Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Dorothy Lilian May nee Butcher 1915 - 2010

Today has not been a good day. The last link with my Grandfather's family passed away this morning and has left a void that will be quite impossible to fill.

Born Lilian Dorothy Butcher in February 1915, the second youngest of a family of 12. Aunt was always known to us as Doll, the nick name given to her by her brothers because of her petite size. Whilst she was never a large lady in size she had both character and depth far great than anyone I have ever known.

Aunt married Richard May at St Nicholas Church Guildford in 1936.

Wedding of Dorothy Lilian Butcher to Richard May1936

Widowed in 1958 Aunt never remarried, but devoted her life to her son, nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews.

Whilst this posting may seem rather morbid, I didn't want to let Aunt's passing be unmentioned. I have some wonderful memories and in time, when I feel stronger, they will appear in this blog in remembrance of a true lady.

I was indeed very lucky to have had such a wonderful relationship with her, both as Great Aunt and as my Godmother. I will truly miss her. She is now reunited with her beloved husband,son and her siblings.

Lilian Dorothy May (nee Butcher) May 2009
Photo taken May 2008.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Snippets from the the news......

BBC News - Life goes online after death with 'memory boxes'
Published 3rd December 2010

The Independent - Identified at last: faces of the Somme - Europe, World
Published 28th December 2010

Monday, 27 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - In review

I have simply loved writing the advent calendar posts. These have been huge journalling prompts and have encouraged me to write and think about times past. They have also highlighted to me the questions that I wish I had asked.

I have though not managed to keep to schedule, which is personally irritating to me and what subjects I have not posted on as yet will be posted on during the next few days. Alas, work has been the culprit this year and I have certainly lost my work - home life balence which will be recovered for 2011.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Christmas always has its sad moments, in that we miss our deceased relatives, and yet remember with fondness and love those who have passed away.

My Grandmother, always comes to my mind because her birthday, on 18th December was a week before Christmas and this has appeared elsewhere during the Advent Calender postings. The last Christmas my Grandmother was alive she came to stay with us. Stuart did lots of recordings of her, asking her questions and listening to her remembering past times. Even now, some 14 years on I can not listen to those tapes or watch the video. When Stuart transfers it to DVD which he will do next year he'll do it when I am out as I still miss her dreadfully.

Then in the late 1990s my Nephew, then aged 16 years died on 18th December as a result of a tragic accident involving another school boy. His funeral was on Christmas Eve and although I was not especially close to my Nephew, my husband was and my thoughts always turn to him and the fact that his young life was wasted.

This year we lost my Father in Law and this is the first Christmas without him. Likewise, I was not especially close to him, but his death, was unexpected and this year will of course bring sadness to our Christmas. Amongst that sadness is of course joy, as each of those individuals has a special place in our hearts and we have some wonderful memories, which, when the time is right will probably appear in this blog.

May they rest in peace, in the knowledge that they are missed everyday.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Lunar Eclipse to coincide with Winter Solstice

The first full lunar eclipse to coincide with a winter solstice since 1554. UK & Europe will be able to watch from 0741 GMT on Tuesday 21st Dec.

I was up in anticipation of seeing something wonderful. Sadly it was cloudy where I was and that was rather disappointing. There have been some great photos posted on the web. Here is the photograph posted to the local BBC radio station on Face Book - Good Morning Devon and here is the details from Sky News.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Christmas Shopping

I often do my Christmas grocery shopping in the middle of the night, or at the very earliest just as the day turns midnight. Due to our domestics we planned to go to the supermarket just after midnight on Saturday 18th, which would have been my Grandmother's birthday (see yesterday's post).

Over the last three or four weeks we have had very cold weather, heavy frosts and the odd sprinkle of snow, so I was not overly surprised to find a heavy frost as we left the house at midnight on Saturday. We live half way on a hill in a cul-de-sac and the car was pointing the wrong way. Which meant that we had to drive down and turn. There is always a horrid bit in the middle of the turning area which has a tendancy to get very icy and Saturday morning was no exception. So there I was at midnight trying to push the car. Just when it seemed hopeless we managed it and set off. I spent the next hour or so pushing the trolley round gathering groceries. We made it home and I collapsed into bed at abou 2am, planning on sleeping until 7am when I needed to be up and away for work. Imagine my horror when I saw this at 7.00am

About 8am this was the real picture.

