A note from our Editor, Louise Robinson
Hello and welcome back to Saga’s Not Going Out Club, where we’re enjoying bringing you ideas, inspiration, as well as plenty of laughs as we all try to make the most of this extra time at home. I can hardly believe this is my fifth blog, and the fifth week of our strange new lives.
Mind you, there are some upsides – apart from having a ringside seat for the most glorious spring I can remember. Like reader Victoria Mason from West Sussex, counting the money I’m saving from not going out is a new favourite pastime. Since I started working from home I’ve saved well over fifty quid just on cups of coffee – and that figure more than doubles if you include the Danish pastries I used to fail to resist buying from my station cafe! I have an idea for what to spend it on too, as you’ll see below…
Many of you have written to tell me how much satisfaction you’re getting from working through those lists of ‘jobs-I-should-have-done-years-ago’. In my house the time has now come for the most daunting of all jobs – sorting out the thousands of digital photos stuck on my phone, my laptop plus the family iPad. Perhaps there are tens of thousands – I don’t even know; I’m too scared to look. Suffice to say that in the family albums my youngest daughter is yet to be born, and she’s now a teenager.
But where to start (apart from with a stiff G&T)? The trick, says uber-organised reader Mike Steen from Exeter, is not to attempt too much too soon. He recommends taking a recent year, say 2019, and upload all the images from that year from all your various devices on to the computer.
Then once you’ve got a nice neat 2019 folder, you can start sifting through the images and deleting the duds and duplicates. But what to do then? I’d assumed it was too old-school to send off for prints – but how wrong I was! Apparently, it’s back on trend: all the teenagers are doing it because it’s such a novelty to have actual photographs in their hands. A friend’s daughter even asked for a 35mm film camera for her 18th birthday and has been taking pictures on her daily walks, which she plans to send off for developing.
I had enough Kodak Instamatic cameras in the 1970s for that not to be a novelty, so a photographer friend has advised me that a photobook for each year is probably the way to go (that’s a physical book created from the pictures you send via your computer to a company like Photobox, Snapfish or CEWE). Apparently, it’s remarkably simple even for a Luddite like me. You can use their readymade layouts and add captions where you want. After you’ve done a couple, you can allegedly knock up a photobook in about half an hour. It’s not cheap, but for the cost of my daily coffees over the past five weeks, I should be able to get at least two photobooks. So, by the time we’re all allowed out again, my youngest daughter may not only have been born, she may even be a toddler! Watch this space…
On the box
The ultimate cat and mouse series is back – and I don’t mean Tom & Jerry. I’ve been a fan of Killing Eve since we first met the psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and her M15 nemesis Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) back in 2018. We’re only one episode in to the third series now, but I am happy to report that it has the usual off-kilter, quirky feel, although it remains to be seen whether the drama’s essential freshness can survive another outing. I’d be interested to hear how you think it’s shaping up.
At the end of the last series, we saw Eve lying on the ground in Rome, apparently shot. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say it’s now six months later and she’s back. This series we’re promised a deep dive into Villanelle’s past, with the arrival of Dame Harriet Walter playing Dasha, the woman who originally trained Villanelle and still has a strange hold over her. Apparently their relationship dominates this series, and as Dame Harriet’s biggest fan (that leopard print!), I can’t wait.
My fashion friends say the star of the show is really Villanelle’s wardrobe, and this season is no exception. “My favourite costume for series three is hard to choose because I’ve got quite a lot,” says Jodie Comer. “But there is an epic outfit on a golf course that is very green and looks like something from Sesame Street. I’m going to leave that there…” The mind boggles.
So far in my attempts to improve my knowledge of the world beyond my window, I’ve found out about the cute, the fluffy, the flying and the swimming – but this week I need to know more about some creatures that get a pretty bad press: beetles. I had no idea that 40 per cent of all species living in the UK are beetles. As a group they’ve adapted to eat pretty much anything and live anywhere, which perhaps explains their success. Ben Keywood at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust has challenged me to get out with my magnifying glass to tick off as many ‘spots’ as I can from his list over the next few weeks:
- Twenty-two spot ladybird: not all ladybirds are red. This one is a bright lemony-yellow with black spots. It feeds on mould, mildew and fungus.
- Green tiger beetle: loves sand or chalk soils and runs swiftly along bare ground. It’s a gorgeous green with long, coppery-toned legs.
- Cockchafer: listen out for whirring. Around dusk, if you hear a small thud on your window, it could be one of these. They are powerful, large beetles, also called May bugs.
- Bloody-nosed beetle: not all beetles fly. This black, shiny beetle is out and about in grass from April in the south of the UK. It ejects a red liquid from its mouthparts when it’s threatened.
