Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Return of the Native

Well Graham is home from foreign parts and had a lovely time, by all accounts.
     He and Mike spent the first afternoon in Mulligan's the Dublin pub recommended by the chap who Graham saw when getting his passport (and having to prove he was who he said he was). They sampled the Guinness and also hot whiskey (several times each) and got back to the hotel at around 4 pm. And spent the next 16 hours in bed.
     The next day they visited the Guinness Experience, which has a huge trek through a large building with floors labelled for the ingredients of Guinness such as 'Water', which, if you have never seen water before might have been exciting. The best part for Graham was the floor telling you about Arthur Guinness the founder of the factory and the museum of Guinness memorabilia. But after the long trek through airless rooms filled with crowds of people, Graham was longing to get outside so they missed the top floor, and did not even claim their FREE pint of Guinness.
     The third and last day they visited National Gallery of Ireland, Trinity College Library (to see the Book of Kells) the Museum of Natural History (and saw a skeleton of an ENORMOUS extinct deer) and the Museum of Archaeology which had fab exhibitions of cauldrons and Celtic artifacts such as golden torcs. All of these were free, except for Trinity College which cost them 14 euros each, and Graham reckons if you have ever seen photos of the Book of Kells you will have had a better look at it than they saw.
     Graham says that all the Irish people he met or spoke to, Taxi drivers, waiting staff, even the security people at the airport, were all lovely and friendly, and he had a smashing time. On the way through the body scanner, whereas in Leeds he had had to stand with his arms over his head while he was checked to see if he was carrying anything offensive about his person, in Ireland the security guard told him to hurry through the scanner 'Otherwise the damn thing will go off!'

     He brought me a couple of little gifts, a Lucky Black Bog Cat (made from '5,000 year old black turf from Ireland's deepest boglands' - I am of course quoting from the header card it came with) and a magnetic Frida Kahlo! Well of course, what else would you buy for your loved one?
     And in the great tradition of family gift giving, he forgot to take the prices off, so I took great joy in the telling him that the Bog Cat was 8.95 euros and Frida 4.95 euros.






Sunday, 8 April 2018

Home Alone

It is 9 am on Sunday morning.
     At 6.30 Graham and our son Mike set off on a great adventure. They have gone to Ireland for a mini break. This has been planned for a long time.
     Do you remember last year when Graham had to have a hernia operation? I wonder if that sort of gave Mike the sudden shock that his dad might not be around for ever, and suddenly he came up with the idea of them going on a boys hol to Eire. And particularly to Dublin - and even more particularly to visit the Guinness factory!
     Well, what with one thing and another, the trip was delayed, until suddenly this year Mike decided to put all the bits and pieces into motion.
     Graham already had his passport, Mike had sorted that last year, so it was just the travel arrangements that needed .... arranging. Today they fly from Leeds to Dublin, so they should be there by lunch time. Mike was already planning his first hot whisky after breakfast this morning.
     I must admit I do hope there will be a little more than just drinking going on, but this will be a complete break for the pair of them, so whatever they get up to, I hope they have fun.
     Graham is not good with things that are 'new', so the last few days he has been worrying about the trip. He has also been giving me instructions on what I must do while he is away. We are not talking about work here, these are instructions such as 'Can you manage to light the fire?, you won't just sit being cold will you?'. Yes I can light the fire. No I won't starve. Yes I can make a hot drink for myself.
     Mind you, I have threatened to use every piece of crockery in the house and leave all the washing up for him when he gets home.




Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Primroses? Primulas?

