Saturday, September 24, 2016

Back in Cyprus, Lady Jane and the gradual end of Summer

When our son Tim moved back to the UK early in August, his cat Lady Jane Grey moved to our house, at least for now. Tim's new job is temporary and his accommodation not appropriate for a cat. Lady Jane is Alexander the Great's sister. Yes, historical chronology is a little skewed. Their other sister, no longer with us as long-term readers might recall, was Joan of Arc. And our elderly, eighteen-year-old cat is Cleopatra... 

However, Lady Jane had lived in Tim's flat for two years as an only cat, and had apparently forgotten that other felines exist. The first stage in her adoption into our house was to bring her to our guest flat, where Tim stayed for about three weeks after moving out of his flat, before flying to the UK.

That in itself wasn't too traumatic, although when she arrived she didn't want to emerge from the cat carrier for quite some time.  When she eventually did, she hid on some bookshelves:

After a few days of very tentative exploration, she became rather more at home in the guest flat. Unfortunately her initial introduction to Alex was extremely stressful. We let them 'meet' through a gap in a sliding door, and Alex wanted to play. Jane saw this as a terrible threat; she growled and spat.

Then Alex managed to get into the flat - twice - when the door was briefly open. He saw a new playmate. Jane saw an enemy.  There was a great deal of noise and she refused to look at any human who was involved in the trauma, for quite some time.

But before Tim flew back, we knew we had to move Jane up to our part of the house. Tim's old bedroom became her 'safe haven', as advised on several websites, and we put some of his furniture there. She spent a lot of time sitting on her cat tree looking out of the windows:

We tried letting Alex and Jane see each other through narrow doorways, but it wasn't encouraging. He lay down, evidently wanting to wait. She growled and hissed and spat, apparently terrified.

At the suggestion of a Facebook friend, we acquired some of the plug-in artificial pheromone Felliway to use in Jane's room and the living room for a month. She did seem a little calmer after a couple of days, but perhaps that was a coincidence.

When I went away to the UK for three weeks, we were still keeping her shut in her room most of the time. She didn't seem to mind, but did like exploring a little further when Alex and Cleo were shut downstairs.

Richard reported progress over the three weeks that I was away. She and Alex got a little closer. She didn't growl quite so much. She didn't seem to understand how to play, but he was very patient. He started letting them be loose in the house when he was home. Jane started having food in the living room...

By the time I got home, she was a lot more amicable than she had been. Was the Felliway responsible or would it have happened anyway? We have no idea. But we like to think it probably helped.

A day or two after I got back, Jane was in the kitchen asking for 'wet food' at lunchtime, so I put hers on the boot tray that we use for cat food dishes... and for the first time all three cats ate together:

Since then, she and Alex have been very friendly, chasing each other, batting each other in a play-fighting way, and even rubbing noses sometimes. Jane still doesn't like Cleo and spits at her whenever she sees her, but we suspect that she's trying to establish dominance and doesn't understand that an elderly matriarch is de facto the queen of the feline household.

Meanwhile September's weather has, far too slowly for my liking, been cooling down, and the humidity reducing. So much so that a week ago I resumed my thrice-weekly early morning walks with my friend Sheila, along part of the Salt Lake trail.

The Salt Lake is entirely dried up this year:

My break in the UK resulted in a great deal more energy than I had before I left, so, combined with the not-quite-so-hot weather, I've been doing more in the kitchen again. I have been using our latest Lakeland acquisition, a three-pot slow-cooker, so much more useful than the one large one which we were using (and which I still have, and will no doubt put into use again when cooking for large numbers).

I still haven't quite adjusted to cooking for just two of us, and last Sunday put together a casserole that wouldn't fit into just one of the pots, but it simmered nicely in two of them. A few days earlier I stewed a couple of large and rather soft apples, which was much easier than doing them in a pan that might boil dry.

I expect to use this more as Autumn progresses, so I can make two different curries or soups at the same time, either for entertaining, or for us with plenty to freeze for future meals.

We had the first real rain this week, during Tuesday night. It hasn't made any noticeable difference to the Salt Lake itself, but the overall temperatures feel much more pleasant. It was almost chilly this morning when Sheila and I set out on our walk, and watched the sun rise behind some of the palm trees:

We wondered whether the new looking greenery in the park could have resulted so quickly from the first rain.