I went to leave and we tried to move the car and made it to the turning point, then..... Lots of wheel spins and Anglo Saxon. We managed with the help of a neighbour, some carpet under the wheels and sand to get the car back outside the house which is halfway up the hill. I have worked muscles that perhaps are new or have not been used in the last 20 years! Anyway, I didn't make it to work.
Monday faired no better. We had no more snow here, but we had dreadful icy conditions. Driving was not an option and actually neither was walking.
We did make it out today (21st Dec 2010) and this was the view across Haldon - lovely on a Christmas card, but lethal to drive and walk on.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Christmas Stockings

I don't recall ever having a stocking as a child, just this pillowcase into which my presents were placed. Since I have been married to what can only be described as the biggest Christmas baby of all time! Stuart's birthday is on the 21st and he simply LOVES Christmas, I have always prepared a stocking for everyone.

Traditionally, I know that stockings always contain fruits and nuts and perhaps a small toy, or at least that is what my Grandmother always said was in her stocking. This year I went to fill the stockings to struggle to find them. I sorted through the Christmas decorations box several times to no avail, and resorted to having the wrap the stocking gifts on Christmas Eve. Note to self to buy some nice new ones for 2011.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Grab Bag!

Today's posting is a free for all. Tomorrow, 18th December 2010 would have been my beloved Grandmother's birthday.

Born in 18th December 1912 Lilian Edith Matthews to John Matthews and Elizabeth Mary nee Elstone at Guildford Surrey England. Gran was one of 11 children and the second child to be both in 1912, although she was not a twin.

My Uncle had been born in the January of the same year! She married my Grandfather George Butcher in November 1939 and ironically made her marital home in the same road that she was born in, just at the opposite end of the road!

No photographs of the wedding have ever been located, but here are two from my collection. The first one (above) of my Grandmother aged 12 years and the second taken (below) at her 21st Birthday.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Fruit Cake

Mum has used the following recipe since the early 1980s, actually my Grandmother spotted it in a copy of Woman Magazine, and since then we have used this one, albeit, the copy does look in rather a sorry state! The actual date is gleened from a book review on the reverse of the recipe - 1983!

Christmas Cake

Here is the cake for the Christmas of 2006, icing was not brilliant as I recall, probably too much wine! See the original post from 2006

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Other Traditions

Although I now live in the West Country of England, I was born and brought up in Guildford Surrey, and still consider that home. There was always a magical feel about Guildford, the cobbled historical High Street with the Rotary Club playing music, usually outside W H Smiths and collecting for local charities, The shops full of Christmas decorations and music and the temperature fresh and cold, but not like the weather of late, where the temperature has been well below freezing, not typical for the UK.

In the last 10 years or so the world of retail therapy has changed beyond recognition. I am pondering back to the days when shops closed at 5 or 6pm apart from perhaps local deli's and corner shops and the only other shops open into the evening were DIY stores and supermarkets and those were open late until 7 or 8pm. In the run up to Christmas the shops would open on Sundays and even the post was delivered on a Sunday too for the few sundays preceding Christmas. Now we live in a world when you can do your grocery shopping in the early hours and shop online. I wonder what previous generations would make of that? The shops being open on a Sunday back then had a magical feel to it, and somehow in this world of technology we have lost some of the Christmas magic.

On Christmas Eve we always attended Midnight Mass at Holy Trinity Church, an impressive church situated at the top of the High Street. We did not live in Holy Trinity parish, but in St Nicholas, but always attended at Holy Trinity. It wasn't until I started researching my own family history that I established that we had links to the parish that start with my Several times Great Grandfather George Ellis born in 1811 in Holy Trinity parish.

Having now moved to the South West I do not feel that same enthusiasm to go to the local church for the midnight mass and very often we are well in bed before the magical hour.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Christmas Gifts

Oh my, I was doing some Christmas shopping today and pondering on some small bits to go into a couple of Christmas stockings. I was overwhelmed with the incredible amount of expensive nothing presents, and wonder just how we got to be such a society.

My Grandmother always said that she and her siblings had a Christmas stocking. In it was a sugar mouse, a tangerine and some nuts. The boys had a small car or soldier and the girls a small dolly. The money value for the early 20th Century to a working class family preparing stockings for a family of 11 children would have meant cuts in other areas of expenditure to provide those meagre gifts. In comparison to the stockings of today when we spend so much more and I wonder if we really enjoy the gifts we receive and give? Or are we simply swept away in the retail commercial hyper.

