Sunday, 26 September 2010

Badgers need your help

This is a quote directly from the RSPCA website. Please read and sign the petition.

The (UK) government has announced that it may undertake a badger cull in some areas of England as part of a package of measures to control the disease of bovine TB in cattle. Defra Minister, Jim Paice MP has announced that a consultation will be carried out in September.

Scientific evidence suggests that the culling of badgers may have a limited benefit on the disease within the culled area and in surrounding areas outside the cull it may, at least initially, increase the disease in cattle. We also have concerns on how culling might be carried out.

An injectable TB vaccine for badgers was licensed for use in March and we are dismayed that the Government has announced it is only going to vaccinate badgers against bovine TB in a limited area of Gloucestershire, rather than six areas in Staffordshire, Herefordshire/Worcestershire and Devon as was originally planned. It is currently not clear what alternative plans the government might have to utilize the vaccine.

We also want to see a continuation of improved cattle measures, including pre- and post-movement testing, husbandry and biosecurity.

Please sign our petition to let the government know you are against culling.

If you would like to write to your MP to express your views on this issue, please click here

Thank you for giving animals a voice.


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Freegle Ceilidh!

A few months ago, one of the women in my choir approached me to suggest that Sheffield Freegle team up with her folk band to organise a ceilidh (folk/barn dance). Her band (The Well Dressed Band)

The WDB are holding a series of Ceilidhs, each with a different community partner, to raise awareness of the different causes (great idea!!). The first in the series was Abundance, we were second and I dont know who is coming next, but I know they are booked!

Two of my fellow moderators were as keen as I was to do this, so on Sunday we arrived at the hall early to put up banners, spread chairs and a few tables around, and generally get organised.

Douglas came too of course, so that made 4 of us. Before the event, I was unsure if just the four of us could cope (having never organised this sort of thing before) , so I asked my older brother if he could possibly come down from York and join us, which he did.

The evening went very well, the hall filled up with people and the dancing began. The band were very good, and the caller, Pete Coe who started with nice easy dances (to lull the beginners into a false sense of security ? haha!) then as the evening wore on, he introduced a few more difficult dances, but by then the dancers could cope with that :-) Not only is he a good caller, but hes quite a funny man, so it was enjoyable both dancing and listening to his jokes.

At 8.30, half way through the dance, we had a break. I had to get up on the stage and explain what Freegle was all about, and to encourage people to join Sheffield Freegle. That was a bit scary, but aparantley I did ok.

We had advertised that we would like people to bring a home made dish of food to share with everyone else, so by the time everyone had arrived, we had a wonderful feast laid out. There were salads, home made breads, pies, toasted seeds and all sorts, not forgetting some lovely cakes for afters! (Sairahs chocolate and beetroot cake was really nice, and that surprised me since I have a hate hate relationship with the evil red veg!)

The dancing went on until 10.30, by which time Eliese, Sairah and I had finished most of the washing up from the feast. Douglas and John stayed in the hall for the 2nd half of the dance, acting as security against any stray curious youths that fancied coming in to see what they could pinch - its a rather rough area!

John left at about 10pm to catch a train home to York, and the rest of us tidied up the hall, put things away, packed our car, took Eliese home, and got back to ours by about 11.30pm which is a very late night for us!

Everyone had a good evening, we handed out quite a lot of leaflets, so hopefully we will get some more people joining as a result!

Needless to say that Douglas and I were very tired the next day!!!! zzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Laurieston Hall. Sunday 5th September (last day)

********* Please start on Thursdays post if you have not read the rest yet **********

Breakfast duty this morning, so I started early by sweeping the floor in the hall area.. After last nights bonfire and people tracking grass through, so it looked much better when I had done!

Ali Burns came to do the second workshop with us and took us through a newish song of hers that has quite a difficult alto part! Her songs are lovely - she tries her best to give each part a nice tune to sing whilst putting them all together to create a lovely overall sound.

Ali Burns in action

After lunch, I would have liked to go see the red kites being fed, but no one who had transport wanted to go. Instead, I and a German/Irish girl spent the afternoon with one of the residents, a lady called Marion who taught us how to 'drop spin' that's spinning wool using a spindle that you suspend from the wool you slowly tease out and spin into thread then wind a little round the spindle and keep going. I had a great time and managed to spin a yard or so of rather bumpy length!

