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Archive for the tag “February”

Words in my window: February


A ring at the door bell. An old friend I’ve not seen for some time. He cuts straight to the chase:

‘What does it mean, ‘ice and a slice?”.

Me: ‘Erm, hi! Yeah. What does it mean?’

Him: ‘Well, it immediately makes you think of gin and tonic, yes?’

Me: ‘I guess so’.

We may just be about to experience the Beast from the East but at the beginning of February a cold spell was also forecast. I hoped for a playful ambiguity with my first February words in my window ICE AND/A/SLICE. Also, at first glance, ICE AND looks almost likes the name of our near neighbour, Iceland (the shop not the country!).


Valentine’s and Lent were definite cues for WHEN/HEARTS/BREAK. But boy, oh, boy did I struggle to come up with a phrase I liked and had enough letters for.  The whole process became almost too knowing. I enlisted the support of the Husband and 16-year-old. ‘Hearts will break’ was too much like a challenge, ‘Hearts are organs’ a tad provocative. Finally, I chose the elliptical ‘When hearts break’. My friend from above returned bearing chocolates. And an email arrived with a PS:

What happens when hearts break? Or what happens if, for that matter? I think we should be told!


I think quite a lot about cancer. It’s something that happens once you’ve had it. You wonder when it will come back. You almost wish it would come back so that you can get it over and done with. Then you feel guilty because you know that, unlike many others, you’ve been given a reprieve: you’re still here and you’re cancer-free. I’m reading a marvellous book, ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi a neurosurgeon (who’d never smoked) diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at the age of 36. He writes beautifully and explores the connective tissues of life, death, hope and faith – literally and figuratively. How do you find who you are and the life you want to live when you know – really know – you are going to die? I guess these thoughts, along with the viciousness of news of school gunshootings, bombings of innocents in Syria etc etc and, conversely, as so often happens with streams of consciousness, the snowdrops in the garden informed LIFE/KEEPS/COMING.


I have a lovely home. It’s warm, it’s safe. It’s mine. I’m lucky. A stroke of fate can remove all our certainties. Think Grenfell Tower. Think Migrants from shattered territories. Only today a block of flats ‘pancaked’ in Leicester.


I’m not quite sure if my own thoughts about the words in my window come before or after I choose them. The thing is, words are so stimulating – don’t you think? Here’s some words from someone else’s window here in Berwick:




From rechargeable hot water bottles to potato ricers: gadgets to lift the winter gloom

Quite a wild idea to take the hedgetrimmer to bed!

February is often the month when one truly takes stock after the festive season. And it can all look a bit bare and empty – what with the short days and the grey weather. It’s often the month when the burning resolution to lose weight/exercise more/give up smoking fizzles into a vague intention; the month when the joy of a new beginning effortlessly slips into the humdrum reality of day-by-day living for another year.

So, for my own amusement and your delectation, I decided to divert myself from brow-beating and count my blessings in gadgets and gizmos. Here’s a little romp (in no particular order) through the gadgets recent – and not so recent – that I have loved and found useful or entertaining. Computers, phones etc are givens.

1. Rechargeable electronic hot water bottle. Genius or what? This unexpected Christmas gift turned out to be just the ticket during a bout of flu. The charge lasts forever and it’s perfect for an achy back. Although it’s a tad heavy, I’m sure it will be my best friend on blustery hockey sidelines whilst 12-year-olds thwack seven bells out of each other.

2. The kitchen is a cornucopia of gadgety delights. I love my vegetable peeler (I’ve had mine for about 25 years – The Husband prefers a more modern pop-out one which favours awkward left-handed people).

3. The potato ricer. I’d always thought these pointless – what’s a lump or two between friends? But, no! Turns out there’s deep joy to be had from squeezing a couple of spuds and producing a fluffy mountain of mash on your plate – let everyone do their own.

4. At Christmas we rediscovered the little plastic screw thing lurking at the back of the drawer which turns out to be a cucumber twirler – ridiculous fun and pretty results. Stock up on cucumbers first. Having appeared at just the right moment, it’s disappeared again. If only all implements would just turn up when they’re needed – it would save loads of time, wouldn’t it?

5. More mainstream, but must have: the wand blender. Invaluable for soups, dips, herb-infused oils – pretty much everything, in fact, except ricing potatoes and twirling cucumber.

6. Electronic toothbrush. Years of over-brushing have worn away the tops of my teeth to crescent moons of heat-sensitive agony. I have finally overcome the tickle-factor of electronic toothbrushes and embraced the tingly polish and lighter touch. Useful advice: don’t try to talk or hear during use.

7. A cheeky little addition to the bathroom: electronic window vacuum. I know! Who’d have thought? Well, it’s brilliant for shiny shower glass. Say no more.

Electronic window cleaner - perfect for shiny shower glass.

Electronic window cleaner – perfect for shiny shower glass.

8. Looking back, the baby monitor. This bit of kit is not just a useful plot device in TV sitcoms and dramas – it’s blooming essential for any parent.

9. Head torch. For putting hens to bed after dark; and for lying in bed reading, your partner gently snoring by your side. Vital.

10. The electronic hedgetrimmer. Yes, I could use shears, but where’s the fun in that? Plus the scaffolding tower adds an extra frisson of danger when I shape the tall bushes.

11. A gadget newbie for me: a sewing machine. I thought my teacher, (scary Sister Veronica) had put me off sewing for life – but sewing machines turn out to be satisfying, useful and social. A young friend and I have spent happy hours getting to grips with square corners on bags.

12. Another Christmas present. The audio head band. Ideal for running. No annoying ear-piece-drop-out – just cosiness plus sounds. Is there an equivalent for summer?

Taking stock of my gadgets and gizmos has made February look slightly less bleak and unforgiving. Just think, if we all share our favourites, that’ll be Christmas and birthday presents nailed for the forthcoming year! Now, time to dig out the ancient coffee machine

A headtorch is essential kit for so many things - reading in bed, putting the hens to bed, stargazing (with a red lens, of course!).

A headtorch is essential kit for so many things – reading in bed, putting the hens to bed, stargazing (with a red lens, of course!).

(A version of this article was first published in The Berwick Advertiser on 6th February 2014)

All photographs courtesy and copyright of Kimberley Powell and the Berwick Advertiser.

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