I was pleased to note that in the coming week temperatures are set to be between 28 and 30 degrees C at the most, which is very encouraging after being 30-33 in the past couple of weeks. Today I only used my study air conditioning for a couple of hours; the rest of the time the ceiling fan was sufficient. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Three weeks out of Cyprus

On August 20th, I flew to the UK for a three-week visit to family and friends. This was partly prompted by the need to get out of Cyprus for a few weeks in the hottest part of the year, partly by a wish to see the family again, and partly so that I could deposit a cheque in our UK bank account which, if successful, would actually pay for the flights! (see note at the end for explanation)*

The flight took me to Gatwick arriving around 10.30pm so I had checked into a Travelodge nearby, which I reached via the useful shuttle bus. I slept well, had a good breakfast, and then returned, also by shuttle bus, to the airport. That's because the next part of my journey was by train. While I am very comfortable with buses, and reasonably so with aeroplanes, I didn't grow up using trains, and find them a little nerve-wracking, at least until I'm safely seated and have had ample confirmation that I'm on the right one.

The train was on time, and I even thought to take a photo of a station that we passed through; living in Cyprus for so long, even railways stations strike me as interesting:

Tim met me in Surrey, where he's now living and working, and I checked in at a very nice 'airb&b' place about a mile and a half from where he is now staying. We had lunch out, and during the course of the day did rather a lot of walking - seven miles in all, he calculated - which unfortunately left my knees very painful for a while. Perhaps middle age is finally hitting me; arthritis is on both sides of the family.

So when it was time for me to return to my b&b, he introduced me to 'Uber taxis', which he booked and even paid for via his phone. Inexpensive, efficient, and quick. Technology is sometimes a good thing.

On Monday we caught a local train into Epsom, so I could bank my cheque. And while I'm not a great fan of shopping in general, I do like the variety of big UK stores, so I popped into several, becoming gradually aware that Tim was hustling me on.  I then discovered that he had a terrific surprise awaiting me:

Yes!  A Lakeland shop waiting to be browsed!  I was so pleased.  Not that I bought anything, since I recently had a delivery to Cyprus from their website, but I do like looking around.  Other than bookshops, Lakeland is probably my favourite of all UK shops.

By using trains and another Uber taxi, my knees were fine by the end of the day. But we were both tired, so we decided to spend Tuesday in a large park about mid-way between where we were both staying. The weather was warm, the benches inviting, and we both had our Kindles.  There's a small library in the park so Tim joined it and took out his first book.

We had lunch at a nice little cafe set around the back of the library, and in the afternoon I was able to meet up with a university friend who lives just a few miles away, and whom I had not seen for 34 years. It was very good to catch up.

On Wednesday we caught more trains to go and visit my mother-in-law who lives about an hour's journey away, and on Thursday we decided to hang out in the park again and have another quiet day. We watched the birds on the lake:

... and I had a sudden craving for ice cream. Joy of joys, the little cafe sold Magnums:

Tim, being dairy-free, had to have a Calippo, and we were a little startled to notice that one of the three languages on the side was Greek:

We had dinner out, in the evening, with my aunt and uncle who are also about an hour's journey away, and then on the Friday I got on another train to travel to the Midlands. Actually it was four trains in all: three normal ones, and one London Underground. I was particularly nervous about the Underground as I'm not at all familiar with it, but was reassured to learn that it was a fifteen-minute journey, and I had an hour between my two trains.

I was met at Stratford by my father and his wife, in good spirits and, happily, good health, and after we arrived at their house my sister and niece arrived for the day.

We had a delicious lunch, which included this wonderful looking (and even better tasting) cheesecake:

On Saturday we spent most of the day with some step-relatives, on Sunday we went to the local church and had a peaceful afternoon. On Monday, which was a public holiday in the UK, my two brothers and their wives came for lunch and the afternoon, and when we went for a walk we took some carrier bags so that we could collect some local blackberries:

The following day we drove into Stratford so my father could buy a reconditioned laptop, and it was a beautiful day:

Among other things we popped into the Stratford Lakeland - not a surprise this time, as I knew it was there, but still interesting to see:

Lakeland store front in Stratford-upon-Avon

And here's the obligatory photo of Shakespeare's birthplace:

Seeing the front of Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon

The rest of the week passed peacefully with local walks:

I was very interested to see this telephone box. It's not exactly a tardis but nonetheless a great deal bigger on the inside than it appears, since it functions as a local free library/book exchange:

A red telephone box, now used as a local library

The week passed happily, doing a bit of gardening, and on Friday I caught another train, this time to Birmingham. I was met by one of my closest and longest-standing friends who treated me to lunch in the Art Gallery, and we then looked at some of the painted benches that have been part of a schools 'book' project. I particularly liked this one portraying Alice in Wonderland:

Outside, Birmingham seems to have endless construction work; it's different every time I visit (which, admittedly, isn't all that often!)

