A box of Derwent pencils Blog 9-2017

The other night the programme ‘Great British Railway Journeys’ visited the Derwent Cumberland Pencil Company in Lillyhall, Cumbria. Later I got on to YouTube and it was fascinating watching the pencils being made. Did you know that for a long time this area was the only place in the world where graphite was mined? These days the factory produces one million pencils a week and exports to between seventy and eighty countries around the world. But I digress.

A number of girls at my high school had Derwent pencils and I thought they were the best pencils ever. My mother could not afford Derwent’s’ which did not worry me, though I did decide that one day when I had money of my own I would buy myself a packet.

I was about sixteen years of age when I bought a box of 72 Derwent pencils.  As I remember they cost £7.96 which is roughly $105.00 in today’s money. These pencils were my pride and joy; I guarded them with my life. The only person allowed near them was my sister, Celia. She revered them nearly as much as I and one day bought her own box also.

When I say I guarded them with my life, I mean until my daughters came along. Fiona our first daughter was very careful with them but gradually as the other girls arrived the pencils were lost along the way. Part of the problem was that priorities change and the Derwent’s had been replaced,  my pride and joy was now my little girls.

You can imagine how thrilled I was when a parcel arrived from Fiona some time back. Inside was a tin of Derwent pencils and a couple of colouring books. In Luke Chapter six Jesus is quoted as saying, “Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over….”

I didn’t really give my Derwent’s away they were just replaced with something of greater value but as they say ‘what goes around comes around’ and here I am a good fifty years later with a box of Derwent pencils.


A 1960’s box of 72  Derwent’s

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King Alfred and the cakes. Blog 8-2017

Source: King Alfred and the cakes. Blog 8-2017

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King Alfred and the cakes. Blog 8-2017

Songs of Praise was filmed in Winchester the other Sunday and concluded with a prayer by Alfred the Great. We were shown his statue which was unveiled on the occasion of his Millenary and mention of him was made during the episode.  Now this caught my attention because all I knew about King Alfred was that he burned the cakes. So, I decided to take a look and find out some more about him.

For those who like me knew of nothing except the cakes here are a few things I discovered. Oh no! One of the first things I learned was that the story of Alfred and the cakes is documented as only appearing three hundred years after he died (around 1200AD) and probably a myth. So that means the only thing I knew about him was a myth. However, his real story is much more interesting than burned cakes anyway.

Alfred the Great, King of Wessex ruled from 871 to 899.  When he died he was just fifty years old which means that he became king at the age of twenty two. He was the forth son of the Saxon King Ethelwulf. Because his three elder brothers had all died Alfred had Kingship thrust upon him and it seems he had a sense that he had been especially destined for this high office.

Not only did he manage to keep the Vikings out of Wessex but achieved the liberation of neighbouring areas from Viking control. He paved the way for the future unity of England which was brought to fruition by his son and Grandsons. By the mid tenth century the England we are familiar with was ruled as one country for the first time.

Alfred promoted himself as the defender of the Christian Anglo-Saxon faith and held the view that all in authority in church or state could not act justly or effectively without the knowledge or wisdom acquired through study. He set up schools to ensure just that. Alfred translated Latin works into Old English and encouraged the nobles in his court to read and study.  He wrote an in depth Law-code and revolutionized the country’s legal system. Known as Common-Law it was basically the same law we have today, one law for everyone rich and poor alike.

Alfred is quoted as saying “He seems to me a very foolish man, and very wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world.” Well, we would agree with that I’m sure. Why would you not want to make the most of your time here on earth to improve yourself, learn as much as you can and let it influence your everyday life.

At the end of one of King Alfred’s translations he wrote a prayer, this is the latter part of the prayer used on Songs of Praise. “For thou art my Maker and my Redeemer, my life, my comfort, my trust and my hope. Praise and glory be to Thee now and forever and unto endless ages. Amen.” Some King eh?

king Alfred



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Its okay to be eccentric- Blog 7 2017

Doug and I like to watch Great British Railway Journeys presented by Michael Portillo on SBS. However, I must admit that I am almost as interested in what Michael is wearing as I am in the amazing scenery and interesting places he visits. Why? Because Michael wears brightly coloured jackets and sometimes trousers. In one episode there will be a number of wardrobe changes. I always look forward to seeing what he will wear next.

Tim Wonnacott is the presenter of Bargain Hunt, he wears brightly coloured spectacle frames, generally, these match his bow tie and clothing. Tim must have more pairs of glasses than any man on earth. He may indeed be the Imelda Marcos of Spectacles. While I am on the subject of coloured clothing, I can’t believe how many British males wear pink trousers, what is that all about? Maybe it’s because British men obviously are not afraid of colour.  Back in the renaissance period men wore cotton, satin and velvet in bright colours and designs often trimmed with lace.

Back to the subject, according to the dictionary eccentric apart from obviously meaning off-centre is defined as unconventional, individual and a free spirit. Doug always makes a point of stopping and saying hello to young people with crazy hair colours or styles because he reckons their style is saying notice me, I’m an individual, so he does just that.