We have just been out in the garden planting fifteen primroses or possibly primula's - the chap on the Farmer's Market didn't seem to want to commit himself on this.
      Seeing as they are a variety of colours, not the pale yellow of wild primroses, I think I'd go with 'primulas'. Although primroses and primulas
are really all varieties of the same plant - primroses are primula vulgaris. Also I've just looked at pictures on the internet for 'primrose' and there are multi-coloured ones on there.
     Right, so we have been planting plants of the kind of primrose like types.
     I was going to say that it is a beautiful Spring day. But it isn't. It is one of those grey days when it looks like it might rain any time. And the reason we didn't plant them yesterday was because it tipped it down all day - resulting in two very soggy dogs whenever they ventured out into the garden.
   When I say 'we' have been planting, what actually happens is I point and Graham digs. And try to keep him from walking on the plants already there, which he can't see as to him everything is merely 'green' (and therefore potential weed) at the moment.
     For a couple of years we have been trying to bring a bit of colour and interest into our side garden. This is difficult for several reasons:
1) There is a canopy of hawthorn tree over the whole of it.
2) The gap between our house and next door seems to act as a wind tunnel and it is the coldest, windiest and shadiest part of the garden.

     So we have to try and find plants which can stand these conditions - woodland canopy, is how the gardening guru's describe it. At the moment there are some ransoms, wild garlic, showing their leaves. They seem to love this bit, so that is one triumph (yay!) especially as they spread (even more yay!) and have pretty white pom pom heads of flowers.
     Another success is foxgloves. They love woodland conditions, so we shall be putting some more of them in later in the year.
     These primulas were a bit of a bargain - fifteen plants for a fiver. They are in flower, but also have buds to come, and are making a very cheerful show at the moment.



Monday, 26 March 2018

Eostre Eggs

At this time of year the shops are full of chocolate easter eggs and bunnies.
    Around this time, the Spring Equinox, is the feast of the Spring Goddess known as Eostre or Ostara. The christian Easter festival takes both its name and its timing by the moon from this ancient Goddess.
     In many cultures the egg is the obvious symbol of new life. At this season the birds are nesting and laying eggs, and there are many ancient legends which say that the Universe first appeared in the form of an egg, which then cracks open to reveal and release the stars and planets.
     In ancient Greek myth it was Cronos, Old Father Time, who was originally a giant serpent, who wrapped his coils around the cosmic egg, together with his wife the equally serpentine Ananke (Inevitability). Their movements cracked open the egg, giving birth to the Universe and it is said that it is their undulations which keep the planets rotating and spinning about the sun.
     This is a very similar tale to one of the ancient Egyptian myths which says that the Great Cackler, a giant goose, laid the cosmic egg on the only piece of dry land which had risen from the waters of chaos.
     In Voodoo the serpents are Damballah and his wife Aida-Wedo, the Rainbow Serpent. The pictograph or veve for Damballah is an egg with a serpent wrapped around it.
     So why do we have eggs and rabbits in our shops? From all the foregoing it would seem that we should have chocolate serpents to go with our eggs.
     The rabbit or hare is another creature associated with Spring time. If you are very lucky, at this time of year you may come across pairs of hares boxing in the fields, these were known as Mad March Hares. It was thought that these were male hares, competing for the right to mate, but we now know that these are pairs of male and female hares. The female is fending off the amorous male by boxing him until she is ready to mate.
     The hare or rabbit is also associated with the Moon and the Moon Goddess. In China it is the shape of the Moon Hare that people can pick out on the surface of the Moon. The rabbit/hare is said to be the messenger of the Moon Goddess - although he is not altogether a reliable one.
     One story I heard is that the Goddess was awake in early Spring and walking through the forest came across a little bird which had died from the cold.The Goddess felt that at this time of new life, no creature should die, so she breathed into the bird and brought it back to life. But then she thought to herself, that as it was still liable to be cold and frosty, to give the creature a better chance of survival perhaps it ought to have a fur coat rather than feathers. So she turned it into a rabbit.
     But the little creature was now rather confused, and every year around the festival of Eostre, the rabbit of the Goddess lays a nest of eggs, and anyone who finds them is especially blessed.