My first attempt at drop spinning!

Basket with wool and a drop spindle in

Tea was at 6.30 as usual. The tables had been re-arranged into a u shape so we could have a 'banquet' for our last evening. We all dressed up. Some from the dressing up collection in the sunny room, some like me in their own stuff. I wore my lovely mediaeval blue dress, my new green cape and my new 'green goddess' mask I purchased earlier in the summer. Everyone looked marvellous.. Some very funny!

Who could it be?

Some strange costumes!

For tea we had baked potato wedges, some kind of bake with tomatoes on the top, green beans, a mushroom sauce (yuk) and some odd thing with ?hot beetroot in it (double yuk!!) oh, we also had roast peppers that were nice.

I finished off my bottle of wine (It's taken me all three nights to drink it.. Not too bad!)
Dessert was some lovely chocolate biscuits and ice cream.
After a gap, final night festivities began in the billard room. We all sat round on sofas and chairs and played pass the parcel. When the music stopped, the forfit was for someone to think of a song that fitted the theme on the note. We sang all sorts.. Themes ranged from travel, to political all the way to mythological, the latter being a part rendition of Puff the Magic Dragon! The prize in the middle was a bar of soap!!

Voca Loca, our sister choir from Belfast (not Dublin, sorry Curlybap, whoever you are, who pointed this out to me) sang two lovely songs, then Body of sound sang two of theirs.

Next came a drama! We had a very creative rendition of The Quangle Wangles Hat!

The final organised event of the night was a team game. Three teams were each given a song to sing, and given a style in which to sing it. I formed part of the audience/judging panel!

The first team had to sing nursery rhymes in the style of the winning volley ball team .. It got worse and funnier as the teams went on!!!

By the time prizes had been awarded ( one to each team, of course) it was 11.15pm so I decided to finish packing, shower then sleep. I'm sure that singing went on well into the night but I was tired.

It was a wonderful weekend.

It took us about 5 hours to get back home.. we left at about midday after a rather tearful parting from our friends and the beautiful hall.

I was sad to leave, but very happy to be back home with my lovely Douglas and my lovely puddies.

Laurieston Hall. Saturday 4th September

I woke early and had a shower, then went back to bed to read until breakfast at 8. I went out along the drive to call Douglas, tried both landline and mobile with no response. I sent him a text to find out what he's up to.

Our singing workshop was held by Ali Burns. We have sung quite a few of her songs before so it was great to have her teach us a few of her newest peices.

Lunch was a varied menu. Most had cauliflower soup, the cooks made a small batch of courgette and veg soup for me and 3 others. There was a tomato tart, green salad, ?devilled eggs and some brown scones to have as well. I wasn't terribly keen on the soup, but the tomato tart was lovely so had enough to eat.

I found myself sitting on the same table as the cooks, so I was able to question one about yesterdays peanut sauce.. I now have the basic recipe!

After lunch there were various things going on, I plumped for a lesson in onion plaiting! This will help the onions to keep over the winter, to feed yet other guests.

Brigitte, from Voca Loca plaits. The Hall can be seen in the background.

Onions, all plaited, ready for storage.

In the evening, we sat round a bonfire, and the sauna was lit. We sat round the fire, singing songs, watching and listening to the women who had a sauna. Some of them got into the very cold pond. The water, that comes via the surrounding hills, the stream, through the hydro power unit into the pond is incredibly cold.. there were quite a few shreiks as people got in!!

As before, I went to bed with songs singing round my head.

Laurieston Hall. Friday 3rd Sept

Woke at 6am, had promised to phone Douglas to make sure he was awake. I had to wander out of the building down the track a little as the house has a lead lined roof!

The morning was beautiful, mist still hanging around, the end of the Dawn chorus, and a bat busy having breakfast in and out of the trees. D was already awake but it was nice to have a chat.

Breakfast here starts at 8. I had no problem getting some more shuteye until then.. It must be the country air!

