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Good day for the longsword team

 One of the things that bedevils morris teams is trying to recruit younger members.   The older teams get, the harder it is to recruit younger dancers.  The more women you have in a team, the harder it can become to recruit men.

The converse does not apply as strongly. It's easy to get older people to join a younger team. Women are more likely to join a predominately male team.

Around seven years ago, Anonymous Morris did a workshop with a local scout group.  It gained them a 12 year old recruit, who has grown as the team has grown, is now over 6ft tall and one of our best dancers. He recently recruited his girlfriend and she's a really good dancer too.

It looks like Southern Star may have pulled it off too. Fingers crossed.

A couple of weeks ago, we did a longsword workshop with a scout group.  We sorted the children into groups based on height (swords dances are both easier and safer when dancers in the same set are similar in height) and asked them to choose their own 'number 1'. Number 1 leads the dancers and calls the figures.

Half way through the evening, I over-rode their choice and appointed a new number 1.  It wasn't that the original boy was particularly bad, just that the new boy was significantly better. He was already calling out most of the moves, had a really good sense of position and obviously had a good visualisation of the overall dance in his head. (the group, including the former leader, were perfectly happy with this decision).

At the end of the evening, I handed out leaflets for Southern Star to all the most promising dancers and had a chat with W in particular. Turned out that he lived in Corfe Mullen...

I made it clear that he would be very welcome indeed if he did choose to join us.  

After that you just have to cross your fingers.

He didn't turn up for the two weeks after the workshop, and I'd decided that our luck wasn't in, but last night, he appeared!

Learnt everything with the speed of greased lightening, seemed to really enjoy himself and says he may bring a friend next week!

Yea!  Even teams led by ladies of age 60 can occasionally gain youngsters.  Sometimes, the dance is good enough, and the enthusiasm infectious enough to work the magic.

W is a natural.  Not one of life's extroverts, but has a sense of position that is essential for sword dancing.  He also listens and remembers.  (not familiar with the terms clockwise and anti-clockwise -but that's digital time for you - I have to remember to say right and left turn, rather than clock and a/c)

It helps that we now have four regular experienced dancers.  It's much, much easier to learn sword dancing when you have experienced dancers in the set.  As you all hold the end of someone else's sword, they can help draw you in the correct direction.  When we started out a couple of years ago, no one except myself had any experience of sword dancing and it could take ages to get a single move correct. Now, we all learn a lot faster.

So, here's hoping W is back next week!

I have a six man dance from the tradition that I'd love to try, but that will have to wait until we have eight active members.  Two of our existing members aren't flexible enough around the knees to do fast over the sword moves while rotating the circle at the same time.  For the time being, I'll teach our 3 and four man dances and look for traditional six man figures that don't involve going over the swords.

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I got this book because it was on the list of 100 best SF novels that was circulating recently, and it was only £1 on Kindle.  (It's now free!)

I don't know if I'll ever read it again, but it was certainly worth reading. 

It's a curious book. Beautifully written with text that draws on varied imagery, and uses both the nature of water and the tea ceremony to reflect the narrator's thoughts and her approach to life.
The author has a way of foreshadowing events that is almost spooky.  Reading one section, I knew that a character was about to die, yet upon re-reading it, I could not tell exactly had keyed me in. It was very subtle, but works, because the protagonist is a tea master - and she is able to sense when death is coming. Somehow, the writer conveys this ability to the reader.
In this post-climate change world, water is in very short supply, and the government use the water supply to control the population.  Finland, one of the last inhabitable areas has been ruled for a long time by people of Chinese origin and some of the names and customs reflect this.  Much technology has been lost and people scavenge the waste dumps of the past for useful items, or things that can be converted into useful objects.
It works well as a background and was pretty convincing overall.  the only item that really threw me out of the book was an almond tree (almonds need large amounts of water and I can't see them being grown in a region with severe water shortages).
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I love my granddaughter

 Oswin - I'm five in April

Granny - What would you like for your birthday?

Owsin - I've got lots of toys already. I don't need any more.

Granny - would you like me to give some money to a charity for you?

Oswin  - I want to help owls.

Granny - We'll make a donation to the RSPB (Royal Society for Protection of Birds) and you can sit by the computer on your birthday and help me make it.

Oswin - tell them it's for barn owls.

(Just like her mother and her uncle, her favourite bedtime audio book was 'The  owl who was afraid of the dark'. Can't recommend it too highly - just make sure you avoid any abridged versions.  It's all about Plop, a baby barn owl, who gradually moves from being scared of the dark to discovering that it's wonderful!)

She's very environmentally aware for a four year old - both her parents and grandparents are very involved on that front.  But she isn't missing out on anything - rather the opposite, I think.  She doesn't have loads of expensive toys - what she does have is lots of time spent with people who like playing games with her, talk to her about the things she enjoys (still daffodils at number 1), play shops, read books, go for walks, etc.

Time after time, I've seen her pass over the doll's house (lovely one from a charity shop), the model railway (passed down the family), piles of bricks, etc in favour of playing with totally improvised toys.

The recent favourite has been a box of stitch markers.  Little coloured things for marking positions in crochet and knitting.  Combined with the racks for holding Scrabble tiles, they are involved in some complicated game that I don't fully comprehend, but I think they're all representing children in her school, and the different colours represent different classes. They all get marched into lines and generally bossed about!

Coloured glass beads (probably intended for flower arranging originally, but I got them in a charity shop because they were pretty) are also a favourite, along with a box of assorted dice. We're gamers, we have LOTS of dice.

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Travels in Tartary

 I know some of you were interested in my review of Fathers Huc and Gabert's travels through Tibet in the early 1800s

Reapermum on LJ spotted that you can download the book (it's old and has been out of copyright for a long time), which is handy as it seems to be out of print at present.

