Monday, July 31, 2006

31 July: At last the striped cardigan

All assembled, edges finished, buttons and button-loops done, and blocked. And, of course, it's far too hot to need to wear it for weeks and weeks. It's all Blue Faced Leicester, hand spun and the colours other than natural, fawn and brown hand dyed. The design was worked out as it went along.

And in the meanwhile, I knitted these mittens, using the Fair Isle method of doing the thumb, which I've never tried before. For some reason the photo looks a bit too yellow - the fawn BF Leicester is the same as in the cardigan. They are a bit long from the cuff to the thumb, but I was adapting a pattern for a different thickness of wool, and that's how it sometimes goes! DH says they look like fishes.

The current knitting is a version of a double-sided hat that was in Spin Off magazine, Fall 2005 issue, using some odd coloured wools from a parcel of fibre I was given. Watch this space....

Saturday, July 29, 2006

29 July: So far, so good

After a long morning's work at the computer, the first draft of the family history is done. At the moment all that has been covered is direct ancestors, going back as far as the middle of the 18th century in some lines, and from Sussex, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, London, Oxfordshire, Argyllshire, Derry, Donegal, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, and other stopping places.

Now it needs some more illustrations, maps and photos if there are any, and then perhaps on to another section, dealing with the wider families.

And of course, straight away, I've found some more information online about two of the Chester families, and that will mean some amendment, but I guess that will always be the case, at least until I decide it has gone far enough.

Strangely, the part of the family I know least about is my father's more immediate family; he was never very close to them and there was not much said about them when I was small, and by the time I got interested in the family history, he was dead, and although there are lots of photos, naturally they are not labelled except with notes like "Jessie's husband" , or "Aunt Edie", or "Canvey 1927".

When I was a child, occasionally we went to visit Dad's sisters, who both lived 40 or so miles away, but in the 1950s that was quite a journey. Grandma lived near one of the aunts, and she was a bit frightening, being small, sharp and leathery, with a cigarette always lit. The cigarette made a yellowish streak in her otherwise white hair, and her Yorkshire pud was reputed to be enhanced by the fag ash that dropped into it as she whisked it up!

I have now discovered that, as well as being a committed Socialist and Labour party worker all her life, during WW1 she belonged to the Women's Volunteer Reserve, which seems to have been a bit of a feminist outfit. I wish I had known her better.


Back in the present, we've had a small shower of rain - nothing like the downpour which was forecast, but hey, the forecast has been wrong before!

And the ice cream van has been mostly playing "I'm forever blowing bubbles".

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

25 July: The beginning of the end

The end of summer seems to be approaching fast in the garden and the fields, even if not on the calendar.

The buddleia has been out for long enough to need dead-heading, the raspberries are not as plentiful as last week, and there's a combine harvester trundling up and down the field behind our estate.

The schools have just broken up for the summer holidays - this means lots of families have gone away, leaving the burglar alarms set and malfunctioning, and the ice cream van can be heard all day playing "The sun has got his hat on".

And the surest sign of all - a fortnight ago I noticed the first banner in a shop - "Back to School".

Am I jaded and cynical, or what?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

19 July: Mad dogs and Englishmen

The hot weather has been surprisingly difficult; there was a time, not so long ago, when I never felt too hot, and often not warm enough. (Once I came out in goose pimples in Majorca in high summer, because the temperature dropped below 70 F.) It's probably my age.

At work, I've spent as much time as possible in the air-conditioned areas; and at home simply stayed indoors until it's cooler in the evenings, when the raspberries have been picked, and the plants in pots watered.

It's been a good year for pollen beetles and raspberry beetles, the roses, clematis and day lilies; a bad year for the acanthus, verbascums, and achilleas. So far, all our young trees look OK; on our trip to Cambridge last weekend it was quite noticeable how many trees were suffering from the heat, with brown and withering leaves - as we went south, there were more and more.

As usual, as soon as the sun shines, there have been regrettable displays of acres of flesh one would rather not have to view, much of it rather over-barbecued.

Good heavens - I sounded just like my mother then! So, on second thoughts, let it all hang out, get burnt, and parade it down the street at midday. Where did I leave my lycra shorts?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

16 July: To foreign parts

Away for a weekend near Cambridge, to visit family we haven't seen for a while.
On the journey down the A1, we came up to the back end of a traffic jam south of Grantham. With no idea how long the tail-back was, or what was causing it, we followed out habit of taking the next turning off the main road, and navigating our way back further along the road. (Me being able to read a map and all that.)
And, as so often happens, we had an absolutely charming trip through a bit of the country we've never seen before, knew nothing at all about, and really enjoyed the detour. Our revised route took us through Stamford, which neither of us has ever been near before, and it looked so interesting we may well go back there some time to have a good look round.

