Friday, December 29, 2006

29 December: Catch up

As you may have realised, I had a Birthday. (I now have the Bus Pass, too, but haven't yet used it.) My daughter made a chocolate cake to a recipe from Australian Women's Weekly Quick Mix Cakes, I added chocolate icing (novel texture because of running out of icing sugar), and my grand-daughter, with assistance, did the writing. The candle sang Happy Birthday.

The intake of books this year has been excellent. There is a huge book about gardens and gardening that I have only glanced at, a book about Longitude, and 3 that I have really got into. There was "Blood of the Isles" by Bryan Sykes - an analysis of DNA to determine the tribal origins of Britons; "No Nettles Required" by Ken Thompson - an analysis of real wildlife in gardens, not just the large creatures (though I notice he barely mentions rats!); and "England in Particular" by Sue Clifford and Angela King, Common Ground. All excellent - if you like that sort of thing, which of course you may not.

The holiday has produced some curious information from StatCounter - who would need to google "appendectomy female beach volleyball" for instance, or "helicopter and light aircraft birdbath"? What were they hoping to find? Anyway, they found the String Bag. And apparently, here is top google result for "bathmat" - astonishing.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

27 December: Nightmare

Our Internet connection went AWOL on Christmas Eve (on our return from a short trip Down South), and DH has only just been able to restore it. Something that Mac Technical Support were unable to do, I feel obliged to add.

It's been hell, folks, hell.

No blogs, no iTunes, no easy browsing for odds and ends. Awful.

Still, on the positive side, I've got lots of knitting done.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

19 December: Winter draws on

Last night we had our first proper frost of the winter. The back garden was coated in rime. This is one of the calendulas still flowering.

And here is a leaf from the liquidambar among the nasturtiums.

And this is the lobelia I've been trying to get a decent photo of for months. Last chance.

Monday, December 18, 2006

18 December: A Project

After doing a lot of tidying up, I started on a new project. In a box were some fabrics bought a couple of years ago, in colours I don't normally choose. They have been cut up to make enough squares for a simple quilt. Here they are, stacked up on my work table. The sewing box is open, the radio/CD player is standing by, and there's a cup of coffee in the middle.

Here's a view of the whole room, with everything neatly to hand (even if a whole heap of stuff has to be moved to get at what's at the back).

Now I shall spend all afternoon sewing.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

17 December: Normal service

Well, after all that excitement, it's back to normal.

But what is "normal" now? Now I've achieved the lifetime ambition of staying at home and having the money posted, what next?

There are ongoing projects, and a whole stack of things I want to try out, but do I need a schedule? So many possibilities, it's likely that I won't be able to make a decision, and will not make the most of it.

It's a bit frightening.

To start with, a bit of tinkering with the new toy that is Blogger (Beta'd but unbowed).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

14 December: Bathmat - unwatched

A knock at the door.
Van-man with a parcel.
Funny - I wasn't expecting anything. But it's got my name on; perhaps DH ordered something.
Realisation dawns - it's the Bathmat from Smaller than Life!!

Here it is, all ready for action.
But - heavens to Betsy, the mat has already had mittens!

Update - as well as continuing to get visitors looking for Fred Knit***, there has now been someone here looking for a Stuffed Dalek Knitting Pattern.
Sorry, those words may have all appeared here, but never actually all together - till now.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

12 December: The End, or The Beginning?

And just as I'd decided what I want to be when I grow up.*

Today was my last day at work. I am now on leave until the end of next week, when I become an Old Age Pensioner.

If I repeat that often enough, will I stop giggling?

Anyway, with luck I'll never see the inside of a court again. I shall miss the people I worked with, and all the chat - but I probably won't miss the customers, though I'll be seeing plenty of them every time I go out. And if I fall asleep after lunch, there won't be the worry that I might snore, or fall over.

And now, to fill the time, perhaps there should be new hobbies.
Unicycling round Europe?
A new language - Polish, or Swahili?
Learning to play that guitar I've had for 39 years?
Beach volleyball?