I stayed for the weekend, spending lots of time catching up on our lives and families, and also meeting my friend's new grandson - the son of my goddaughter - who is delightful.

And then, at last, another train, up to Carlisle to see Daniel, Becky, and my wonderful grandson David who has just turned two-and-a-quarter:

The weather wasn't nearly so good as it had been further south; but then September had started.

David is very lively so we went on lots of walks:

He's interested in everything, but most of all anything technical or mechanical. Here he is, pausing to look at some diggers...

The time went all too quickly, and on Saturday I caught yet another train to Manchester Airport, and flew back to Cyprus. I wasn't prepared for the humidity, but at least it's a few degrees cooler than it was when I departed three weeks earlier.

*I mentioned back in April that my flight to the UK then was delayed by 24 hours. We put in a claim, and within a few weeks of my return I was sent a cheque for 400 euros. I was surprised at how easy it seemed to be, from a budget airline that isn't renowned for paying out compensation claims quickly.

The first problem arose when I tried to deposit it in our Cyprus bank account. At the bottom was a note saying that the cheque could only be deposited in the UK. Bizarre, I thought, since it was a euro cheque, but Tim was flying to the UK in May, so I signed the back and made sure he had our UK bank account details, and passed it to him. When he tried to deposit it, he was told that I would have to authorise the commission charges and exchange rate, so it could only be deposited by me.

Since the cheque was going to expire within six months of issue, it was the final push I needed to check details and arrange to visit various family members for three weeks in August.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A third sleepover for young friends

Three years ago, we experimented with a sleepover for our friends' three youngest children, while their older siblings were at camp. The idea was to give their parents 24 hours to themselves. Their parents were in fact expecting to collect them soon after breakfast on the following morning, and - at the girls' insistence - they ended up staying until after an early lunch, 27 hours in all, although tempers were getting a little frayed by the end, and Elisabeth, who was only four at the time, was very tired.

Last year we repeated it, with similar results. The girls ended up staying 26 hours and, once again, the last couple of hours were rather fraught.

This year, we weren't sure if it would be able to happen at all. I was hoping to go to the UK for three weeks but dates weren't arranged until very recently. I'm not in fact going until Saturday; moreover, camp is a little earlier than it was in previous years.  More of a problem is the fact that our son Tim's cat Lady Jane has moved here, as he has gone back to the UK, and she's treating what was his bedroom (years ago) as her domain. To have three lively girls sleeping there would have caused her immense stress.

However, Katie - who is 11, and quite outspoken - was sensitive enough to realise that this might be a problem, and said, about a week ago, how she understood that they probably wouldn't be able to have a sleepover this year. So I said that perhaps we could all sleep in our guest flat... and she was so pleased that we made a date for them to sleep over last night.

Since the paper dolls I printed for them last year were so successful, I looked for more a couple of days ago, wondering if I could find some with 18th century ball gowns of the kind that they like to colour. In searching online I discovered this wonderful website with printable paper dolls from many periods in history.  I only intended to print three or four... I ended up with about twenty pages for each of the girls. There are many more for future visits.

Remembering the somewhat stressful ends of the previous two years, I suggested agreeing in advance that this year's sleepover would be 24 hours only. And they arrived yesterday around eleven o'clock in the morning, after seeing their older siblings off to camp on the bus.

