The Firs: Elgar’s House

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It was a couple of seasons ago that we visited Elgar’s house, and its accompanying museum and archive. At the time it was administered by the Elgar Foundation, and it has since entered into the joint care of the Foundation and the National Trust.

The National Trust’s site notes that the contract gives the Firs “a new lease of life,” and this is to be appreciated by anyone who values heritage, and musical history.  The cottage is the birthplace of the composer, and his home through much of his life. The gardens are quaint, and in them you can find the burial place of his beloved dogs.

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The grounds also have a modern museum, performance area, and archive.  On our visit we (and especially my wife who is a musician) found the information and atmosphere inspiring.  Since the National Trust has taken on operation there has been a new tea room established, and walks around the grounds have been enhanced.

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I have to admit that I was late in coming to an appreciation of Elgar.  My first “knowing” experience of his work came with the Pomp and Circumstances march at my undergraduate graduation.  Since them I have come to admire the Enigma Variations (one of the things to check out at the museum), with its fourteen variations each representing musically one of his friends or loved ones.

While we have not been back since the National Trust began its involvement, I look forward to doing so soon (as a Trust member) and as an enthusiast for Elgar’s music.

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This is a worthwhile destination for anyone travelling in the west of England, and especially for those who love music.



Link to National Trust Pages




Tofu with Chillis and Garlic Sandwich Wraps

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Here is another sandwich vegetarian sandwich recipe.  I often find that supermarket options for veggies is limited, and while this does take a little preparation, it is well worth the effort.


  • Cabbage (shredded) 1 1/2 – 2 cups
  • Carrot 1/2 Medium (shredded)
  • Garlic 1 clove
  • Onion 1/2
  • Sunflower Oil 1 Tbs
  • Tofu 150 – 175 g* (pre-marinaded or add the following: 1/8 tsp Coriander, Pinch Paprika, Pinch Black Pepper, 1/8 tsp Ginger, Worcester Sauce 1 Tbs)
  • Jalapeno Pepper (or similar) 1
  • Onion Powder 1/2 tsp
  • Water 1 -2 Tbs
  • Sandwich Wraps 3 – 4

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If using unseasoned tofu, dice it and place in a bowl with marinade ingredients (at least 2 hours in advance) tossing well.  When ready to cook, shred cabbage, and carrot and dice onion and garlic well.  Heat the oil in a wok or pan, and add onion powder. Then add the diced and shredded veg.  Stir fry for about 3 minutes.  Then dice the chili quickly leaving seeds, and add to the veg.  If needed add a slash of water to raise steam.  Then add the tofu, and any remaining liquid if self marinading. If not add an additional splash of water until the carrot and cabbage are tender.  Spoon hot tofu mixture into wraps and fold into parcels. It should make 3 to 4 wraps depending on the quantity of filling you use.




Faith in the Face of Adversity


Mark 10:46-52 gives us a wonderful account of faith in the face of adversity.

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’  ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

Here we have a man living with disability in an age when there was little or no provision for his aid. He is cited as sitting by the roadside begging (the only means of livelihood available to him).  This was a man who understood adversity.

On hearing that Jesus was approaching, he begins to call out to Him for mercy. He is immediately confronted by those nearby to be quiet.  Adversity and opposition again rearing their ugly heads.  But does he give in to his lot, and accept the rebuke? No! He shouts the louder.

This act of faith and persistence captures Jesus’ attention.  He calls Bartimaeus to Him.  There is no hesitation on the blind man’s part. He throws off his cloak, jumps to his feet and goes to the Master.

Jesus’ interestingly (not because he does not know the need) asks the man to state his desire in his own voice (there is a lesson of prayer here). Timaeus’ son clearly states, “I want to see.”  A request Jesus grants, and with an affirmation, “your faith has healed you.”  

The episode closes, not with a celebration on Bartimaeus’ part, but with a continued act of faith –  he “followed Jesus along the road.”