- Violet ground beetle: if you see a really fast-moving black beetle with a slightly purple gleam when you’re putting in your spring plants, it might be this common predatory species. A friend to gardeners, it hunts small slugs.
- Devil’s coach horse: it’s a dull black colour, has a huge head with massive jaws, runs at speed and will curve up its rear end, which can make it appear like a scorpion.
Let me know if you can spot all these in your gardens. For more information about the beetles we can find in our gardens, see the Wildlife Trusts’ website.
I’ve heard from several readers who have recently gone back to old hobbies they’d let drift: Carole Barker, Leeds, tells me she has found great pleasure rediscovering her love of knitting. If that inspires you and you’d like some new, trendy inspiration, We Are Knitters have created tonnes of free knitting patterns to download at www.weareknitters.co.uk/free-patterns. There’s everything from coasters to shawls and a sunglasses case to yoga socks.
Website of the week: National Parks 'walks'
If your daily circuit round the block is beginning to lose its appeal, how about a walk in Hawaii? Sadly, at the moment it has to be a virtual walk, but it’s the next best thing. America’s National Parks Service has created guided interactive ‘walks’ with a local ranger around five of its famous parks. You’re introduced to each area and during the voiceover you can pan the camera 360 degrees with your mouse. When you’re ready, click on the next sight (in the circle). Yesterday, I swapped rural Bedfordshire for Hawaii, a geologically young island which is still growing. I saw inside a lava tube, stood on the edge of a cliff that was only created in the past 30 years and viewed footage of the 1959 eruption of Kilauea Iki. You can also explore fjords in Alaska, the famous rock pillars of Bryce Canyon in Utah, caverns in New Mexico and underwater habitats off Florida. That will have to satisfy the wanderlust for now. Sigh.
Exercise of the day: side reach and stretch
1. To improve the mobility of your shoulders and upper back, sit or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2. With your right hand, reach up and over your head as if climbing a rope (relax your left knee if standing). Hold the position for five seconds.
3. Bring your right arm down and reach up and over with your left hand (relaxing your right knee) and hold the position for ten seconds.
4. Repeat five times on each side.
b) A stye
c) A cyst
b) Zara Phillips
c) Dame Kelly Holmes
b) A tower
c) A zeal
b) Cliff Richard
c) The Beatles
b) Breakfast cereal
c) Washing up liquid
b) Royal Birkdale
c) Royal St George’s
Well I never...
On Monday (27 April) it will be the 28th anniversary of Betty Boothroyd’s election as Speaker of the House of Commons – the first woman to hold the position in Parliament’s 700-year history. Born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in 1929, she once worked as a dancer in the famous Tiller Girls troupe before a foot infection put paid to her dance career. By 1973 she was an MP, and as speaker she soon gained a reputation for her no-nonsense approach. Famously, when MPs asked what to call her when she took up the post, she replied, ‘Call me Madam.’ Now aged 90, Betty is a life peer in the House of Lords.
Word of the week
Bumf (noun): tedious or useless printed material. An abbreviation of an old word for toilet paper, bumfodder.
I am four times as old as my daughter. In 20 years’ time I shall be twice as old as her. How old are we both now?
Thoughts from our readers
Last but certainly not least, I’m going to hand over to two readers who have lovely ideas for passing the time:
“My wife Rosemary and I have started reading through the love letters we exchanged while I was doing my National Service. We wrote at least twice a week for two years from 1950-52, and it is bringing back so many memories. When that is finished, we expect to look at our photograph albums relating to our family, and also to the many adventure holidays we enjoyed. Being ‘confined to barracks’ does have its benefits!” Ken Mills
“Before the shutters came down, I and a group of friends enjoyed sharing poetry choices once a month in the snug of our local pub. We chose a theme and found suitable poems, which we read out and discussed. Now that we cannot go out, we meet on Zoom. Snug Poetry has become Zoom Poetry and we can meet more frequently.” Mary Kearney
What lovely ideas! Stay safe everyone,
PS Here are the answers to last week’s quiz:
1. c) Mexico. It is named after the town of Cotija in the Michoacán region.
2. a) Lupin.
3. c) Guy Bluford. He became the first African American in space when he was part of the crew on the Space Shuttle Challenger in August 1983.
4. a) Fidelio. He worked on it for 11 years and premiered it in 1805.
5. b) Martin Peters.
6. c) Kristin Shepard. She was played by the actress Mary Crosby.
7. b) Vatican City. The flag of Vatican City was adopted on June 7, 1929, the year Pope Pius XI signed the Lateran Treaty with Italy, creating a new independent country.
8. a) Thou shalt not kill.
9. b) Paul Young. The line was originally written for David Bowie.
10. a) 1999. The Euro was launched on 1 January 1999, although notes and coins didn’t come into circulation until 1 January 2002.
Today’s number crunching answer: I am 40 and my daughter is 10.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.