They were delighted with the historical paper dolls and started colouring immediately:

However, although Elisabeth is now six, she doesn't concentrate for as long as her siblings, and soon wanted a break. She loves to play games, so we had a few rounds of Ligretto:

Then Helen, who is very good with her hands, decided to continue some knitting she started a couple of months ago. She's becoming quite proficient, and has even managed to figure out how to reverse mistakes and pick up dropped stitches:

Katie, as ever, took some time to read:

Elisabeth asked if I would read to her; the only book I actually read her in the whole 24 hours was 'Dogger' by Shirley Hughes, which is my favourite children's picture book:

Richard was out all morning but came back for lunch. I'd made a new loaf of bread, and some peanut butter, and boiled some eggs, and cut up lots of salad vegetables:

After lunch, Helen and Elisabeth got out 'their' Lego. I've allocated a small crate to each of the three to store their various creations from week to week, so they don't fight over who built what, and this seems to work quite well.

Katie, meanwhile, continued colouring her paper dolls. She kept thanking me and saying how much she liked them.

Alex spent most of the morning curled up on top of the printer...

Elisabeth then asked if we could play 'Misfits', and Helen said she'd join in too. It's a very basic game suitable for children of about three, but they still like it, and are amused by the resultant ridiculous people that get created, different each time:

Afterwards, Elisabeth put them all together 'properly' before putting them all back in the box. Well, she insisted that she put everything away but then Katie found one of the pieces by the bookcase later in the day...

Out came the Lego again:

When they didn't need me, I sat in my beanbag and read, keeping half an ear open to respond to questions. There was a complex war of some kind going on in these two Lego worlds, but it was relatively quiet and civilised:

I haven't been doing much cooking in the past few weeks as it's been so hot, but I knew the girls would want a hot meal, so I turned the air conditioning on in the kitchen late afternoon, and made some pastry. Then I concocted a couple of sausagemeat pies, one with onions and one without, and also a spanopitta as I mostly avoid eating meat.

I made some coleslaw too, and produced some chopped up cucumbers and some cherry tomatoes. All the girls chose sausagemeat pie without onions, and between them ate what was officially supposed to serve 4 people. Richard, meanwhile, ate a quarter of the one with onions, and I ate a third of the spanopitta.

I was surprised when Katie informed Helen that in order to make the sausagemeat pie I must have taken all the skins off lots of 'English sausages' (as ordinary sausages are labelled here) and assured her that I'd done no such thing. I just used some frozen sausagemeat I'd bought before Christmas but hadn't used. She said that her brother Lukas takes the insides out of sausages to make this kind of thing, which seemed like a very complex process to me, and not something I would even think of doing!

I'd bought a melon that morning; it was a bit hard but still quite tasty so we had that afterwards. And then Elisabeth was quite eager to go to bed. I tried to dissuade them as it was only 7.15, and I didn't think they would get to sleep for at least another hour, but they wanted to brush their teeth... and as I hadn't slept well the night before and was very tired myself, I shrugged and agreed, and we went downstairs to the guest flat.

Helen and Elisabeth got ready for bed easily, and Katie, who stays up till 9.00, sat in the living room reading. Of course they didn't get to sleep at once... I ignored quiet talking, but Elisabeth came out about three times to drink water, or to tell me something Helen had done, and Katie went to turn off lights at least twice, and apparently found them jumping on beds. By then I had rather a headache and was feeling shattered so I got rather annoyed...

Richard, meanwhile, fed the cats, changed the litter, put on the dishwasher and locked up the main part of the house. And shortly after Katie went to bed, I did too.

I woke about 5.30am and came upstairs to have a shower, then went back down to read. Helen woke about 6.15 and had a shower in the guest flat, then came to play with one or two of the puzzles we keep downstairs, then the K'nex, which also lives in the guest flat.  I didn't take any more photos... I forgot at first, then thought there had probably been enough.

The girls had breakfast about 8.30; I knew there was some cereal in the guest flat, left behind by other visitors, so I brought it upstairs and they were delighted to find some chocolate granola, which they finished. Some of them had toast, some of them had bananas, some had some other cereal, and they had a few pieces of apple.

After breakfast, Katie coloured more paper dolls and read some more; Helen did more knitting and colouring; three of us played a few rounds of Ligretto; two of them played with Lego.... and at 11.00 their mother arrived to take them home again.

Elisabeth had become a bit bored and whiny a few times, not in a major way but often enough that I realised it was the right decision to stick at 24 hours, at least for this year.