Saturday, December 09, 2006

9 December: Durham Coast

Today we walked north of Sunderland, a circular walk down the coast, inland over Cleadon Hill, and back to the sea. We parked by Souter Lighthouse:

The wind was strong enough to affect my horizontal hold. Then south, along the cliff-top path. The strong low sun made photography difficult, but I liked this picture of the cliffs, beach, and sea:

We turned inland at Whitburn. It was the first time I'd been there since I fell on the beach and broke my knee 2 and a half years ago. The village is charming, with a nice little church, a Gothick confection of a vicarage with fancy chimneys and lacy brickwork frills, and lots of expensive Georgian village houses.

After a snack in a park, we followed a path along field edges to the top of the hill. From here we could see south past Teesside to the Cleveland Hills. There's the ruin of a windmill at the top. The wind was blowing straight and hard and chill off the Pennines today - it would have turned the absent sails wonderfully well.

Another food stop near a Victorian water tower, where we watched a prat in a 4 wheel drive vehicle tear up and down the bumpy common.
The path crossed a golf course ("Look out for Golf Balls from the Right") then gave us amazing views up the Northumberland coast before dropping down to Marsden. The cliff top path took us back to Souter.

Then we drove up to South Shields to see the "Conversation Piece" by Juan Munoz - a number of figures grouped and spaced in a big paved area behind the dunes.

Then back to a roaring fire, pots of tea, and an early birthday cake.

Brilliant day.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

7 December: Success!

Got the photos uploaded, but because it took so long to get the posting prepared, it has appeared earlier than the last one (if you see what I mean).

So to read it, scroll down a bit, to 6 December: Family.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

6 December: Blogger problem

I've been trying to upload some photos, but Blogger has failed, and come up with an error message.

Anyone else having this sort of trouble? Is it them, or me?

Later - been reading e-mails on the Blogger Help Group page - it seems this is a widespread problem. Beta Blogger was supposed to be improved, but there have been problems using this when there weren't with the earlier (alpha?) version, and they don't let you change back.

Later, 7.30 pm - Hurrah! Photos back again. The stuff I was trying to post will shortly appear, probably after this .

6 December: Family

Yesterday Dad would have been 98, if he hadn't died 10 years ago.

Recently I've written up my family history research into a sort of book, realising in the process how little I know about my grandparents and their siblings, parents and grandparents. Now the basic facts of birth, marriage and death dates are discovered (or at least most of them - some are still elusive), I'd like to go on and find out more about them and the lives they may have led.

Going back up the female line, this is my great-grandmother, the earliest of my fore-mothers to feature in any photo we now have. She was Annie Edwards, born in 1853 in central Birmingham, and died in 1919 in Brixton.

She married a jockey (lots of racing in central Birmingham in those days!), and had 8 children, 3 of whom died in infancy. Her husband was involved with horses all his life, and kept a hunter in the stables at his place in Brixton (a trendy area in the early 1900s).

Then Annie's daughter Maude (born 1886) went on the Music Halls, where she met my grandfather, married in 1910, and my mother was born later that year. So this photo of the family must date from about 1912. Fashionable outfits - but as stage folk they had to keep up appearances.

And here's a family classic - me at Swanage in about 1952. The scowl was the result of a recent appendectomy, coupled with a stony beach and a very scratchy bathing suit made by Mum.

I still tend to scowl when concentrating, which has frightened a lot of people, though not intentionally - well not always!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

3 December: Fred Knittle again

I have been trying to divert searches for Fred (and there have been a lot of them) to the Young @ Heart chorus website - and have now got a download of Fred singing Fix You.

The mp3 track is available from the website for a very small cost.

It's a great song, and Fred sings it wonderfully - buy it for Christmas.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

2 December: Christmas time is here by golly

....Deck the halls with hunks of holly....

Or, in the case of our neighbours, as many lights as B&Q and Argos sell.

....Fill the cup and don't say when....

Those drunk drivers keep the courts busy all through January.

....Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens....

The Muppet Christmas Carol again.

....Even though the prospect sickens, brother here we go again....

Hate to say it, but when the Amazon parcel arrives next week, all my festive non-food shopping will be done.

We whizzed into Durham early this morning, at 9 o'clock were on the doorstep of the shop we wanted , and by the time we left, at 9.45, the queue for the car park was back round the roundabout and clogging up the bridge. And 3 more Saturdays to go!

The thing I dislike most about the festive season is that normal life is practically impossible for weeks beforehand, and by 9 a.m. on 26 December people are asking "Did you have a good Christmas?", as they dash off to book their holiday and buy bargains in the sales, which started 10 minutes ago.

But let's not forget the real message of Christmas -

....God rest you merry merchants, may you make the Yuletide pay....

This has been a Bah Humbug production.

P.S. Blogger has now removed all editing buttons, including the photo publishing one. So no coloured text,links, or pictures till they decide to restore this facility.

P.P.S. Sorry, Blogger - it only needed the cache cleared. Still a lot to learn about this Internet lark.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

30 November: Birds

At lunchtime, while the kettle was boiling, I glanced out of the window, and saw a flock of sparrows milling about on the path. They were still there when I returned with the camera.

They were eating seed spilt from the hanging feeder you can just see the bottom of, by the post on the left.

A solitary starling was chased away from the seed on the ground. It went to wash in the bird-bath at the far end of the path, and was again surrounded by sparrows.

Then 3 collared doves arrived.

There have not been a lot of birds to be seen in the garden recently, apart from the regular breakfast time pair of dunnocks.

That's the trunk/stem of Mme Alfred Carriere in the lower picture, on the right.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

29 November: Beta Blogger

Shut my eyes and took the leap - this wonderful bag of strings now comes to you in Beta Blogger.

As far as I can see (without my glasses of course) the only difference is that some of the comments seem to be written by anonymous. So if you want me to understand, you just might need to put your name in the comment.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

26 November: Gloomy

Some of the neighbours have been out with their step-ladders, putting up the external Chr*****s decorations. One of them involves a row of little Chr*****s trees in planters - let's just hope it doesn't break into "Well here it is, Merry Chr...." every time someone walks past.

The weather's been dull, DH has had a nasty sickness and diarrhoea bug (why does Blogger think that's wrongly spelt?), I've been sleeping badly and my eczema's playing up, a meeting yesterday produced an unexpected depression, and I'm sick to death of people asking me how much longer I have to work.

But the sun's come out, I've spent all morning spinning, been out for a walk, and now things can only get better - apart from the guy putting up more bloody Chr*****s lights on the house smack opposite our front door. Pardon my swearing.

Isn't "pardon" one of those terribly non-U words, like "toilet" and "serviette"? I do like using non-U words, but somehow, I don't think *netty* falls into either category.

(You see, I may not have the local accent, but I can manage the vocabulary.)

Now I think I'll go and ply those singles I spun this morning. And maybe even look forward to going to work tomorrow.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

23 November: Fred Knittle rocks!

Statcounter tells me there have been a lot of visitors looking for information about Fred Knittle.

I know little about him, or the Young @ Heart chorus - only what was in the TV programme and what is on their website, which you can find at

Anyone know of any similar group in Britain?

Update on 2 December - there is now a piece about Fred on the Young @ Heart chorus website.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

22 November: In the garden

Madame Alfred Carriere* needed a trim.

There were 6-8 foot lengths of growth sticking out all over the top, and the wind had broken one down; half an hour with the stepladder and secateurs had the old girl (though she is only 4 years old) looking much tidier.

Then I looked for some more contributions to my series of leaf litter photos. This is liquidambar leaves by the cyclamen -

And here are magnolia leaves by foxglove and sweet williams -

And the lily looked lovely, with still a bit of nasturtium surviving the frosts -

On the technology front, the "upgraded" broadband doesn't seem to have made any difference. And the Statcounter is pretty incomprehensible, especially as it refuses to ignore my own visits. Still, it revealed that the String Bag was Google's top choice for "fred knittle fix you".