God has offered each of us healing.  We have all suffered adversities. Are we willing, despite the chastisement and disapproval of the world to call out for it? And when we have been healed do we show appreciation in following the One who has made us whole?



Dairy-Free Peanut Butter-Banana Kefir

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Here is another breakfast drink based on kefir.  As I noted in yesterday’s post, having the same drink everyday, can become a bit monotonous.  So here is yet a different flavour.  While many of the smoothies I make are berry or fruit based, this one has become one of my wife’s favourites.


  • Water Kefir (cultured in coconut milk) 400 ml
  • Banana 1
  • Peanut Butter (no added sugar variety) 1 dessert spoon
  • Stevia 1 tsp
  • Vanilla Essence 2 or 3 drops


Take chilled kefir and shake well before pouring 400 ml into a blender. Add banana and peanut butter and mix for 1 minute on medium. Let settle and add sweetener and vanilla and mix again for 30 seconds to a minute (until completely smooth).  Serve in a large glass or mug.

This is a tasty drink which she enjoys even if not for the health benefits.  It is a regular feature in her breakfasts.


Dairy-Free Avocado-Chocolate Kefir

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I have written in the past about the use of kefir to support my wife’s post-chemo digestive system. Having the same drink everyday, can become a bit monotonous so I started experimenting with different flavours. This is one she particularly likes.


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  • Water Kefir (cultured in coconut milk) 400 ml
  • Avocado 1 medium
  • Cocoa Powder 1 Tsp
  • Stevia 1 rounded Tsp
  • Vanilla Essence a few drops


Remove stone from the avocado, and scoop flesh from skin with a spoon.  Add flesh to a blender and add the remaining ingredients.  Mix on medium about 1 1/2 minutes until smooth. Let settle and blitz again for 30 seconds.

This is very thick, but tasty.  For a slightly lighter taste and less dense texture reduce the avocado to 1/2.




Prawns in Italian-Styled Sauce with Courgette “Noodles”

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Prawns in Italian Sauce

This is handy and tasty quick meal.  It takes about 15 minutes to prepare, and has some nice colours and flavours. It can be made as a vegetarian dish by replacing the prawns with cubed grilled aubergine (egg plant) and the fish cube with a veggie one.

Ingredients :


  • King Prawns (Shrimp) 200 g
  • Chopped Tomatoes 400 g can
  • Onion 1 Medium
  • Red Bell Pepper  1/2
  • Garlic 2 Cloves
  • Black Olives 8
  • Green Olives 8
  • Basil 1 tsp
  • Oregano 1 tsp
  • Dried Parsley 1/2 tsp
  • Olive Oil 2 tsp
  • Soft Goats Cheese 1 Tbs
  • Fish Stock Cube 1


  • Courgette (Zucchini) 1
  • Salted Water


Spiralise or finely slice the courgette into noodle sized strips and set aside. Heat olive oil in a medium pan. Dice garlic and onion finely and add to oil. Stir and then while heating dice the red pepper and add it when ready to the onion and garlic.  Stir again. Dice the olives and and add to the mixture, stirring well. Allow to cook until most of the veg is tender. Add the herbs and tomatoes, and reduce to a simmer.  Dissolve the stock cup in a couple of tablespoons of hot water, and stir into mix. Then add prawns and stir until cooked through.  Stir in goats cheese and remove from heat.  Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, and then add courgette.  This will only take 30 seconds to a minute to heat until soft.  Drain well and make as a nest in serving bowls.  Divide sauce into to portions and top “noodles” with it.  Then serve.




Truth: Beyond the Masks

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Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?”.

We all like to be liked.  To achieve this many people create a narrative and external image that is appealing to their target audience. This in time becomes their own “reality” no matter how much falsehood, or masquerading  is involved. Some people are so caught up in the the fabrications of their own story, that they cannot recognise the truth in others. This is sad, as even those who realise that their own facade is phony, come to believe everyone else equally duplicitous.  There becomes a lack of belief in integrity.

The Christian witness counters this.  Everyone is flawed (you, me, everyone).  Honest Christian witness is not that we are perfect, but that we are forgiven for our shortcomings.  How much more powerful is that to tell the world – “I am flawed, just like you, and it doesn’t matter in eternity, because there is One who will accept us regardless.”   We don’t need to put on masks, as the One who sees through all masks, still is willing to accept us as we are.  What is better than liking being liked? Loving being loved!

This mask wearing does however have a pervasive power in today’s world.  In a world of “self” the image of that self becomes more important than truth itself. Some mask-wearers even take pride in their ability to see beyond the masks of others. But, they themselves, play their self appointed roles, in order to sell their lies to the widest possible audience.

And why do people do this? Jesus notes in John 8: 44, the origin:

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father, he was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Such sons of the devil (or sons of this world) thrive on deceit.  Luke records Jesus’ parable of the corrupt steward in 16: 1-8,

 “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.  I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measure of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’  So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”  

While Jesus’ story was illustrative of a different point, it nonetheless shows the attitude difference of “the sons of this world” and “the sons of light.” Truth, and integrity are outpourings of light. Jesus said in John 14: 6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” God with us, the Emmanuel was the embodiment of truth.  And if we are in Him, we should be manifesting Truth.

In fact Jesus promised that better than image, we can have freedom in the truth. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).”

Why live in a world of masks, when real freedom, and real acceptance is found in the truth?


Addendum: My wife and I have been assailed of late by lies.  Some have been perpetrated by those who cannot see beyond their own masks. Others have been deliberate attempts to deceive and to benefit financially at our expense. Very few have been direct lies about us, as they have mostly been lies to us.  Some hurt has additionally been heaped on by belittling our own honesty.  No, not assertions we are dishonest, but attacks on our faith for being “Too Honest” and our “stupidity” for not “seeking advantage” by lying. Whatever the motivations of those who have assailed us however, devastation and pain are still the consequence.  I pray that I can be a walker in the truth, and that I do not cause the same distress in others.





Bible Ladies (Part 4): Lois and Eunice

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Lois and Eunice (picture credit

It has been a while since I posted on Bible Ladies, and when I last did I was on the theme of “foreign women.”  In the book of Acts, and in Paul’s writings we find the man of God, Timothy.  It is clear that the faith of this disciple was nurtured by his believing mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois (2 Timothy 1:5).

These two godly women bear Greek names. Eunice according to Acts 16:1 is of a Jewish believer, opening us up to several possibilities. These women may have been Hellenized Jews. This view while possible is problematic, as Eunice is married to a non-Jewish man. The Old Testament scriptures leave a clear impression of the expectation for Jews not to marry outside the faith. This said, such unions seem to have always occurred. I have written before about my own Northern Irish family having community disapproval as a mixed Catholic/Protestant union.

This leaves a more likely (though still subjective) view that Eunice was a convert to Judaism.  The merits of this argument are that Judaism made massive growth during the Roman period, with Gentiles (especially women) turning to the One God of Israel. Acts 16 notes, that Timothy’s mother “was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.” That Timothy’s father was a Greek, therefore is clear. And that he was an unbeliever is implied, as his faith is not attested to.

This non-Jewish union has led some to question whether Eunice, raised by Lois in a faithful Jewish home, went through a time of rebellion, and married a Greek. Or as noted above that both Eunice and Lois were converts.

What is clear however, is that these women had become believers in The Way, and had passed that belief on to Timothy who is cited as “a disciple” in Acts 16:1. Timothy’s faithful upbringing is reference in 2 Timothy 3: 14 and 15:

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Timothy had learned from “those” in the plural from his infancy.  The mark of the influence of his mother and grandmother, not of his Greek father.  The father’s influence, and perhaps his mother’s possible convert status may be indicated by Paul’s circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3.  Paul was no great champion of physical circumcision for non-Jews. That Timothy was uncircumcised shows his Greek birth, that he knew the scriptures, that he had a believing mother.  That he was subsequently circumcised a sign of his Hebrew heritage.