Now they're a little older, I didn't feel nearly as exhausted afterwards as I did in the previous years, but still - being very much an Introvert - quite drained by so much focussed people-time.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Assimilating Bookcases

Our son Tim has been living in Cyprus for the past three years; initially with us, and then, for the past couple of years, in a flat he was renting close to his workplace. However he's now accepted a job back in the UK, and will be moving there in about ten days. So he and his cat have moved into our guest flat, temporarily, and the last fortnight has been spent clearing out and cleaning his flat. His landlord bought some of his furniture, some has gone into storage, and some has come to us.

I was particularly keen to have his three bookcases: two large black Billy ones which he bought from Ikea, and a light brown one which I think we probably bought at the thrift store some years ago.

I can never resist bookcases, but we did already have quite a few and are running out of wall space. We had some ideas about where to put three more, but it took most of last weekend to get them sorted. I posted on Facebook that I was 'assimilating bookcases', and someone queried the term; it sounds, after all, rather 'Borg' to assimilate something. Yet the word simply means adopting, taking as one's own, absorbing into oneself - or, in this case, into our home. Indeed, I realise it's the term I used five years ago in one of our previous acquisitions of bookcases.

The light brown one was the simplest. At least, I thought it would be. There's a space in my study where I used to have one of my bookcases, and I had decided I wanted to keep the photo albums there, rather than on a high shelf in our dining room. I am still slowly scanning through old negatives, and kept having to dash to and fro to check dates in albums.

However the one from Tim's flat was a little narrower than I had thought, so I decided to make that into my recipe bookcase at the end of the kitchen:

That meant that the one which used to hold the recipe books, which was a bit wider, could come into my study.  I already had a matching bookcase which held the fiction books I'm planning to read soon, my writing books and some other reference and useful non-fiction that I refer to often, so I moved those into this bookcase:

And the photo albums then went into the matching one by my desk, making them convenient to check quickly when scanning:

So that was the first bookcase sorted and assimilated.

We knew that we wanted one of the black Billy bookcases in our living room. But that was even less straightforward. We had a pale brown Billy bookcase that held all our DVDs, but it was - metaphorically speaking - bulging at the seams. There was no room for any new ones at all.  We had a couple of old-style dark brown Billy units that we bought from friends ten years ago, which are 90cm wide rather than 80cm, so I decided to use one of those for the DVDs instead, to give some extra space.

So the DVDs came out of the old light brown unit, and the books came out of the dark brown Billy, and that went next to the window in the living room to house our DVDs, with space for more:

We have around 300 DVDs, which compares nicely with our 3,000 or so books.

The new black Billy went in the gap where the wider one was previously. I had to move some of the books it had held into the one in the corner, but I managed to move other things around to allow for that.

Unsurprisingly, this new arrangement leaves a 10cm gap, and eventually we'll probably take the books out of the one on the right and move it up, but it's not urgent.

The light brown unit which previously held the DVDs was then moved up to the room which used to be Tim's, and where he will sleep on future visits from the UK. It's housing some of his theology books at present, since he's flying with just a couple of suitcases, staying in temporary accommodation until he has longer-term plans.

As for the other tall black Billy bookcase, I realised that could go in our dining room; or, rather, the place between the dining area and kitchen, where we had a shorter Billy that held my teenage fiction. We had the place mats and a few other bits and pieces on top of it, so it was easy enough to replace the books in the tall bookcase, and put the other things on shelves:

That left us with a short black Billy which sat in the living room for a while.  Eventually I realised that that could go on a convenient gap in our staircase, where we had another shelving unit that held tall art books, old computer manuals, and some folders of music that isn't currently used (piano, guitar and clarinet, primarily) but which might be needed at some point.

It fits nicely and looks much better:

But then we were left with the slatted shelving unit which previously held all these books....

No problem; I wanted something taller in the unused shower cubicle in my study, where we keep beach equipment, cool bags, my shopping trolley and a few other random things that don't go anywhere else.

So I cleared out the old unit, which was much shorter, and replaced it with the tall one, making everything easier to access:

That left me with a smaller pine shelving unit... and it didn't take long to realise that it would go quite nicely in our main floor loo, where there was an ancient white (and rather tatty) unit.  It felt a little awkward at first, but looks a great deal better:

... which left a small white unit, and I realised today that it's gone. I have no idea where.

I think 'assimilation' is definitely the correct term!

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Laundering Lego...