I'm not sure I want this sort of publicity.

* She is, of course, a rose.

Monday, November 20, 2006

21 November: Upgraded

Our internet access has been rudely interrupted by our ISP.

On Saturday they upgraded us to super-fast broadband - which resulted in total inability to access any internet thingy* at all.

A call to Technical Support this morning (and why are we supposed to find it easier to speak to a lass with a very strong Indian accent if she calls herself Caroline?) was partly reassuring, in that it was nothing to do with them.

So we needed to contact the makers of the router. Huh? Oh well, I'm not very technologically minded, so that was the next step.

But I got home from work quite late, and feeling very stressed - it's this looming retirement thingy*, I think.

So I asked DH to ring the router people. He tried 4 or 5 times to get through, and could only stand about 10 minutes of the holding music each time, so it took a while to get through to them.

Then of course, it was simple - just open the browser you hardly ever use, type in a sequence of numbers (now why didn't we think of that!), and there we are, back online.

Much less stressed now - was it a good meal, or perhaps getting up to date with PeanutYorkie, z, kaz, murph, Bathmatwatch, etc, etc.

Good heavens, it wasn't stress, it was withdrawal symptoms!

is borrowed from greavsie - thank you.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

16 November: Oak, and Ash, and Thorn

Needing fresh air after several days hunched over a computer, yesterday afternoon I went out for a local walk. As I've recently been reading "Woodlands" by Oliver Rackham, part of the New Naturalist Library, I was paying more attention than usual to the individual trees.

Along the lane, I noticed oak and ash and thorn, and thought of the Kipling poem "A Tree Song".

On the other side of the lane are a row of lime trees -

Then walking through the fields towards the farm, there's a large solitary ash tree in the hedge -

Along the track leading from the farm to the road is an old thorn hedge, which these days is trimmed with a tractor and one of those flail things, but you can see at the base where it was once cut and laid properly -

And in one place a large tree has been cut down. Even though the stump has been burnt, and is now full of casual rubbish from passers by, it is doing its best to grow with dozens of new shoots from the base. Closer inspection revealed that there are actually two sorts of shoots - the ash of the big stump itself, and some other shoots, on the left in the photo, which may be hornbeam.

"Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
Than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

14 November: Lucky day

Home from a "hard day at work" to find an official-looking, computer-produced missive in a window envelope.

The communication that is expected is concerning one of my forthcoming pensions, but it wasn't that.

ERNIE has chosen one of my Premium Bonds for a prize!!

Hold the begging letters, though - it was only £50.

Now, bearing in mind that we are teetotal vegetarians, what shall we spend it on?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

12 November: Salute to Fred Knittle

Last night we caught a documentary on More4 about a New England singing group called Young @ Heart, a bunch of geriatrics who haven't given in to old age, and who have a lot of rock songs in their eclectic repertoire.

It was riveting. Far and away the best thing I've seen on TV for ages.

And at the end Fred, a big fat guy in his 80s, on oxygen, who couldn't stand up, sang absolutely wonderfully and beautifully 'Fix you', a Coldplay song, for two of the group who'd died that week.

DH has had to download the Coldplay album and the video.

The documentary is being shown again on Channel 4 on 22 November - WATCH IT.

Update on 2 December: There is now a piece about Fred on the Young @ Heart chorus website -

Saturday, November 11, 2006

11 November: Busy, busy, busy

When I got up this morning, my hair looked just like a film star's - unfortunately, the film star was Stan Laurel.

Late to bed last night, tired from working hard for the last 3 days on a half-finished project - writing up the family history research. The first draft is completed (I think that's the proper writer-speak), but it'll need altering in several places.

The idea was to turn all the fact and dates into something a little more readable, and I think it has only partially succeeded. When all you know about someone is their date of birth, a few things from marriage certificates and census entries, it's difficult to imagine what they were like as people, or what life was like for them. You can end up inventing all sorts of nonsense.