On my bookcase are several books given to me by family members, in some cases relatives that are no longer here. I was surprised to see that I had kept the gift card in one book dated 1985. The book rarely looked at now, holds many special memories and now sits as one of my treasured possessions.

One gift that I love dearly was bought for me by my husband two or three years ago. I would never have purchased it myself, not due to the expense, or the thought that I would hardly wear it, but simply because I just wouldn't. So I treasure it not only because Stuart bought it for me, but because it is a beautiful simple gift that says more than many words, and one that is a treat for me, and only me.

Of course, no matter how big the gift or how expensive the gift, the ones that we treasure the most are those that create such wonderful memories.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Planned Reading Challenges for 2011

As the end of 2010 approaches I have signed up to the following Reading Challenges

Click here to join the Immigrant Stories Challenge

Click here to join the Historical Fiction Challenge


Click here to join up to the Italy in books challenge

Click here to join up for the Victorian Literature Challenge

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

AVG - Anti-Virus Programme

I have used AVG for anti-virus for about 10 years and always upgraded at the point of when the upgrades are released. This year was no exception for attempting the upgrade, the issue was the success of the upgrade.

I have spent a huge amount of the last 3 days removing the last version and installing the new version. Each time, as usual the machine needs to shut down and reboot. The problem occurred when each time the reboot happened that there was no evidence of the new version. I trawled through the online AVG forums and there were references that others had had this issue of remove old, install new, reboot and then repeat, with no success of actually loading the new program.

I was simply grateful that I was trying to update my desktop PC running XP rather than my laptop on Vista.

I finally had success - Hooray!

1. Read
and check that you have administrator facilities on your computer

2. Install the 2011 programme via

3. Make sure that the files are not still lingering on your PC - check Program files AND in documents and settings deleting any references to AVG 7, AVG 8, AVG 9 and Grisoft. (I had some as Grisoft and almost missed it)

4. Then ensure that ALL evidence of previous versions is removed from the computer registry by visiting (use 32 bit if your not sure of 32 or 64.)

5. You MIGHT need to re do point 2 and that is fine!

I completed the above steps for my XP desktop and my Vista laptop.

Disclaimer: I am not a shareholder in AVG, just a satisfied (and temporarily frustrated AVG user!). I am no computer expert, if I had been it would not have taken me 3 days! so follow the above advice with caution and please do not email me with hate emails if it goes wrong, but I successfully managed it!

Good luck!

Advent Calender 2010 - Holiday Parties

I think one of the most memorable Christmas Parties has to be Australia 1996.

We had only been in our current home for about 4 weeks, we were still knee deep in packing boxes in some rooms - my study especially. We left England on 19th December and arrived in Sydney on 21st December. I will never forget the flight. We flew with a Greek airline because we had had to change our travel plans at short notice as my Cousin who was getting married between Christmas & New Year had, had a change of plans. We had a direct flight, well as direct as 10,000 miles can be, with a stop over in Bangkok for a refuel. Every time the plane landed and took off there was an eruption of clapping and cheering. I put it down to Christmas spirit rather cheering successful flying! I don't recall it being exceptionally cold here that year before Christmas, but we spent 50 hours traveling door to door and left temperatures of approximately 10 degrees centigrade and arrived to about 28 degrees centigrade, and definitely over dressed! We arrived on Stuart's birthday, therefore everyone had gathered at my cousin's house for our arrival which was fantastic.

That year Christmas started on the 19th December and lasted through the arrival party, Christmas, my cousin's wedding, New Year up until we left on 19th January. Very happy memories.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Santa Claus

I can't remember going to Santa, but I guess I did. I asked Mum if she could remember and she said she took me when I was between the ages of 3-5 to see the Santa at the Debenhams department store in Guildford. I was apparently not keen to go and was unimpressed and she didn't take me again. Mum went onto say with a bit of a smirk that I was fairly antisocial!