As I have mentioned before, from time to time, on Tuesday mornings my friend Sheila comes over for a couple of hours, bringing one or more of her daughters. We started this when the 'Mums and Tots' group which she belonged to and where I helped stopped meeting on a Tuesday, many years ago now. The girls are a great deal older than 'Tots' age, but are all educated at home. So we've continued the tradition, and mostly enjoy it very much.

Sometimes they spend most of their time colouring or drawing, sometimes we play board or card games, sometimes we read a lot of books... and sometimes they spend their time with the Lego. I always considered Lego one of the most important educational tools: it teaches construction skills, various maths concepts, and also exercises the imagination. My sons had a lot of Lego as children, mostly sets given by generous relatives. They would always start by building the relevant objects or scenes, but would then quickly adapt them, and eventually incorporate them into other imaginative play. For some years they had a huge Lego city, which led to many hours of play with their friends.

We've gradually given away most of their childhood toys, but the Lego has remained. The boxes and instructions are long gone, but it doesn't matter at all.

A couple of weeks ago, H (7) decided to build a straw house, so she used a lot of yellow:

E (6) meanwhile had her king and queen feasting:

This 'forest' seemed a bit sparse....

K (10) had built this house, and was creating inside scenes:

E asked for some yarn, and then created a carriage out of what had been a ship:

After a couple of weeks of intensive Lego, I started thinking about the rest of our collection which was stored in our guest flat. From time to time we've gone down and gathered a few extra pieces - mostly dragons and horses - but I knew it was a muddle of pieces, some of which could potentially be useful.

So I went downstairs to fetch it. And the girls were delighted, and found several things they wanted to use....

Unfortunately, it had been stored for some years in an old trunk which had begun to disintegrate. While it was now in a more hygienic plastic box, it smelled very musty. So when Sheila and her daughters had gone home, I decided that it would be a good idea to wash it.

It was a pity I didn't think of that sooner, since a lot of the musty pieces had become mixed up with the Lego we previously had upstairs, meaning that ALL of it had to be washed. And this proved to be a major task, which took me most of the rest of that day, and almost all of Wednesday.  There were several times when I rather regretted having started, since the temperatures were quite hot - then again, it did all dry fairly quickly.

I used crates to wash pieces, a few hundred at a time, in the sink with a bit of washing-up liquid, then spread everything on a towel to dry.

As I did, I started some rough sorting, including finding parts of 'people' which, in many cases, were muddled up with other pieces. The heads, round and yellow, were fairly easy to spot but some of the leg pieces were hidden until I spread them out and began to go through every piece.

It didn't all dry quite as fast as I hoped, so the kitchen was a complete muddle for a day and a half, with scenes like this:

As well as sorting people, I made a box for trees and foliage of all kinds, and was surprised at how much there was:

Another box took wheels and the pieces that held them together.

The girls had told me that they didn't need many of them, so the big 'space' and 'snow' wheels went in a box to go downstairs, along with some of the basic bricks and all the 'technic' lego which is really intended for older children and teens. They never play with the 'space' lego either, so when I found something that obviously belonged to that, I put it aside for downstairs too.

One of the 'people' we had upstairs was a skeleton, and I knew there must be another one somewhere, probably in parts, as we had a spare arm or two.  To my astonishment, I kept finding more skeleton pieces, and Tim told me that the 'Pharaoh' masks were supposed to go on some of them, as they were part of the Egyptian explorers sets which they had at some point.

Eventually I put together six of them, three to keep upstairs, and three for downstairs:

The girls were coming back Thursday morning, so Sheila could go and help at the Oasis refugee centre, so it was a useful deadline.  And sure enough, with a great deal of sorting - it became compulsive, somehow! - I managed to get everything back in the cupboard by nine o'clock Thursday morning:

I even managed to find three stacking blue crates, one of which I allocated to each of the girls, so they can keep their current projects in them rather than having them muddled in with the main box.

As well as Lego in the downstairs box, I found the boys' old Meccano, which has gone downstairs again:

I also found several pieces of K'nex, which I added to the larger box of that, also downstairs currently:

And this miscellaneous box of bits, which I might sort one day:

Or maybe not. Most mysterious of all are three purple knobbly square plastic objects, about a centimetre across. I've put them with the K'nex for now, although I think they belong to something else. But despite asking around, and even putting a photo on Facebook, I still have no idea what they are, or what toy - or game? - they belong to: