Thursday, 20 March 2014

I Got Rhythm - A Newcomer's Guide to Northern Soul #1 : Hot and Temperate

Northern Soul is no more difficult to get into than any other dance subculture you care to name, but if you are in the same position as me and know NO-ONE socially who can tell the difference between Jason Knight and Jason Orange, then this guide, based on Gershwin's I Got Rhythm (as in "I got rhythm, I got music, I got my man, who could ask for anything more?", is for you. 

Yes, Gershwin is nothing to do with Northern Soul, but you've got to have a system. So:

1. "I Got Rhythm..."

With Northern Soul dancing, you do need a strong sense of rhythm, and the ability to stay on your feet, which is partly why it isn't a big drinkers' game. 

Most dancefloors will be nice and slippy and you need shoes with no grips if you are going to perfect the sliding aspect of NS moves. I have recently treated myself to these smooth-soled bowling shoes by Delicious Junction, but they are quite an investment. I found Adaptor Clothing best on price and service.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Inspired-by-Sherlock Snood

A scarf is the obvious choice of project if you're just starting out with knitting, but a snood is even quicker and more satisfying. 

For complete beginners like me, it helps to have someone show you what to do, and to have something to refer to later on when you've forgotten. I found the casting-on and casting-off diagrams and instructions in Make It and Mend It really helpful, and that's coming from someone whose Lego-diagram-following skills are put to shame by her six year-old. There are also dozens of learn-to-knit videos on you-tube, but I found it annoying to have to keep pausing while I struggled to keep up with even tying a slip knot.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Dig for Victory #7: A Wildlife-friendly Fruit and Veg Garden

As most gardeners know, attracting wildlife to your vegetable and fruit plot is hardly a struggle. "Woodpigeons will eat your thoughtfully provided pea shoots," says John Lewis-Stempel in The Wildlife Garden"every slug and snail for a three kilometre radius will munch your strawberries, and all the cabbage white caterpillars on earth will nibble your brassicas." John's humour and experience is evident throughout his book, particularly in the helpful section guiding gardeners in striking the balance "between feeding yourself and feeding garden creatures."

The following extract from The Wildlife Garden, which was published earlier this month, is reproduced by kind permission of the publishers, How To Books and details how to make your garden fruitful without neglecting or damaging the wildlife that live there.

"• Give up the evil weed-killer, along with chemical pesticides.These inorganic chemical concoctions upset the natural balance and tend not to discriminate between pests and predators. In the fruit and vegetable garden the ideal is to encourage beneficial predators and let them do the pest-control for you. Think toads, song thrushes, hedgehogs, grass snakes, bats and beneficial insects like ladybirds. Predators need a home in the fruit and veg garden. Try making a bug hotel for ladybirds, a log pile for the common frog and a bat box for a pipistrelle.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Small Good Things We All Can Do #4

As a mother of two children, both born at our local hospital, where we all received outstanding services and care, I'm in a very fortunate position, and that's why I wanted to let you know about the Save the Children's "No Child Born to Die" campaign #firstday. 

Thanks to global action on issues such as immunisation and malnutrition, the world has made impressive progress in reducing the number of children dying before their 5th birthday. However, this progress could stall unless urgent action is taken to tackle the shockingly high numbers of newborn babies still dying each day. In 2012, nearly 3,000,000 babies died in their first month of life. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

A Wildlife Gardener's Winter To-do List

From November to February, it's tempting to neglect our gardens, but as John Lewis-Stempel, author of The Wildlife Garden, points out: "The worse the winter and the less the food in the countryside, the more important the garden becomes." There may not be much colour around, but "unusual visitors are likely to be seen on the bird table, such as greater spotted woodpeckers, fieldfares, redwings, bramblings and redpolls", which are the winter equivalent.

The following extract from The Wildlife Garden is reproduced by kind permission of the publishers, How To Books. Even if you only have a window box, John Lewis-Stempel's humorous and informative writings will encourage you to attract bees, birds and butterflies, learn which plants are best for wildlife and find out what the ten wildlife garden commandments are. Projects on my list include making a green roof for our shed, a wildlife hotel and a bird box.

Here is John's to-do list for wildlife gardeners at this time of year.
"• Feed birds food with high fat content – it helps keep them warm. Feed regularly so birds do not waste vital time and energy making fruitless (or nutless, or seedless) visits to a table.

• Put fat blocks in wire cages – not plastic netting as sometimes birds get feet caught in them (or tongues in the case of woodpeckers).

• Remember birds are most vulnerable at the end of winter when they have to begin singing and staking out their territories.

• Make sure water for birds is not frozen.

• Plant berry and fruiting trees such as Pyracantha, crab apple (Malus), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and Cotoneaster.

• Buy a Christmas tree with roots, and plant in the garden after your celebrations. Coal tits and goldcrests can use it for roosting.

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