Photos of people and places have been included, as well as some old, and up-to-date, maps of areas where they lived, but photos are few, often of poor quality, and sometimes of unidentifiable subjects.

There's masses more to find out, as well. I'd like to know more about the stage careers of my grandparents' generation - at least 7 were performers and one or two went on to be producers and theatre managers. And I'd love to find out if Great-uncle Tom ever published his book. It was provisionally titled "Ventriloquism in Theory and Practice: Its Acquirement and Adaptation", or, as we like to think of it, "Ventriloquism for Dummies".

Thursday, November 09, 2006

9 November: After the frost

Now we've had a frost, the leaves have come tumbling off the trees. These have come off the gingko and the acer griseum. The low sun made strong shadows.

Under another little acer, a few pinks are still flowering.

And there are some interesting seedheads on some of the plants - this is elecampagne, which has rather dull flowers.

The sunshine makes me feel more energetic, after a tiring start to the week.
I went to Leeds on Monday for a course. Leeds station at 8.15 in the morning is just like one enormous rugby scrum! The train down was pretty quiet, as most people were still half asleep, but coming back just after 5, they all had the mobile phones out, and the chatter factor was a lot higher. There wasn't any opportunity to see much of Leeds, other than the walk from the station and back - the main impression is that there are an awful lot of huge and impressive buildings.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

5 November: Transiency - and mittens.

The loss of yesterday's posting just demonstrates how transient this life is. Bit of philosophy there.

For those of you who missed it while it was visible, it detailed a trip to Newcastle, the usual struggle with finding suitable garments, the usual struggle with the fitting rooms, losing DH in Marks and Sparks, an exceedingly strong cup of coffee in Bainbridge's poncy new "brasserie", and coming home in triumph with new jeans, for a nice lie down.

Here's the recent project I've been working on. It's a small rug, about 3 feet square, made from a box of rug wool that I inherited from my mother when she died in 1983. We both used to make rugs from thrums, which were offcuts from the looms of carpet manufacturers, and which they sold in bags of mixed colours. Mum used to buy hers from a place in Hebden Bridge, and from the Axminster factory. This rug also uses some wool from the now defunct Durham carpet factory. The cat really likes it, but he looks strange on it, being striped himself.

And just to prove that I haven't been idling while I've been watching QI, CSI, and other abbreviations on television, here's the latest pair of mittens. Just in time for Bonfire Night, which I shall avoid like the plague, being terrified of explosives.

I apologise for the wool rich content of this posting.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

4 November: Buying Clothes

Blogger just lost this posting.

And I thought it was me that had a memory problem.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

1 November: Memory Lane

It started with garden plants.

Not being able to remember their names, that is. The Latin names never used to be any problem till a couple of years ago, when I realised that some of those names were sliding away from the edges of my memory. Put it down to the brain being full, and as something new came in the front, something dropped out the back.

But it's spread to people now. At work, I see someone come in - good suit, armful of papers, and instantly I can remember that I once bumped into him in an up-market shop, all the intimate details of an embarrassing ailment, I can remember his first name, but his surname? No.

Another arrival - slightly eccentric manner, I can remember the drinking habits, marital status, vehicle and pet, but his name? No.

Why can I remember all the details - who always wants a pen or a hankie, things they've told me like their new deep-fat fryer, their motorbike or their pet chinchilla, or they've never eaten quiche; but names? No.

It's getting difficult.

Thank goodness I'll have to cope with it for only another six weeks.

This has been a knitting-free posting. Thank you.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

29 October: Mittens galore

Here are the mittens I promised the other day - I know you've been waiting impatiently to see them.

The stitch pattern is the same on both, but is clearer on the lavender pair.

And the exercise continues - this afternoon DH suggested a walk - when we got home 2 and three quarter hours later we'd walked 8 and a half miles.

