Newsletter No. 009

Come in Number 9. The year has flown past.   It's a busy time of year but if you need to relax, maybe with a cup or glass of your choice and a mince pie then get stuck into our bumper edition.  We have news, facts, quizzes, stories, recipes, elves. Yes! Elves!

We hope you enjoy this and the previous issues but if you missed any and would like to see them either in our ARCHIVE  or email Sylvia at 
[email protected] and she will gladly send any you have missed.

Friday Walks - Abington Park
The Friday walks will continue over Christmas. Come along and walk off all that pud! 
If you don't know, A group of us meet in (Abington Park between the tennis courts and the Bowling Green) We have a little warm-up then either a long or short walk (depending on ability) We all meet up at the coffee shop at the end.  It's free and inclusive, we have participants who use Nordic poles, just walk, use a walking aid or come along in a wheelchair.

Walk in the Park, Fridays 10:30  partners and friends welcome

FitnFab Christmas Party
We were all Harpole bound on Monday (9th Dec) and a cracking Christmas feast it was. The staff at the Turnpike did us proud. The party started in the bar, moved to a nice function room where we ate drank and were very merry.  Angela provided a quiz and led the carols. Sylvia and Becks organised a free raffle, thank you both.

Let's get Quizzical

1) The Americans call a type of hat a DERBY, what is it known as, in Britain?

2)  Which government body moved its Headquarters from Tower Hill, London. To Llantrisant, Cardiff in 1968?

3) Sinhalese is the main language of which island country?

4)  Who was the last Queen of France?

5)  Which area of Germany gives its name to a chocolate cake/gateau?

6)  What colour is the "black box" flight recorder on an aircraft?

Rotary Clubs - Santa Fun Run
Earlier this year the Rotary Club of the Nene Valley donated a sum of money to support the Tulip Group which I manage. This came about because Tony Roberts was the then president of this Rotary Club and Tony's wife attends my weekly exercise group (Fit&Fab - sneaky advert!). Isn't it great how these things come about! 
Obviously, when Tony handed over the donation I offered to support the Rotary Club if the opportunity ever arose.
All the Rotary Clubs of Northampton joined together this year and organised a Santa Fun Run - apparently the person who was earmarked to do the warm-up wasn't available so Tony asked me!! Some of you may know the book  'Feel the Fear but Do It Anyway'  - strangely enough I have this book but haven't actually read it, perhaps I should, because I breezily said yes of course, and then became increasingly terrified as the day approached. Sylvia offered to come along to provide moral support and promised not to heckle

I can not remember very much about the warm-up but I did something and people moved about a bit. However, the event was really well organised by the Rotary Clubs and everyone taking part dressed up as Santa and they looked amazing. All sponsorship income will be split 50% to Cynthia Spencer Hospice and 50% to the remaining three charities nominated by local Rotary clubs. The Lowdown will receive 25% (nominated by the Rotary Clubs of Northampton Becket and Northampton West), the Hope Centre (nominated by The Rotary Club of Northampton) will receive 12.5% and the Alzheimers Society will receive 12.5% (nominated by the Nene Valley Rotary Club).
I got to dress up as an elf (Thanks to Gef from Have a Balloon & Costumes, Kingsthorpe - another sneaky advert) and Sylvia met Bernie from the Saints. 
Next year the event is planned for the 6th December, it will be at the Racecourse again and everyone can take part (you don't have to run!). Perhaps we could get a Northants Parkinson's People Team together? Watch this space for plans nearer the time. 

Happy Christmas everyone from Angela the elf xxx 

Sylvia's Gardening Tips
A few general tips this month as its a busy time of year. If you do venture out in the garden wrap up warm and take it steady. 
There are a few jobs that can still be done in the garden providing it is dry.   An important one is to gather any fallen leaves.     Please don’t bin them!     Put them in a heap in a sheltered corner of the garden as a haven for bugs.   Alternatively, pile them around the base of shrubs where they will rot down and enrich the soil.