Twenty odd years ago we were discussing a relative and I concluded that the person was quite eccentric. Doug looked at me with that silly grin he has and asked. “You do know you’re eccentric, don’t you?” “Me!” I exclaimed, “Do you think so?” This was news to me and I was even more surprised when he listed some of my so called eccentric ways. “Well,” I concluded just a little miffed. “If I’m eccentric what are you? “Oh! That’s easy.” He beamed “I’m feral.” We both burst into laughter and I added “Well, I don’t mind being eccentric if you are feral.”

I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with being eccentric. As I have grown older I can see that we are all a little eccentric and I find that refreshing when I see it in people. How horrible if we were all robotic and programmed to conform to the Status quo for being proper. (Whatever that is?) Maybe we should celebrate our difference and pray the words of the Psalmist.”Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous – how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14 The New Living Bible.


Michael Portillo – Great British Railway Journeys

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Pride and Prejudice blog 6- 2017

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”— so goes the introductory line in the first chapter of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.  It seems that 200 years ago that was the notion of the parents of single daughters whenever a young man with a substantial income moved into the community. We don’t know of course what the young man in question might have thought of this notion.

Fast forward a hundred and fifty years and now it’s the late 1950’s and quite young women are out in the workforce earning a wage and making their own financial decisions to some degree. My first job paid three pounds nine shillings and sixpence. It was not a lot but it always went just far enough and one always knew that come next week there would be more.

Did we dream of a single man in possession of a good fortune coming our way? Of course we did! Though I doubt any our mothers were as embarrassing as Mrs Bennet. Imagine a mother being so keen to marry you off that she would choose a Mr Collins character just so she would not be homeless when her husband died.

Methinks the mothers of today would rather have a man in possession of good character than a good fortune, one who is kind, generous and loving. There is a saying that all a man needs is a damsel in distress to save and all a woman needs is a knight in shining Armour to save her. I thought of this when watching Millionaire Hot seat last night. One of the contestants shared how she was in an airport queue and not having a good grasp of English was quite perplexed about what to do next when the man behind her in the queue saw her distress and helped her out. They had now been married for seven years.

So, back to the first line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged….” I know another truth universally acknowledged on every continent and in every nation. Not by everyone it is true but, of the 6.9 Billion people on the earth in 2010 2.2 billion people accepted this truth. The truth is “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John:3:16 Niv)


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‘I’ve read your book’ Blog 5 2017

In the 1970 film “Patton” the movie star George C Scott who played Patton, says to himself,  “Rommel….I’ve read your book.” He was supposedly talking about the book ‘Tank Attacks’ and the lines were spoken in jubilation as the Americans won a very decisive tank battle.  Patton was in effect saying; I knew your strategy because I’ve read your book. The truth is of course that he hadn’t read the book because Rommel never published it. Some of the manuscript in the form of ‘The Rommel Papers’ was published in 1953 well after the war ended. However, Rommel did write a book on the Great War (WW1) about infantry tactics but it is thought Patton wouldn’t have known about it because it wasn’t released in English until 1943. Only the other day I heard ‘I’ve read your book’ quoted and attributed to General Patton. Hollywood never did let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Today, when we were talking with a friend, Doug was lamenting that his employment was terminated when he was 69 years of age. He had desperately wanted to work until he was 70. I chipped in about the circumstances and then remembered that our friend had ‘read the book’. I stopped and said to her, “you don’t need me to explain because you have read my book”. She looked at me and smiled, “Yes, that’s right; I’ve read your book.”  (Ice creams pages 301-302)

There is one other place I have heard this phrase and that is in church and among Christian friends. Mostly it has been said in relation to people being under attack, physically mentally or in some other way. Pastors have pointed out to us that the problem is the devil does not realize that we have ‘read the book’. If he had he would know that in the end he loses. The book is the Bible which tells us that in the end the devil finishes up in the lake of fire and we finish up in heaven. Forever!

I’m so glad ‘I’ve read the book’ it gives me such assurance, especially when tragedy has struck and we have felt like we were under attack. In Revelation 21:4 KJV we read “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, or sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” And 1 Thessalonians 4:17b reads “…and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” KJV


This is George C Scott – saying those famous fictitious words.


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Who was Mary Lee? 4 2017

Mary Lee was a widowed Irish immigrant to Australia. She was 58 years of age when she and her daughter Evelyn arrived in South Australia to take care of her sick son. Her other three sons and two daughters remained in Ireland. Mary’s husband had been a Methodist Minister and she herself had a staunch faith.

When her son died the next year she could not afford to return to Ireland so remained in what she called her ‘dear Adelaide’. Within six years of arrival her tireless work is credited with getting the age of consent lifted to sixteen.

Mary was successful in achieving votes for women in 1894 whilst the Suffrage movement in London took another three decades to catch up (1928). Defeated in 1889 and 1893 the Adult Suffrage Bill was submitted to parliament in South Australia again in 1894. Apparently the bill included the right of women to stand for Parliament because cunning politicians thought that this inclusion would stop the Bill from getting through. They thought that surely the majority of politicians would not want a woman in Parliament. However, Mary and the women of the Women’s Suffrage League presented a petition with an amazing eleven thousand six hundred signatures and the bill was passed unanimously. Mary was now 73 years old.