Excuse me now while I go and soak in a hot bath.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

26 October: Fat or Fit?

Kaz posts about being unfit - it must be our age, because I too have been worrying recently about my increasing weight and expanding waistline. Been getting more sedentary, at work and at home, and I have a sweet tooth (several, in fact, with a lot of fillings).

Attempts at getting back into jogging over the last couple of years have got nowhere, partly because of the weakness of the knee I broke, and partly because I was used to running several miles easily, and it's very hard to start from almost scratch again. Then there is a lack of motivation - since I gave up competitive orienteering in 1992 there hasn't been a strong motive for fitness, and as I have been unable to get DH interested, and have been trying to do it on my own, it's been hard. Jogging with other people is good, as you help each other with commitment and progress, but it's absolutely no good trying to join a club when you can't run at least 3 miles at 10 minute mile pace (and better at 8 minute pace) - you would be on your own again as all the others disappear into the distance, leaving you to feel really bad; or some kind soul sacrifices their own run to keep you company, and you feel really bad about that.

Cycling has never been a favourite activity - pointless riding up and down the railway paths, and the traffic is too dangerous on roads; and I can run out of energy quite suddenly and spectacularly cycling. Last time I got on my bike, my knee was too weak to turn the pedals. And then the saddle slipped.

Swimming? Public baths are a nasty mixture of liquids, most of which are not good to swallow, and I find sweating underwater an unpleasant experience. Then there's the lack of any view, and do you wear your glasses and risk them falling off in the water, or do without them, and be half-blind?

Dancing is excellent - vigorous activity and fun. Ceilidhs are great, and I would think that lots of other types of dancing would be good too, but again there's the problem of a partner, finding a group or class nearby, and is a couple of hours once a week enough?

So it comes back to walking - easy, cheap, no special kit, do it anywhere and any time. If you keep going at a speed to raise your breathing rate and make you sweat, it has to be good. No pounding on the joints, either. And if you have your binoculars or camera in your pocket and there's something interesting, you can stop for a moment and look. Getting out of doors is good for skin and hair, and for the mental health. No need for the iPod, either, there's always plenty of things to see, and you can hear the cattle lorry approaching along the lane. If you keep you eyes open, there's often a free snack available - yesterday I found a few sloes and loads of beech nuts. Probably ate as many calories as I used up, but when I got home, the lungs and muscles felt as if they'd been working.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

24 October: In the garden

What's catching the eye in the garden at the moment? Mostly, the masses of nasturtiums that are sprawling all over the place. They won't survive the first frost - so they could be wiped out any night now.

There are some flowers still out from earlier in the year, like roses and marigolds, and the Japanese anemones are still flowering, but under the rowan tree, so not good for photographing. This little hebe was in the sun today, though.

And this shrub was planted for "winter colour" - in 4 years, it's had about 6 tiny flowers out at a time, but it does bloom in the winter. This year it has grown a lot, and is starting to come out while the leaves are still on it. It is viburnum bodnantense Dawn.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

22 October: Another pair of mittens

For those needing a knitting fix, here's another pair of mittens recently knitted. They are made from Wensleydale wool, hand spun and the blue/brown colour hand dyed.
Since I finished these, I knitted another pair, from Blue-faced Leicester wool, in which I tried out another way of doing the thumb, that is with a gusset. (Gusset is a favourite word, and idea.) They will appear here in the fullness of time - bet you can't wait.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

18 October: Veils

(Any random visitors from Google are welcome, whatever their religion, nationality, gender, or whatever. Prepare for disappointment.)

The current fuss about veils is a real missed opportunity by the fashion market. They'd be ideal for those of us with zits, warts, scars, uneven teeth and embryonic moustaches. No need for lippy, and a chance for the more extrovert to decorate in any way they fancied - logos, embroidery, photos of the family, the slogan of your choice. Fashion fabrics, stripes, brocades, floral prints, wool for the winter and seersucker for the summer, maybe even chiffon for evening.

Time for the clothing industry to widen their scope a bit, and make all styles of outfit available to us all? Personally, I've always fancied saris and salwar kamees (if that's how you spell them), and kaftans were popular for a while. Tent-shaped garments could be just the thing for the now prevalent "fuller figure". Let's have a bit more choice in clothes.

