The A-Z of Buying Presents

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presents

We’re now entering a major present-buying period for many people, but of course we buy presents for all kinds of people for many different reasons. This list may provide some helpful suggestions, whatever the occasion and whoever you’re buying for.

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November

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/www.flickr.com/photos/joestpierre/822696402

/www.flickr.com/photos/joestpierre/822696402

I can’t believe we’re already in November. But a quick look through the window verifies that we are: the misty, murky greyness which blankets everything into damp anonymity and uncertainty is so typical of this month.

It always reminds me of a clever old poem I first encountered at school. When I was a teacher myself I often used it with classes, asking the kids to write their own version. When the weather was like this and the sun refused to break through, they were inspired to write some marvellous verse!

“November”
by Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view–
No distance looking blue–

No road–no street–
No “t’other side the way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–

No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people–
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!

No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No park–no ring–no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
November!

What can I do with all those apples?

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apples

You know autumn’s here when you hear someone moaning about all the apples they’ve got and don’t know what to do with! Really, though, this is nothing to complain about – far from it.

It’s been a few years since we had a couple of nice apple trees in the garden. We used to have loads of apples every autumn and, over time, I’d collected some lovely recipes which I looked forward to using each year. Sadly, both trees caught some nasty disease and died. We miss them! This autumn, though, I’ve been lucky enough to be given some apples by family and friends who do have trees and it’s been good to revive my favourite apple recipes and pass them on. With careful planning, your apple tree can give you pleasure all year round.

General information about apples

If you’re not sure whether they’re cooking or eating apples, try a sample when they’re ripe (i.e. the pips will be brown). If they’re cookers, they’ll taste very sharp and they also tend to have thicker peel. You could also try cooking one. A cooked eating apple doesn’t taste of much at all whereas a cooked cooking apple is delicious.

Divide your apples into blemished and unblemished ones. The blemished ones need to be used first, whereas those with no marks on them can last for months if you wrap them in newspaper and store them somewhere cool. Just make sure they’re not kept too cold, because frost will spoil them.

Blemished eating apples need to be eaten quite quickly and you don’t have many options except to cut out the bad bits and eat them. So if you’ve got a glut, pass them on to friends! Cooking apples, however, are a different matter and there are lots of wonderful things you can do with them. A simple idea is to peel and slice them, then put them into plastic bags for freezing. They’ll be great stewed for desserts or to put on breakfast cereal and they combine well with most other fruits. They’re also lovely when added to savoury dishes such as Normandy chicken, roast pork and curries. There are hundreds of lovely apple recipes to choose from. Here are my favourites, all tried and tested year after year.

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Seventeen Things I never knew about Ireland

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Fuchsia grows wild in hedgerows

Fuchsia grows wild in hedgerows

I’d been wanting to go to Ireland for most of my life, it seemed and I finally got to spend a fortnight there this summer. What a wonderful place: full of history, charm, friendly people, good accommodation and wholesome food. Here are some of the things I found out:

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The Autobiography of a Supertramp

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W H DaviesI first became interested in W.H. Davies (1871-1940), the author of The Autobiography of a Supertramp, when I was writing a blog entry on his poem which begins, “What is this life if, full of care,we have no time to stand and stare?”. You can read this most relaxed of poems and the blog entry here.

While scratching around to find some information about the man behind the poem, I was interested enough by what I read of his personality and life to want to read his autobiography. Even the title of it sounds quite modern and inviting to a twenty-first century reader, despite being written in the very early years of the twentieth century. Interestingly, much of the book also reads like something written more recently.

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When were they invented? Stationery

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There are so many small items of stationery that we take for granted. But when were they invented?

Your task for today is to put these items in the correct order of when you think they were invented, starting with what you think is the earliest. Only after due debate and discussion are you allowed to click on the link which gives you the answers!

1. Post-it note
2. Paper clip
3. Ballpoint pen
4. Tippex
5. Stapler
6. Elastic band
7. Pencil sharpener
8. Pencil
9. Typewriter
10. Scissors

If that’s not enough of a challenge, you can try to guess the dates they were invented and in which country.

When you’re ready, you can find the answers to “When were they invented? Stationery” by clicking here

What’s changed in the last 20 years?

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Technology

Last week it was the twentieth anniversary of the day my dad died: inevitably a time for looking back, but also for pondering on what’s happened between then and now. So much has gone on in the family – the kids have grown up and married; a grandchild has been born – but it also struck me just how much in my daily life involves things Dad would know nothing about. Here are just a few:

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