Me, antisocial, surely not! Anyway, I went onto explain to Mum why I was probably unimpressed with Santa. I can't recall exactly when, but I recall waking up one year in the early hours of Christmas morning to Mum in her red dressing gown putting my stocking come pillowcase at the bottom of the bed. I guess then, my thoughts of a man with a red gown and white, bushy beard were shattered. I can though still remember this red dressing gown with small flowers on with green leafy bits and yellow petals. It was the early 1970s and I am sure Mum is delighted that there is no photograph of the said dressing gown! What is amazing is that I had never actually confessed to seeing Mum that Christmas morning until we discussed it for me to write this blog post.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Sorting Saturday - Keys.....but much more?

This random gathering of keys represents bits of our lives, both as single individuals and as a couple. I came across the pot of miscellaneous keys at the back of one of the cupboards in the breakfast room this morning. When we married we put all the keys together in a pot, not current keys, but ones we thought we perhaps should keep just incase. We have lived in this house 14 years and over the years have added to the box, but do we know what the keys belong to? It is anyone's guess., although I have a few ideas for some of the keys.


It made me think though, as individuals or couples we accumulate and gather a whole host of stuff, things we keep because they mean something to us, but perhaps not to other people. Our ancestors did it and perhaps we have inherited their collection of "stuff" and we now wonder just what that pile of bits meant to them. Perhaps we will leave a collection of things to our descendants or inheritants that are a total mystery. Every little thing our lives touch means something. Food for though.......

Advent Calender 2010- Outdoor Decorations

I am not a fan of outside decorations, but Stuart is. He loves the whole Christmas thing - music on the radio, CDs, decorations, foods and I guess cards, as long as he isn't is writing them! Last year was the first year we had an outside decoration. Even I have to say it, they were some subtle while ice lights that dripped down from the second floor windows. Alas they did not survive the untypical harsh winter and returned to the shop for a refund. We have since then replaced them with a more sturdy set ready for this Christmas but they are not up yet, but I know Stuart is getting itchy to get the tree and decorations up.

As I said in an earlier post we have a small outside tree with some suitable lights they are not up yet either, but as soon as I do there will be photos!

Back in 1996 we spent Christmas in far warmer climes; in NSW Australia with family. The street lights and decorations put on by residents in one street, Athol Street in Wagga Wagga was very impressive. I am not sure if I took photos, but I will see if there are any, there were certainly LOTS of photos of the trip and if I find one of all the Christmas lights & decorations I'll upload it.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Christmas Cards

I remember both my Mum and Grandmother sending cards, but not how many or what happened to them. I have a few old cards, perhaps the last one received from a particular relative, or those with a photograph or letter. Any that my Grandmother received I now have. Currently they are in a box packed away in a box awaiting scanning and archiving. I can't really remember where they were displayed, I suspect the mantlepiece as that is where I have mine and on the dresser and other furniture in our lounge.

I probably started sending cards when I as about 12 or 13. Mainly to school friends, but when I left home and then subsequently married to family members. In many cases a Christmas card is the only contact we have, which is a shame.

When we first set up home together and started sending cards as a couple I asked for Stuart's card list. He looked at me blankly and said he only sent about 6 cards, I was amazed, that meant the other 60 odd were mine! Since then I have written all the cards and letters and Stuart's list has not really got any bigger. My list has reduced a little bit, but not by much. Even people that I communicate with online these days still get a card in the post and they get an additional email.
I keep the email letters and file these with letters I recieve, along with any letters and cards that arrive in the mail.

I usually aim to send my cards out early December, but each year I seem to get later and later. The overseas ones always go first. I can always predict which card I receive first and sure enough my cousin and her husband's card arrived on Wednesday as predicited!

At the end of the 1980s I bought a card booklet, with the details of card and present and address. The book was set up for about 10 years. At the end of the 10 years I looked around for another book similar but no one seems to sell them anymore, so I have a bit of paper in my Christmas card box and each year tick or highlight in a pen to say that I sent the card. I really should find a better way of recording it, but somehow the scrappy bit of paper is likeable. I usually buy Charity cards apart from ones that I send to close relatives. I tend to go for the Charities whose good cause has touched our family life, mainly Cancer Research as many of my family have suffered in this way.

This following is a photograph of my Great Grandmother, Annie Prudience Butcher nee Harris,which was sent as her Christmas Card in 1955.The picture was taken in Guildford Surrey England in the prefab house the family lived in after the War.