Breakfast itself was good.. Home made bread, milk and yoghurt from lauieston cows, fruit, and museli. I did my first duty.. Washing up and cleaning the kitchen- it's great to be able to help!

Doing our warmups before singing

We sang till 1pm, having a break to sit in the sun in the garden. It was so nice out that having collected my lunch ( leftover pizza, jacket pot, leftover carrot salad) I went out and ate at a grockel bench and chatted to a resident who has lived here 30 years.. People truly love this place and life style.

Morning Break

I had a rest then we set off on a singing walk, stopping to sing woody songs to the forest, babbling brook and watery songs to the stream, then laky songs to- and then IN the Loch!!

I was very brave.. After a few other girls had stripped off and got in, I followed. It took me quite a while to pluck up the courage to fully immerse myself swim as it was so cold, but was very pleased I did!

One or two women got up onto a platform floating a little way out in the Loch, and after a bit of sunbathing more women joined in, and soon there were about seven of them, naked as the day they were born, all doing a circle dance on the tiny raft. It was very funny!

I didn't stay in the water long, not wanting my extremities to freeze, but i stayed in long enough to swim round the platform and find a bit of slightly warmer water that had the sun on it. Having got dressed again we walked back to the house and warmed up.

Tea was stir fry veg and rice with a delicious peanut sauce. Even though I don't like peanut butter, I do like Satay sauce, so it was another enjoyable meal. Pudding was a rough but tasty blackberry and apple crumble with custard. Nom!

I wasn't feeling well ( tummy was playing up) so I went to bed after tea. I set my alarm for 9pm to catch a bit of circle dancing which was lovely. We then spent an hour or so doing a "show and tell" I took a lollipop stick Martha gave me years ago.. She had decorated it and written 'friendship stick' on it :-) I enjoyed hearing about the lovely objects other people had brought.

After we had shown/shared our objects, singing started again. I stayed for a while before Heading back to bed. I went to sleep with tunes going round my head, it was lovely.

Laurieston Hall. Thursday 2 Sept

With my darling husbands blessing, I booked a place on a little holiday with my choir (Body of Sound, or BOS for short) to sing and have a nice weekend with an Irish choir from Belfast (Sister choir, you could say) called Voca Loca.

I kept a diary of my doings, and I thought I would share it with you!


Set off from Sheff at about 11am, piled into a minibus with 10 others. The trip was about Six hours, which included one long lunch break and one short pit stop just outside Dumfries.

Lauieston hall is an old not terribly stately home, (the current building is Victorian) about 26 people live here full time as part of a co-operative. They pay rent and do two and a half days work for the house.. Looking after the crops, animals and house. There is also a business side.. Groups like our choir come and stay through the year. Some of the residents work for the business side.. cooking, cleaning, organsing and playing host to each group.

We arrived here at about five- it was so good to un-concetina after a long journey. I have a room to my own .. Requested due to my snoring and not wanting to disturb Anyones sleep!!!

My room turned out to be huge with enough beds for about 8 people! I unpacked and had a shower (just a dribble of hot water but enough to freshen up). The rest of the group went to the local loch for a swim, so I read and chatted to a couple of the staff and a friendly resident dog. I hear there is a resident cat - a Ginger Tom called Percy who is friendly until he's had enough.. then he bites!!

Evening meal was at 6.30. It consisted of a gorgeous pizza (a special non mushroom one had been made for two of us) a delicious carrot salad and a green salad. Dessert was chocolate cake topped with icing and walnuts, a large bowl of whipped cream was also served.

We spent a while relaxing in the large hall which has sofas and a lovely open fire. Dora the dog was much in evidence enjoying the attention.

We gathered in a large room- Bos and a choir from n. Ireland called 'Voca Loca' I think this makes about 40 of us! We sang many simple songs, mainly rounds, starting with

Asalam asalam
A le cum asalam

It is from the Koran and means peace be with you.. It was beautiful. By ten I was falling asleep, singing at the same time. By this time, everyone had gathered and eaten so we went round introducing ourselves. I shall never remember all these names!!

After signing up for some jobs, I trundled up to bed, read for a bit and zonked out.