This young or youngish disciple through the impact of his matriarchal line, and the entry of the Gospel into his life, goes on to be a leader of the fledgling church.

A quick word on 1 Timothy 4: 12 may be in order. Paul writes to Timothy to “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.” This passage too is slightly problematic, as we must supposed by “youth” it is implying that he is under the “respectable” ministry age of 30.  When Paul arrives in Acts 16:1 (circa 49 A.D.), Timothy is already noted to be a disciple. Allowing for the early date for First Timothy (58 or 59 A.D.) only ten years have elapsed. So was this young disciple would have been no older than 20, when first encountered by Paul? If so his mother’s and grandmother’s godly influence is impressive.  And, if the late date for 1 Timothy is used (63-65 A.D.) based on supposed references to the events of Acts 28 within the context of its writing), he would have been even younger and still noted as “a disciple.” Allowing for a 64 A.D. date and the assumption that youth means under 30, Timothy would have only been 15.

The influence of nurturing and praying “Bible ladies” should never be under appreciated, or undervalued. Just look at the impact of Timothy through Lois and Eunice.


Other Bible Ladies posts:

See also:




Travels on My Mind: Keeping the Memories Alive


Recalling journeys can take many different forms.  There are those holiday (vacation) snaps, souvenirs, and the stories that remain with you always.

The world of mementos is huge, and over the years we have gathered a wide variety.

Our “go to” collectible is fridge magnets.  We have dozens (well over 120).  These are displayed on the kitchen refrigerator and some more in our upstairs mini-kitchen. [My wife’s health has created a situation during her treatment in which she couldn’t always get downstairs when I was at college, so we converted on bedroom with a microwave, small fridge and kettle].

In addition to these we have more substantial souvenirs on a special shelf upstairs, in which mini Eiffel Towers, Leaning Towers, and Little Mermaids feature, alongside East European icons, and Welsh spoons.

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Personally I have also marked pilgrimages with walking stick medallions (where these have been available) and pilgrims’ badges where they have not.  These are kept not only as mementos, but as items of reflection.


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My Staff with Canturbury, La Mont Saint Michel, and Santiago Badge

Stories are often recounted on this forum, but also have featured in Toastmasters speeches, and as anecdotes to my students.  All these collectively keep my journeys “alive.”

Fridge magnets are usually only a few euros (or equivalent) each, while mini statues are anything up to 10 euros.  Badges are relatively inexpensive as well.  Some items such as Moroccan tiles, and Arab table clothes, and a beautifully embroidered Lithuanian shawl have been more dear, but are treasured.

How do you mark your past adventures?  I would love to know.



Curry Beef Wraps

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Wraps before rolling and steaming

While I am not a meat-eater, I do cook for my wife who is.  I try to keep her diet interesting, and try a number of variations of standard dishes to keep her limited diet (owing to health) from becoming same old, same old.  Here is a nice fusion beef dish with a nice curry flavour and three veg as well.

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Meat and Veg Before Steaming


  • Low-fat Ground Beef  150 grams (1/3 pound)
  • Peas 2 Tbs
  • Carrot 1/4
  • Curry Paste (of your preferred flavour and hotness) 1 to 2 tsp (according to taste)
  • Cabbage Leaves 4-6 large


In a pot bring water to a boil and parboil the cabbage till soft (30 seconds). Set leaves aside and shred the carrot into a bowl.  Add the beef, curry paste, and peas and mix thoroughly.  Lay out leaves and divide the meat mixture evenly between the prepared leaves.  Roll leaves from the bottom making small parcels and place loose ends down into a steaming pan.  Cover and steam for 30 minutes.  When finished gently place onto serving plates.  Makes 4 to 6 wraps depending on desired thickness.