present! There is something for every taste. 
I have managed to post over three thousand photos over the last two years, largely without leaving my house and garden! In 1996 I did a short six-week course in “How to Paint and Draw” at the local Further Education Centre. At the end of the course,  I remember the teacher saying that ” from now on you will all see things in a new way ” I think that this has influenced my photography, enabling me to see a picture in things, that I would once have thought insignificant. To my mind a patch of moss or a lawn full of dandelions are worthy of a shot. 
In the New Year, Instagram can on request, produce the top nine photographs taken by the photographer during the past year. These are selected according to the number of “likes” each photograph has attracted. The selection does not always please people, who sometimes make up collages of their own top nine!
 I have noticed that people do not often repost the work of other people, which I regularly do, of course crediting the photographer.  Very rarely do people object and are generally pleased by the appreciation of their work. However, this habit has resulted in few of my own efforts reaching the Instagram Top Nine.  This does not bother me greatly, because I know that I can post my own selection, which will be seen by the dozen or so people, who regularly follow my work.  An added bonus of Instagram is that people can have nice conversations about the photographs posted and it is a “kinder gentler” forum than twitter! If you are looking for a hobby, the last thing you need is aggro! 
PS My Instagram account is caroleford42

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Ben & Jerry have launched an ice cream for dogs



Now your dog doesn’t have to look at you with envy while your are eating your ice cream and you don’t have to feel guilty. Ben & Jerry have launched two flavours for their new line of ice cream for dogs:Pontch’s Mix and Rosie’s Batch, both names after two employees dogs.

Ben & Jerry  started in 1978 founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield allows dogs in the office and therefore they play a big role in this company. 

Pontch’s Mix has peanut butter and pretzel while Rosie’s Batch has pumpkin and mini cookies.  As dogs are lactose intolerant these ice cream don’t contain dairy products but use sunflower butter which is easily digested by our canine friends.  The recipes were created with the help of vets and experts in dogs nutrition. 

Unfortunately for the time being these dogs treats are only available in the US but hopefully they might come to delight British dogs soon.


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Say Cheese! – What other food has the variety and versatility of cheese?



The phrase dates back to 1943 when the Big Spring Herald newspaper in Texas encouraged people to use the word to induce a smile when having a photograph taken. Prior to that date, people were encouraged to look serious in photographs, and the word “Prunes” was used, which produced a tight closed mouth. Regardless of its use in photography, there are many reasons to smile when thinking of cheese.
What other food has the variety and versatility of cheese?  There are one thousand eight hundred types of cheese in the world and almost as many ways of classifying them. Starting with Cheddar, this is the most popular cheese in the UK, claiming 51% of the market. It is also the second most popular cheese in the USA, the most popular being Mortzarella.  Cheddar is named after the town in Somerset where it was first produced. Cheddar cheese is now produced commercially worldwide. Only West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, uses local milk, and since 2007, is a protected brand.
Imagine you are making up a cheeseboard. In my case I would of course, knowing its popularity, choose Cheddar. Then I would choose another English cheese, Stilton. This can only be produced in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, since a law was passed in 1993, protecting products made from traditional recipes, in a particular area.  Such a cheese is Yorkshire Wensleydale, a mild cheese traditionally enjoyed with fruitcake.  A third cheese I would add to my cheeseboard is Boursin, a soft creamy cheese, originally flavoured with garlic and herbs. This was first produced in 1957 by Francois Boursin in Normandy, France. 
Finally, I would choose Edam, a semi hard cheese with a low-fat content. This Dutch cheese was the world’s most popular cheese in the fourteenth and eighteen centuries. There are a wide variety of biscuits sold that are made to compliment cheeses, so I would make a selection of these available. A cheeseboard, apart from the enjoyment of the cheeses,  can make up for any culinary deficiencies in the preceding courses at a dinner table!
Apart from fine dining, there is also that great social event, the Wine and Cheese Party, where guests are able to help themselves to the perfect combination of wine and cheese.  There is no need for people on a low-fat diet to miss out on cheese.  Cottage Cheese, with zero fat content contains as much calcium as full fat cheese and is delicious with fruit.  A very small piece of full fat cheese, the size of a small matchbox is sufficient for daily calcium requirements, and unless the diet is very strict, enables the sampling of the cheeses. 
Cheese can be used in many ways in cooking. Just heat up the grill for a cheese toasty, or mix with pasta or rice, or use as a topping for a Jacket Potato. As well as being versatile, commercially produced Cheddar is also relatively cheap! A £2 slab will produce a variety of meals for several days, requiring very little preparation. I am tempted to say it has often saved my bacon!
Finally, there is a cheese, which is likely to raise a smile, but which I have never tasted. It is called “Stinking Bishop” It apparently has a distinctive odour, but the name derives from the Stinking Bishop Pear, which provides the Perry, used in the production process. (The Pear itself derived its name from a nineteenth century famer Frederich Bishop, who gained the name of “Stinking Bishop” due to his eccentric behaviour.)   Made from the milk of Gloucestershire cattle, only twenty tons are produced each year and it is not on sale in supermarkets. It is a handmade cheese and may be found in Harrods, or Fortnum’s, or artisan grocery shops. It can also be purchased online from Charles Martell & Son Ltd estd 1972, Cheesemakers and Distillers. 
Bon Appetit!

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