On the subject of religion, it has always slightly amused me (as a Buddhist) that Buddha statues are considered suitable for use as ornaments and garden gnomes, but crosses aren't, with or without the little feller (thank you, birdy). Why is that?

They have their uses, though, as a reminder to bow to the Buddha in everyone, and do your best to keep to the Precepts.

All religions seem to have a rule or guide-line to "treat your neighbour as yourself" - what a pity so few people actually try to do that.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

15 October: Autumn

A visit to Durham's Botanic Garden the other day; wonderful colours in the leaves.

A few cold nights have started the them off - later than usual this year?

There is a circle of sculptures near the cafe (good cafe), depicting historical local worthies - this one is George Stephenson.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

11 October: A thread or two

The other day some friends and I were discussing school lessons in cookery and needlework .

Several people had positive memories of learning to sew through their clumsy primary school efforts. Others had learnt to sew and knit before they started school. I don't remember sewing at infant/junior school, but the Grammar School had Domestic Science on the schedule. There was even a 'state of the art' equipped kitchen, installed in one of the temporary huts that mushroomed all round the main building, and were still there for decades. Actually, I don't think the kitchen was much used - with 35 or 40 minute lessons, there wasn't actually enough time to cook anything. But we did take ingredients to classes (provided with difficulty from some homes, and grudgingly from others), and sometimes take "dishes" home.

The one I remember so vividly was Summer Soup. This was chopped up vegetables cooked in a milky, slightly viscous liquid. Carried home in a screw-top jar, it actually looked too much like sick to be consumed, and it was flushed away.

The mention of sick (sorry, folks) reminds me that when the children and I used to go to orienteering on a Sunday morning, we used to take instant Cup-a-Soup with us for a hot snack afterwards. This would be usually mushroom or tomato, brought to life with hot water from a thermos flask. And the question asked when choosing the variety was always "Red sick or white sick?", often to the surprise of neighbours in the car park.

But I digress.
Well, it is "threads from my life".

Learning to sew and knit - I think I learnt in spite of the school lessons. Certainly my Mum taught me to knit, and I was well able to knit a sweater (with fancy stitches) while I was still at school. School sewing lessons were a real trial, as the teacher was a bit of a perfectionist. All my running stitches had to be pulled out and re-done umpteen times, and were mocked by the teacher, and even held up to demonstrate how not to do it.

Meanwhile, at home I had the use of my mother's sewing machine, and was making clothes from patterns, and even altering and adapting the patterns. It was the real world, while the school lessons were artificial. And I quite enjoyed getting a laugh from the class.

And I have continued sewing and knitting, and any other textile type craft, ever since. For several years I made quilts, and a couple of years ago took up spinning, as it was impossible to find knitting wool in the thickness and range of colours I wanted. Braiding, basket-making, rug hooking, simple weaving, and now felt-making have been added to the range of interests. And I do it for my own enjoyment, not to sell or to teach others. And I hope to go on doing so for many more years.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

8 October: Autumn is here

It seems to be a good year for berries - the blackberries were plentiful, and rowans and elders have been loaded, and the hedges look bloodstained with hips and haws.

The hips above and the haws below may provide food for birds over the coming weeks - they have eaten most of the rowan berries already.

And, just in case anyone was needing a picture of some knitting, here's a pair of mittens finished in the last few days. The wool is hand-spun and hand-dyed, and the 2-colour pattern is Faroese.

Thanks to z and Murph for your comments about Statcounters. On the whole, I don't think I need one for the time being.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

4 October: More technology?

StatCounter. StatCounter?

PeanutYorkie mentioned it the other day. Set me off thinking whether I need one or want one. Do I want to know there are about 6 people who visit my blog once a week, or whatever? Do I need to know where they come from and how they get here, and what they were looking for in the first place? (If it was knitted hats, flower photos, and an occasional outing, they'd have struck gold.)