It was necessary to go into Cambridge on Saturday for some essentials, so we had lunch there in a very nice vegetarian restaurant.
There were a million or two tourists milling about.

We, of course, weren't actual tourists, as the children diverted our attention from the sights by employing the crafty strategy of needing the loo fairly frequently. At least we now know several handy loos in the town!
The journey home was incredibly hot (or could it be my age?), and then the raspberries needed picking and the seedlings needed watering before we could catch up on the weekend's happenings in Le Tour.

Friday, July 14, 2006

14 July: Busy, busy

All yesterday morning with a carpet shampooer trying to eradicate the marks where my husband's cat had been sick on the carpet. (It's fine if you find it soon afterwards and clear it up, but when it's been there all night....)

Then planting out some seedlings into the rock-hard, dry-clay soil at the bottom of the garden. There's a blister on my palm from the trowel handle.

And most of the evening (after Le Tour on TV) sorting out some more family history information from the 1891 census. Enough new leads there to start me off again, and I thought I'd done just about all I could until I can get to some County Record Offices for parish records.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

12 July: a quiet life

Firstly, if anyone is trying to send an e-mail with a new e-address, remember we have a highly effective spam filter - phone or post with details!
Picking the raspberries is keeping me busy. It seems to have been unfavourable for the growth of the canes this year, and the poor spindly things are bending right over with the weight of the fruit. it makes picking them more difficult. At least the birds are finding it just as hard.
A neighbour's cat has discovered our bird-feeding arrangements, and a couple of times we've spotted a sturdy black furry tail sticking out of a large hellebore by the bird feeder, and shooed him away. He's a handsome cat, but he gets fed at home, so he doesn't need the birds.
With cooler evenings, and Le Tour on TV, I've been making progress with my striped cardigan, and finished the sewing up and the edgings. There's still the buttons to sew on, and button loops to make, and tidying and blocking. It's turned out heavier than I expected, but as I made it up as I went along, that's not really surprising. Anyway, if you need a woollen cardigan, you usually need a warm one.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

5 July: Bits and pieces

A number of things to mention, as it's been a few days since the last posting.

First there has been the sad task of disposing of the last remaining house martin chick's body. When we came home yesterday, we found the remains of the entire nest, including a tiny live chick, lying in the drive - it had fallen off the wall.
Following RSPB instructions, we fashioned a substitute nest from a plastic box, and fastened it by the bathroom window, which was as near as we could get it to the original site above the window. The idea was that the chick's cries would attract the parents to the box, and they would continue to feed the chick.
The parent birds returned many times to the place the nest had been, but completely ignored the nearby box containing their chick - it was probably too weak to call by then anyway.
On a more cheerful note, the raspberries are getting ripe enough to pick - if I can beat the sparrows and blackbirds to them!
There has been some publicity lately about a woman who had a stroke, and now allegedly sounds more like a Jamaican than the Geordie she really is (she sounds just like a Geordie to me). This has been described as "Foreign Accent Syndrome", which is surely an invention of an imaginative journalist.
But those of you who know me will appreciate that this Syndrome has haunted me for the past 25 years, ever since I moved to the North-East.
And a couple of pictures - from a visit this week to Wallington House in Northumberland . Resisting the gardens, which are one of the great attractions there, I turned my camera on the famous gargoyle heads on the front lawn.

Here they are all in a row, and below is a close up. Wonder what they look like by moonlight?

P.S. "I told you so in May" - well July actually: my notice of retirement has gone to my line manager.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

July 2: Wool and wheels

Yesterday we went to the Woolfest at Cockermouth. Photos are only from the livestock section - the sales and demonstration areas were too packed with people to be able to photograph - anyway I was too busy with a bit of retail frenzy.

The sheep above is either Hebridean or Shetland, and the ones below are Wensleydale; they have wool like mohair.

And this one below is a Teeswater.

I bought kilos of fibre ready-prepared for spinning - Shetland, Blue Faced Leicester, and Merino, which I've never tried spinning but was on sale in such sensational colours I just HAD to have some. Also a high speed whorl for my Majacraft Little Gem wheel, for fine spinning, and a tensioned Lazy Kate, which will perhaps make plying less prone to tangles.

And we still managed to be home in time to catch part of Le Tour prologue. Pity Jan Ullrich isn't in it this year - he looks much fitter than the past few years, and Ivan Basso's absence will make a difference too.

So for the next 3 weeks (apart from rest days - Mondays), we will be glued to the TV every evening.