Thursday, 15 March 2018

Equinoxing About

Although it is often said that the Equinoxes are a time of 'balance', we often find that there is a lot of messing about and disruption around this time.
    For example:
    We are at the moment preparing our next Mail Shot - this one will be mainly on Tarot packs, incidentally - orders are thinning out, so it is time we reminded our customers that we are here.
     So today I have dealt with five orders, none of which was straight forward, and it is surprising how much time sorting them out can take. We always get order completed before we take the money from Credit/Debit cards, just in case there is something out of stock or unavailable for one reason or another and can therefore amend the total value, so today:
     We had two who were trying to pay by Credit Card and for one reason or another the card machine rejected them. One person has obviously written down the wrong card number - probably just one digit wrong - and that was rejected as an 'invalid card', so they had to have a letter written to explain that we would not be sending their order until we received payment. The second was rejected as out of date, even though the date given to us was September this year, so that needed another letter.
    A third was an order for something we don't stock - this is not unusual - and, you guessed it, needed another letter writing.
    A fourth said they had enclosed a cheque - there was no cheque, so guess what, yes that needed another letter writing.
    The fifth one was all wrapped up and ready to go, when the customer rang and asked if she could add something to her order. I agreed, then found it was not just one item but several, including three oils which needed me to hand make them.
     Happily her credit card did go through the machine (yay!) so that saved me having to write another letter!

    Today is only the 15th of March - still 6 days to go before the Equinox!


 


   

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Old News

I am currently working on a couple of new books. These will be compilations of spells which have appeared over the years in the Raven Newsletters. This has meant trying to find as many old editions of the Newsletter as possible.
     Luckily I believe in keeping hard copies of everything I do on the computer - the 'paperless office' is a myth as far as I am concerned. Especially as I use a pc until it becomes:
a) obsolete
or b) gives up the ghost - usually with a puff of smoke.

     But even I am amazed at how far back I have kept copies of Newsletters and Catalogue masters - 1994 was the earliest I found !
     Those were the days when we were using a state of the art Amstrad pcw and dot matrix printer!
     Actually I think the Amstrad was probably on its last legs by then, the dot matrix printer certainly was! The quality of printing was bloody awful, especially as we printed on green (yes bright green) re-cycled paper, which was not the same quality as these days.
    These days our Raven Newsletters are a proper, mini magazine booklet with a sort of set format, with an editorial/newsy bit on the front pages and dates for your diary on the back, with poems, spells and articles laid out inside.
    Back in 1994 it was a single A4 sheet but with mini versions of all the parts we now have proper space for, just as an introduction to a mail shot, which were all stapled together in one corner.
     Those were the days when I couldn't put any pictures in, so I would draw illustrations around the edges, and occasionally managed to create illustrations using the regular typewriter keys - this was before you could even have multiple fonts (and maybe explains my fondness for Times New Roman).
     It is nice looking back to see what I have written about over the years.
     And it is also giving me ideas about other stuff I want to write about now!



Monday, 12 February 2018

Chocolate ... ahem Valentine's Day

Sometimes you just fancy a chocolate.
     We actually didn't have any at christmas. Usually we buy some for ourselves, and get a box as a gift too. This year we ended up not buying ourselves any, and sod's law says 'In that case, you won't get any as gifts either!'
     So I was sitting fancying a chocolate when I suddenly realised that the ideal opportunity for giving and receiving of chocolate was rapidly approaching: Valentine's Day!
     Now to be honest, I am not too happy about the very commercial nature of the modern celebration: you WILL buy chocolates, you WILL buy flowers and they must be roses, red roses! you Will buy a card (how much?!)
     So Graham and I usually make each other a card.
     But when you just fancy a chocolate and a traditional chocolate buying date is handy, why not take advantage of the fact?
     However, I have another problem: Graham is not good at taking hints. I may have mentioned this before. So my saying 'It will be Valentine's day on Wednesday.' would simply elicit an agreement, this would not lead male brain to creak into any kind of action along the lines of : Valentine's Day mention = buy wife something, maybe chocolates?
     So a bit more drastic and direct action was called for and today's shopping list went:
Black Pepper
Chilli Sauce
CHOCOLATES
Milk etc

     However I may now have a slightly different problem: because I have emphasised 'chocolates' today's shopping may well be distinctly chocolate heavy.
     But as a friend of mind said when I mentioned my concerns:
     'And where's the problem?'