And if I find that more people read certain types of posting, would that make me feel that I should do more of that sort of stuff?

Since I am not trying to sell anyone anything, least of all my writing talent (just as well, really), perhaps it would not serve any useful purpose.

If anyone has any views on this, or any hilarious experiences, do tell.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

1 October: Technology

Changing your computer is a bit like childbirth - after an interval the pain is forgotten in favour of the delight.

So our wedding anniversary present to ourselves has been this new iMac. Bit of a shuffle round of the kit in the study, but at least that was a good opportunity to hoover and dust those places that only get cleaned occasionally (OK, when we change the computer). Plug in a lead from the old one to the new one, and all the files cross over to the new machine like magic - no need to write down all those e-mail addresses or Internet favourites. But re-connecting to the Internet was quite another matter.

The old modem wouldn't plug in - wrong sort of plug on the string - some enquiring revealed that a router was required. Off to PC World, home again, connect up, nothing. Phone call to tech. support suggested we needed a different version of the driver. Back to PC World (10 miles each way each time), assistant astonished, head scratching, exchange for a different router, home again. No idea what, if anything, was done differently, but this time it worked - ah!! (sigh of relief). Lie down in a darkened room with a damp flannel on the forehead.

Now there is enough memory to read camera cards and to have heaps and heaps of music. The inbuilt camera is fun, too. And all afternoon has been spent making CDs of favourite tracks from lots of different albums. Maple Leaf Rag followed by El Paso, Tom Lehrer followed by Blondie, Peter Bellamy followed by Dixie Chicks, James Taylor followed by June Tabor, Jez Lowe followed by The Kinks - now that's what I call music!

Friday, September 29, 2006

29 September: Coast walk

We went up the Northumberland coast yesterday for one of our favourite walks, from Craster to Low Newton by the Sea. It was warm enough for shorts and T shirts, but a surprising number of walkers had zipped up their waterproof jackets. From the 40 photographs I took, here are a few - first a view southwards along Embleton Bay to Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance:

We walked on the beach north to the village of Low Newton by the Sea, where we had lunch at the Ship Inn. They have real ale on hand pumps, and serve local seafood, including Craster kippers and lobsters. They were busy.

Returning south along the path through the dunes, we came across this seat, built from driftwood and other jetsam:

In some places, the waves had made patterns in the sand:

There are lots of pools among the rocks near Dunstanburgh Castle, which are well worth investigating - carefully, though, as nobody wants to fall over and break a kneecap! My "rock pool of the day" contained this rock with its wig of weed:

We returned to Craster and sat by the harbour and drank coffee from our flask. The tide was in and the smokehouse was kippering. On the drive home the traffic was very heavy, as usual, from the Tyne round to the Team Valley. DH did all the driving, and I had a nap on the way home.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

26 September: Sizergh Castle

A trip to Sizergh Castle, just South of Kendal.
The tourist entrance is at the back, but this used to be the front of the castle, with terraces leading down to a lake.

The castle itself has rooms from different eras of building, from a medieval-ish banqueting hall, with spiral stone staircase in the thickness of the wall, through Stuart oak panelled rooms, and a beautiful inlaid panelled room, to a Victorian type drawing room with flock wallpaper in a depressing dark turquoisey colour. As usual, the visitor only sees a small fraction of the building, and is left fascinated by the doors that are marked "Private".
Lots of my favourite 17th century tables, chests, and cupboards. Plus some huge pewter plates that needed some TLC and a good scrub with horsetail. And, as usual, no details about the embroidery.
The large gardens are lovely, and there are lots of places with sheltered seats. This one has a wonderful view across to mountains, which were too misty for a picture yesterday.

And this one has a view down an avenue of cherry trees (note the inclusion of a cherry twig for reference!).

The obligatory tour of the shop yielded a bar of wool fat soap, which I discovered on Saturday to be marvellous for felt-making; and a couple of plants (a helenium and a double white Japanese anemone), which now have to be found spaces in the garden.