I already had the photo scanned but not the card, which I must do and will reload the picture then. The photo was certainly sent to her children, I have my Grandfather's copy George Butcher (1908-1974) and I know of at least one cousin who has his father's copy. Do you have a copy in your photo collection? If so please get in touch.

Annie Prudience Butcher nee Harris 1955

Friday, 3 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Christmas Tree Ornaments

The collection of tree ornaments we have are ones that we bought from our first Christmas together. There are others that were given to us by my Mum and each year Stuart and I buy at least one ornament to keep the tradition going. We tend to go for the reds and golds but there are some others that have special meanings to us, such as a Spode china Millenium bauble which always has pride of place, and a gold bell which has a picture of a Border Terrier on the side,which we bought the first Christmas we lost our lovely Monty in 2008.

We also have a lovely set of the Lilliput Lane tree decorations as Stuart collections the lovely houses, and especially the snowy and wintery ones.

The decorations that we had as when I was a child are still with my Mum. The original fairy which I mentioned earlier this week is still in the family. I think Mum has it and she thinks I have it, and we won't know until we both put our trees up and find it! - Photos though as soon as I do. As a child we used to have chocolate ornaments on the tree which I was never allowed to have until Christmas Eve, and even then, only one. Now I don't have them as we have our current Border Terrier, Alfie just incase he is tempted by the chocolate.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - Holiday Foods

My Grandmother always used to buy hamper coupons from the Unigate milkman, I don't know if she received any special discount as my Grandfather had worked for them up until he retired, but she always had the coupons and then exchanged them a week or so before Christmas for a hamper. There was always lovely boxes of chocolates, biscuits, tins of ham and deserts and a shop made Christmas pudding. I am sure that there may have been a bottle of Sherry in the hamper, even though my Grandmother was not able to drink alcohol. There was also some lemonade and dilutable juices - like Robinsons, and some fruit.

Even though we had the hamper there was also other bits bought or made. The Christmas cake, and Christmas Puddings were both home made, a delicious joint of gammon that was cooked on the stove on Christmas Eve to be consumed for Christmas Day teatime, a tin of Victoria biscuits made by McVitie's

We always had Turkey for Christmas Day along with the trimmings. On Boxing Day the usual lunch meal was bubble and Squeak with either the Turkey cold or made into Rissoles. I still have the mincer that my Grandmother used and I still do some of things that we did when I was a child, and those special moments live on for another generation.

Mum makes the most lovely rum truffles, with the proper stuff, not the cheap essence.

Every year, this rather tatty extract from a Woman's Realm Mag appears. I had chance to have a proper glance at it. The receipe is from The Archer's Country Cookbook by Martha Woodford published in 1977.

I can certainly vouch for the truffles!

4oz dark cooking chocolate
4oz icing sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons ground almonds
2 tablespoons double cream
2 tablespoons rum
chocolate vermicelli

Melt the chocolate over a basin of hot water. Beat in the icing sugar,egg yolk,almonds,cream and rum and pound altogether until mixture is smooth, and form into little balls. Roll each truffle in a little vermicelli and coat it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Advent Calendar 2010 - The Christmas Tree

As a child we always had an artificial Christmas tree I think, usually a traditional styled green one with pretty coloured fairy lights and the fairy that my Grandparents used to put on their tree.

When I married we purchased a lovely and different artifical white tree which we got from the department store here in the UK called Alders, they have since gone under, but the tree lives on, albeit, in the loft.

Our current tree is also artificial, a beautiful green one, with a hit of snow and built in lights, nice and tall, well taller than me! - Its about six foot. My hubby is the usual tree decorator in this house, I find it a bit of a performance; I am not known for lots of patience! I would really love a real tree, but we don't mainly because of mess and because they are not terribly pet friendly!

BUT, outside, on the edge of our path leading to the house we have a medium size planter situated on the end pillar. There did use to be a leaping salmon until it disappeared, despite us not living in a dubious area, anyway after spending over a year looking for a replacement fish, and failing we decided on the planter. That spent a few months empty then last Christmas we saw in the local garden centre a miniture Blue Spruz and thought why not? It sat in the planter, undecorated last year as we were not able to find suitable lights for it, but this year, well wait and see (photo as soon as the lights on and the indoor tree is up).

Uploaded 21st Dec photo of the indoor tree, once again decorated by hubby!


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