Pets and Plants, which plants are safe

Lots of us have dogs or cats but how many of you know which plants and cut flowers are toxic to our pets?  Cut flowers include lilies….all parts are toxic to dogs and cats, especially the pollen,  but in particular to cats. 
Carnations and chrysanthemums may be toxic to both cats and dog.
Houseplants to avoid:
Swiss cheese plant
Aloe vera
Weeping fig
Houseplants that are safe:
Boston Fern
Areca Palm
Money tree
Rubber Plant
Light Green Beetle Radiator Plant
Progress of hyacinth bulbs in glass vase
Newsletter no. 7 showed a picture of the glass vase with the roots of the bulb just visible. This is how they now look with the flower clearly visible.

I shall now place them on a light window sill in the kitchen and have high hopes that this year the flowers will be perfect for Christmas day.
Making Plans for next year

The New Year is almost upon us and the weather may not be good for pottering in the garden so I like to ponder on what I am going to grow in the coming year. I have decided to concentrate on the produce that I really like to eat myself. I intend growing more blueberries in pots and also a brown fig.

I have taken delivery of two small blueberry bushes. I already have two so now they are a family of four.! The different varieties fruit in different months so theoretically I should have blueberries for at least two or three months next year. I grow them in pots in ericaceous soil. It is their dormant season at the moment so not much to see. Next spring I will have some photographs to share with our readers.

I am also venturing into the unknown as I have decided I like fresh figs so much I would like to grow my own. Again I shall grow it in a pot as they like to be pot bound. Watch this space, as they say!

Recipe of the Month
Apple and Cranberry Brown Betty with Almond Crumbs

50g cooking apples—peeled cored and chopped
125g fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
4 tablespoons plain flour
75g soft brown sugar
50g oats
50g flaked almonds
75g chilled butter cut into cubes


Preheat oven to gas mark 6, electric 200c, fan 180c

In a bowl mix the fruit with the spices plus 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon sugar. Tip into a baking dish

Mix the rest of the sugar and flour with the oats and almonds. Work in the butter so that the mixture is like bread crumbs. Scatter over the top of the fruit and bake for 45 minutes until brown and crispy.

This can be made a day in advance. Simply cook, cool and then refrigerate until next day when it can be warmed through for 15 minutes in hot oven.


It must have been about 1979. I was working at an engineering firm in Duston. I worked with a guy about the same age as me (24 then) let's call him Jason. We got on well and he and his wife had been to our house a couple of times for barbecues. They had two young children and Jason was adjusting slowly from Jack the lad to sensible married with children Jason. The previous Christmas he had unwisely chosen a large bottle of scotch as a Christmas box from our employer and as a result of the aforementioned laddishness had spent most of Christmas asleep or hungover. This had put him on stoney ground as far as his in-laws were concerned. This Christmas was, he assured the lads in the works canteen, going to be different. The Holidays approached and true to his word Jason chose a nice turkey when the foreman came round with the list. (If I recall correctly we were earning about £40-£45 per week then which was average for this area. Our bosses were nice enough to give us a nice bottle of scotch or a good size turkey as a Christmas gift. Depending when Christmas day fell it was either a fresh or frozen bird. As Christmas was on Monday that year we spent Friday morning tidying up our work area and at lunchtime lined up to shake the Chairman's hand and receive our Christmas box. I got a grim smile, a muttered ‘well done, happy Christmas, next’ and a 19lb turkey frozen rock hard. The Chosen few that had an invite to the office party scampered upstairs for unlimited plonk, sausages on sticks and keeping a wary eye out for Vera, the canteen lady who had Halitosis and a large bunch of Mistletoe. The rest of us either went home or to our nearest pub, The Rifle Butt (in this politically correct era it's now called the Hart of Duston. Jason and I with our pair of frozen birds chose the Rifle Butt.

The Rifle Butt was packed. We got to the bar, eventually and Jason/Jack the lad ordered six pints. ‘Well it saves queuing again dunit’ We found a space with shelf space and proceeded to get Christmassy. Final score Jason 4, yours truly 2. We departed, me to walk home across the fields to Kingsthorpe. Jason to get a bus into town and then on to Abington. It was a good Christmas. Well, I had a good time. Pity about Jason.