'Lamas of the Western Havens' is only part of 'Travels in Tartary, Thibet and China'

Volumes 1 and 2 are both available on Project Gutenberg 
https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/33269 This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.

'Line of Separation' and learning German

 If you want a recommendation for a really good German-language (with subtitles) TV programme, then try this recommendation by londonkds.

The drama is called 'Line of Separation' and is on channel 4 iplayer.

It's set just at the end of WW2 and it's pretty harrowing.  Definitely not for children.  Well acted.

My grandparents lived through being bombed, but they never had to live through occupation - for which I am very grateful.

I'm teaching myself a little German at the moment, partly because I'm not too well at present (costochondritis).  I tire easily and can only do a limited amount of computer work before my ribs start hurting.

There's only so much TV one can watch before brain rot sets in - sitting down with board game rules in German, and a dictionary and grammar to hand, at least ensures that the brain is engaged.

There's nothing quite like trying to work out the correct ending for an adjective when used before a feminine noun in the accusative case to force you to have to think...

And if anyone can tell me why it's "keinen Dank"  - Ah, just got it.  Dank is spelt the same whether it's singlar or plural (half the online dictionaries don't tell you what the plural is, which is a right pain).  Thus, "no thanks" and keinen  with 'en' is correct for mixed declension plural before a masculine noun.  (I wanted something to distract me from stress, there's nothing like tables of endings...)

Why, why, why do languages have genders?  
What's the point?

English is good in that regard, but has its own quirks.  eg. "I hit him"  - is that present or past tense?  I never noticed before, until I was looking for simple sentences to translate and realised that I didn't know what tense to use in German. This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.


 A book that is far more about character than plot.  Take eight people of various personalities, races, genders, etc., place them on board a space ship on a long journey and get to know them.
By the end of the book, the crew of the Wayfarer feel like old friends. You could sit down at a table with them  to eat a delicious meal cooked by Dr Chef (using ingredients from an alien marketplace), your surroundings cheerfully decorated by Kizzy from whatever she had to hand.  There would be laughs, grumbles from Corbin, an empty seat for Orhan  (who never eats communally, but still has a place in case they ever change their mind), and conversation that will cover everything from navigation issues to bad jokes.

There's a plot, though it's more a series of encounters that help us learn more about the crew, but also about what it means to be human, or indeed to be a sapient being of any kind.
Definitely looking forward to reading the next one!
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Lamas of the Western Havens

I bought this book because I'd met some Tibetan monks and was curious to know more about their history, and also, because I have a weakness for Folio Society books and  this one was on the shelf in a  National Trust second hand bookshop and caught my eye.

This book is the first hand account of two French Catholic monks who set off from China in 1844 on a long and arduous journey to Tibet.  Their journey was as missionaries, trying to reach a forbidden country, but the description of their journey and the detail provide a real sense of the hazards of the route.  
In these days when we can fly from A to B in no time at all, it's hard to grasp the sheer difficulty of travelling on foot and horseback over mountains, of the dangers of brigands, snow, starvation or of simply  losing one's footing on a high narrow path.  
Many travellers didn't make it.
Father Huc describes the journey and the people in great detail.  The 'inns' fascinated me, with their communal raised platforms for travellers to sleep on.  Under the platform was smouldering dung, to provide a little heat for the travellers during the night.
We learn of the small number of converts they made, but also of the Buddhists they met.  Of the squabbles between lamas, of the long and bloody conflicts between China and Tibet and the chancy politics between the two.
The engraved illustrations add the to text and give a good feel for the costumes of the era.
It's well worth reading, both as a travelling and also as a reminder that other cultures are far more complex than we assume.
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Cheap overseas phone calls

 If you live in the UK and want an affordable way of calling overseas, one good option is Planet Numbers - https://planet-numbers.co.uk/

Calls are typically one or two pence per minute, and they also have good online help - I hit a problem, and the person on the chat line worked with me until I'd sorted it out and successfully made the call.

I had a chat with Vjezkova in the Czech Republic yesterday and look forward to chatting to her again before long.

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 Because everyone gets them confused...

An accordion is a large instrument where all the keys play the same note whether the bellows are being pushed or pulled.  One hand plays the melody, the other had buttons to push for chords.

A melodeon is smaller than an accordion.  It has different notes on the push and pull.  ie.  Each key plays two notes, which is why it's a smaller, lighter instrument.  The left hand had buttons for chords.  The keys for melody are buttons rather than piano keys, as the arrangement of notes is different from a piano.  Melodeons play in only one or twokeys, one per row of buttons.

An 'English' concertina has hexagonal ends and straps for the little finger and a rest for the thumb.  It plays one note per key (same note on push and pull) and is fully chromatic. (plays in any key)

An Anglo (Anglo/Geman) concertina, has hexagonal ends, and a strap that goes over the wrist, and a totally different layout of buttons.  It has (like a melodeon) two notes per button.  It plays in one or two keys, but may have buttons for accidentals to allow extra keys.  Great instruments for morris - I have one.

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Carbon Footprints

I was just chatting to my dad, who likes to do a cruise holiday every couple of years, and we were discussing the environmental impact.

I thought there was a fair environmental cost to cruises, but we were both surprised by what I found when I looked it up.

Cruises are far, far worse than flying.  If you take a liner to your destination, your carbon emissions will be nearly double that of a similar flight (and the impact of that flight is bad enough that I've given up flying), and there is also a massive impact of sulphur emissions, sewage, oil contaminated water, rubbish, etc.

Add in the fact that many people fly to their starting destination, and cruises are an environmental disaster zone. This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.


Judith Proctor


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