Not being interested in standing for parliament Mary continued to campaign to get women to register to vote. Within two years she had encouraged 70,000 women to do so.  South Australia was the first Legislation worldwide to allow women the vote. Having financed her public work herself she passed away almost penniless in 1909 at the age of 88.

Mary’s work remained unrecorded until 1980 and in 1994 a bust was erected in Adelaide which shares one of her quotes “My aim is to leave the world a better place for women than I found it.”

Why am I telling this story? Because it was news to me and I thought others ought to know. It’s a great reminder of what dedication can achieve. We may not be articulate or ferocious campaigners like Mary but we can all strive to be better at what we do every day. Ecclesiastes 9:10 reads “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”


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Airports and Assumptions blog 3 2017

I can’t be sure where my love affair with Airports first started but I think it was sometime in the nineties. With my mother living in Tasmania and us on the mainland, flights became quite regular.

One day as I was sitting at the Airport it dawned on me that I really enjoyed being there. I so liked watching people passing by and seeing the families chattering as they headed toward their gate lounge. There seemed to be a special sense of camaraderie amongst the travellers too. I can’t recall if I have always been a creature of habit, or if it is only since I have been older, but I have loved to get to the airport early so that I can just sit and watch the people passing by.

Ten days ago we flew to Sydney and that old magic of the airport was gone. The trip into Tullamarine had been leisurely and we had heaps of time to spare but, regardless of that, the old sensation I usually experienced was missing. I had assumed that I would always have this feeling, but not so it seems. Not that I live by feelings or assumptions but I have to say I was a little disappointed. However, life changes and things change and there is little one can do about it. My sister Celia, often used to quote her Pastor as saying, ”Everything is subject to change.”

While thinking about this after we arrived home the words of one of the songs from the old Salvation Army Musical, ‘Hosea’ came to mind

Don’t assume that God’s dismissed you from His mind,

Don’t assume that God’s forgotten to be kind;

For no matter what you do, His love still follows you;

Don’t assume that you have left Him far behind.

The first line of the chorus reads:-  ‘For his love remains the same, He knows you by your name.’

Well now! There is something in life that is not subject to change after all. The Love of God for us. In fact right through the Bible we are reminded that God is changeless. God is immutable, his character is irreversible, binding, unalterable, and permanent and His love for us never changes. In Malachi 3:6 He actually says “I the Lord do not change.” So this is not an assumption this, is a fact.

By the way there are still lots of things we find pleasure in so we will replace Airports with something else.  Susan Boyle is singing ‘ You raise me up’ as I write, it is Doug’s CD but I find great pleasure in listening when he plays it.


At Tullamarine in September 2013 with the Conlon’s











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Peter our Champion

Veronica Nowell - Author

With ‘rainbow ice creams’ waiting in the queue at the printers I thought I would re-blog my post from 11th of January 2014. Rainbow Ice creams is Peter’s story.

This was my blog:- It’s been very quiet on my blog front of late. Our hearts and lives have been so full of all that is going on with our grandson Peter that there has not been space, nor have I had the heart for anything else. Especially not self absorbed blogs. For my recent followers Peter, who was four years old last May, was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, (a cancer of the lymph glands) when he was nineteen months old. He is now in the final stages of his journey through this life. The past three years have been full of heartaches, joys, miracles and disappointments. But they also have been filled with wonder. Wonder as we have watched this brave little…

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Keep Calm and…..? Blog No 1 2017

The Market is flooded with Keep Calm slogans these days; in fact you can go online and design your own. Sovereign Hill, where we like to stay when we take a break is famous for its raspberry drops. They have a slogan Keep Calm and Suck Raspberry Drops. I am sure you have all seen Keep Calm slogans on Tees, Aprons, mugs and the like. Recently I saw a ‘Keep Calm and Sparkle On’, and a ‘Keep Calm and Be a Princess’ but I particularly liked ‘Keep Calm and Love Your Grandma’.

My English mother was one for positive, motivational slogans but I can’t recall her using this one at all. The original slogan was of course ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ and maybe the reason she didn’t use it was because although she lived through the war and there were 2.45 million posters printed, it was hardly ever publicly displayed.

Designed in 1939 in preparation for the Second World War it was meant to raise the morale of the British public should they be invaded. It came to light again in the year 2000 when one was discovered in a bookshop. We do know that many British cities were indeed bombed and some flattened but the British stiff upper lip, self discipline and fortitude prevailed. The people did ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ in adversity without the now famous poster.

Courage and resolve does not only apply to the British, how many times have we seen bravery and stoicism on our TV screens lately.  People who have vowed to stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of catastrophe and terrorism determined not to let the oppressor have the victory.

When looking for a picture of the original poster today I noticed one that said Keep Calm and Read Isaiah 54:17. This scripture verse reads “No weapon forged against you will prevail and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord. (New International Version)

Are you being accused of something you didn’t do? Do you feel like the whole world is against you? The prophet Isaiah is promising that If we put our trust in God he will see that no weapon will prevail and we will be able to disprove every accusation. So, hang in there, trust God and see Him work on your behalf.



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