We resumed work on Wednesday the 27th, Three more days of work and then a long weekend with new years day tacked onto it. Jason was a bit quiet and shivered a bit whenever someone mentioned turkey sandwiches. Friday came and we were put on a job together. I finally got to hear about Jason’s Christmas nightmare.

Jason boarded the bus for town after we left the pub, two stops further and some early leavers from the firm's office party got on, including Vera, tanked up and randy Vera! Luckily for Jason when she staggered up the stairs she saw someone else and walked past him to do a bit of post-party flirting. Jason knew she would be getting off at the same stop so readied himself for a very quick exit. As the bus approached the stop Jason leapt up and ran down the stairs, unfortunately, the carrier bag with the turkey snagged on the handrail at the top of the stair. Jason tugged, the bag split and the turkey bounced past Jason down the stairs across the rear platform of the bus hit the kerb and slithered to a halt behind the bus. While all the turkey ballistics crashed down the stairs Vera was descending on Jason. "Jason, lover boy, give us a kiss for Christmas." He followed the turkey 3 steps at a time scooped up the still frozen but quite gritty bird and legged it up the road. He didn't look back but I can imagine the look on Vera’s face. Another one got away.

The Bird, the frozen one not the randy one, still had its shrunk wrap plastic on it so Jason rubbed of the grit and grime and headed home for a nice family Christmas. With two and a bit days to Christmas, the turkey was crammed into the fridge to be joined by all the other festive food after next day's big shop.

The weekend proceeded well until Sunday evening when Jason's wife unwrapped the turkey in preparation for the next day's feast, when her Mum, Dad and sister would descend for the day. "Arghhhh Jason Help!" Or a sweary equivalent got Jason running to the kitchen. Oh dear, It seems that when the still rock hard turkey bounced down the bus steps and hit the curb, it had shattered into about twenty pieces. The tight wrapping had disguised this until the evening before Christmas when all the shops had closed and the in-laws were inbound. The look on his wife's face made her words redundant. ‘Fix it, or else.’ Now I know I would probably do the same thing if I was in his place. We engineers were trained to look for solutions and Jason found his in the form of an upholstery needle and roll of black lacing twine. "Three bloody hours it took me" he explained. He got most of it in the right place, he was sure it was.

Now I didn’t know this fact at the time. Lots of black material used in clothing isn't really black. Black is hard to produce so lots of ‘black’ is actually dark green. Interesting eh. Back to Jason.

Two o'clock Christmas day, the family had descended, the table set. Glasses charged. The man of the house was helping by getting the turkey out of the oven. "Oh bugger." Jason's wife looking over his shoulder started weeping, her makeup ran down her face, giving her a slightly halloweeny look that strangely did not look out of place next to the turkey.

The bird had remained intact, the stitching had held. Where Jason had carefully stitched the flesh it had swollen to lift the scars up. The stitches themselves had burned black but not before the surrounding skin, and the flesh beneath as Jason layer discovered, had taken on a fluorescing green colour leached from the twine, that was as everyone later agreed very unappealing. 

Jason's Christmas was by any standards, grim. His wife cobbled together a meal of sorts, luckily a ham was ready for next day so no one starved. But both children declared to be vegetarian shortly after the holidays, Jason’s standing with the in-laws plummeted even lower. The turkey incident was the last straw. Jason came over for a barbecue the next summer, alone, the kids were staying at their mums that weekend. The next Christmas, the Rifle Butt takings were slightly lower as Jason skipped the pub and carried his sturdy rucksack straight home with its cargo of finest scotch whiskey. 
The Turkey, not Vera.   Merry Christmas everyone, hope your turkey turns out great. Phil

A Brief History of Northampton Castle
The Castle, probably about 1869 when most of it was demolished to make way for Castle Station

William the Conqueror made Simon de Senlis the first Norman Earl of Northampton, and he is now well known in the town for building the Castle. It is more than likely there was some sort of Saxon or Danish fortification in place on the site prior to the building of the Castle. There is no mention of it in the Doomsday Book which was completed in 1086 as it was in the early stages of construction at that point. It was finished some years after.

During the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries Northampton castle was a particular favourite place for royals to visit on their travels around the realm. So much so that they usually spent the main feast days (Christmas, Easter and Whit Sunday) there. Back then, wherever the monarch resided became the de facto seat of government and the political hub of the country. Consequently, several major events took place at the Castle.

The following timeline shows how the castle was intrinsic to the history of British monarchy

  • 1106- Meeting here between Henry I and his brother, Robert Duke of Normandy, Senlis dies, Castle becomes a Royal Castle held by Henry II.

  • 1122- Henry I celebrated Easter at the Castle.

  • 1157- Henry II held a great Council here.

  • 1164- Trial of Thomas Becket held at the Castle.

  • 1174- King received William the Lion, King of Scotland as a prisoner at the Castle.

  • 1176- A great Council held.

  • 1142-1176- Monarchs recorded as using the Castle six times.

  • 1177- Royal repairs and alterations to the Castle and again in 1185.

  • 1189- King Richard (The Lionheart) granted Northampton a charter that allowed a market to be held twice weekly (a rare occurrence at the time)

  • 1199-1216- Reign of King John. King John visited the Castle 30 times during his reign and spent about £300 on it.

  • 1205- King John moved the Treasury to the Castle.

  • 1215- At the signing of the Magna Carta Northampton was one of the four Royal Castles given up by John.

  • In 1261 King Henry III gave a royal charter to allow the conversion of the school in Northampton to become a university only the third in England after Oxford and Cambridge, it was well regarded throughout the academics of Europe.

  • 1264- Barons War, Castle held by Simon de Montford, a rebel baron. The castle was briefly under siege. When De Montford became leader of the Barons. His sons defended the castle, aided by students and scholars from the University. In an attempt to break the siege, rode out of the North gate (now regents Square) they were met and killed by the Royal army in a skirmish about where the racecourse is today.

  • 1265- the Royal army was victorious. De Montfort killed at the battle of Evesham. As retribution for the actions of the scholars and students in defence of the castle the decree granted to the university was rescinded ad infinitum.

  • 1381- The last parliament held at the Castle.

  • 1452- Henry VI rented the Castle to Robert Caldecote for £5 per annum.

  • 1460- Battle of Northampton took place in Delapré Abbey grounds, forming part of the War of the Roses.

  • 1662- Charles II ordered the slighting of the town of Northampton (as it had sided with the Parliamentarians during the 1640s Civil War) and the demolition of the Castle. But only “part of the Castle walls” were pulled down, and the remains continued as the gaol.

  • 1675- Castle ceases to be the county gaol and the new Sessions House built in George Row circa 1676 (As a result of the Great Fire of 1675).

  • 1680- Daniel Readings sold the right to the rents of the Castle Ward and other meadows to Robert Heselrig. See the splendid Heselrig House in Marefair.

  • 1729 (Circa)- The Castle had become orchard and pasture, and was later planted with cherry trees and gooseberries.

  • 1813- The Crown ceased to own the Castle when some 13 lots went on sale. Sales continued.

  • 1852- Part of the Castle site was bought by London & North West Railway, with the line to Market Harborough opened in 1859.

  • 1861-Sir Arthur Hazelrig sold the rest he owned.

  • 1876-L&NWR bought the rest of the Castle.

  • 1879- Demolition of most of the Castle to make way for Castle Station.

  • 1879- In spite of a County petition for its preservation, only a Postern Gate survived the 1879 destructions. Later re-built by the station entrance on Black Lion Hill. Though no longer at the top of the steep Castle bank, it is there for all to see – and feel pride in its great past.

The royal decree prohibiting the formation of the university was formally rescinded in 2005 by order of the privy council and the current university was created. One other thing that has not been granted to the citizens of Northampton is City status, regularly petitioned for but so far not given, Northampton is one of, if not the largest, towns in the country. But one day maybe after all it only took 740 years to get the university back.


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We, the newsletter production team would just like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.   xxx

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