Sunday, September 30, 2007

30 September: Suffolk

OK, the summer's properly over now - we're back from our holiday.

We went here -

And here -

We kept a lookout for Crocs when we were walking round the town and inspecting the old Cattle Market building site, as well as when we were eating ice creams in the Abbey gardens, but didn't see any.

There was a trip to Cambridge to see DD's new house, and while we were there we visited the Botanic Garden, where we saw this lovely tree -

DH said he felt like a child in a sweet shop, there were so many beautiful places to go. We spent a magic afternoon at Dunwich Heath (no, we didn't spot any Dartford Warblers, but we spotted several serious bird-watchers), and we walked in this woodland -

Sutton Hoo was another brilliant place, but unfortunately the burial mounds look like a rather dull bumpy field, and we were too busy looking at the exhibition to take any photos. (We did photograph some interesting Norfolk Horned sheep that were grazing by the burial mounds - well, interesting to us.)

At the end of the week strong winds, heavy rain and high tides caused some problems along the coast, but they also made some dramatic waves -

And there was very little knitting done! Mainly because the project I took with me didn't work out well, and I unravelled it. And now we're back home I want to get on with some spinning.

Friday, September 21, 2007

21 September: There now follows....

A short intermission. Nuts, drinks, and ice creams may be available in the foyer. Some adverts for businesses only five minutes from this theatre may appear somewhat scratchily.

If you must, you can watch bbc3 till I get back - but remember not to post about it unless you want hundreds ( and I mean hundreds) of curious people, possibly many of them unwashed, peering into the recesses of your blog, and moving right along there without even saying "hi".

There may be holiday photos.

Should be back next weekend. Missing you already.....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

20 September: Tagged

Granny J from over at Walking Prescott (that's Prescott, Arizona, not John) tagged me a couple of days ago.

The game is to list something relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name, or for those without a middle name, for each letter of a preferred middle name.

I rather enjoy word games, and after some thought, out came the Thesaurus. Well, you know how that diverts the attention for a few hours......

Not wishing to use my middle name, I ran my eye over the family tree, spotting various grandmothers and other foremothers, looking for something


It might be




but it turns out to be


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

18 September: Season of .. inkle?

Well, while all those hundreds of bbc3 people have been tramping through the blog, arriving, peering round, sniffing, and leaving swiftly, life has been going on as normal Chez Stitchwort.

Knitting has continued - you can see a sock for DH in the basket on the table, behind the inkle (no idea why it's called an inkle, it just is) I have been weaving -

Here is a closer photo -

The trouble with this sort of weaving is that it's predictable (you have to choose warps before you start), and rather boring (no surprises as you go along), so I find the appeal limited. Perhaps tablet weaving might be more interesting.


We are getting to that time of year when one poem's opening line is done to death.

It would be interesting to think of some alternatives. My suggestion might be -

Season of boots
And laundry hung indoors.

Any more suggestions?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

15 September: Fame?

Well, thanks to bbc3, the stats have gone through the roof.

30 hits already this morning before 8 o'clock, and we all know that nobody reads blogs on Saturday. No comments left, though.

Looks like they sniffed out bob the bolder.

(Update at 2.15 p.m. - up to 65 visitors now, leaving no traces though. I would never have thought bbc3's website attracted that many people, and from so far across the globe.)

(Update at 8.45 p.m. - now 117 visitors, and still not a word of comment left. Is that a light carbon footprint?)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

13 September: Another little trip

Although I have lived in County Durham for 25 years, there are still local places of interest I have never been to. Two more visited this week in one little outing.

A few miles from Bishop Auckland is the small village of Escomb - its claim to fame is its Saxon church. Well, it's called "Saxon", but the Saxons were never this far north - it was the Angles who settled in this area.

The date of the original building of the church is unknown, but it must have been after the Romans left in about 410 A.D., as the church is made of second-hand (sorry, re-cycled) Roman stone blocks. Other similar churches in Northumbria can be dated to about 675, and Escomb is thought to be earlier than that.

This is a picture of the outside -

The porch, added in the 12th century, has a 17th century sundial above the door, while on the wall of the church, just above the apex of the porch gable end in the photo, is an Anglo-Saxon sundial; there is a snake decoration above it, and it is thought to be the oldest sundial in the country.

The small windows are original, with larger ones being added in the 13th century and the late 18th/early 19th century. Some of the stones in the walls have Roman inscriptions on them, and high on the North wall is a small raised rosette, which is thought to be a pre-Christian sacrificial stone.

Inside, the walls are mostly whitewashed, though a patch high on one wall shows traces of very old painting. There is also part of a painted design on the underside of the chancel arch, perhaps from the 12th century. The chancel arch itself may well be a complete Roman arch.

Behind the altar is a cross which may be older than the church.

In the wall to one side of the altar is a medieval piscina, and at the west end of the church is a font at least 700 years old, and probably more. Both these stone vessels used to drain into the floor of the church, to prevent the holy water from being stolen and used for witchcraft!

When I arrived, the church was locked, and as I was looking round the circular churchyard - indicative of Celtic Christianity - a lady arrived to sweep and dust (as a notice on the gate tells the visitor, the key can be obtained from her house if the church is locked). She seemed pleased to show off the details of the church, including pointing out where the bats roost in the roof and where the vicar had cemented cobbles into the floor to prevent any more being stolen.

It's a lovely simple little place, and the circular churchyard, full of worn and tilting headstones and tall trees, was peaceful.


As the stones to build the church had come from the Roman fort of Vinovia at Binchester, just a few miles away on the other side of the River Wear, it seemed a good idea to go and have a look round that too.

Approached up a steep and narrow lane, and through the grounds of a boarded up derelict nursing home (which had a long previous history), the site is small and low-key. There's no cafe, but a small car park, a Portaloo, and a bright flowerbed lead you to the hut where a ticket is obtained for a very modest £1 (that's the OAP price - adults pay £2.25).

The baths are supposed to be the best preserved military baths in the country, and are protected from the elements by a large barn . This is a view of the main warm room -

The floor is original Roman concrete, and the lower level, where the hot air circulated, is all original too. The figure in the corner startled me, but he's not original, just a plaster replica.

The layout is easy to see, with warm and hot rooms and cold plunge baths. To one side is another barn set up as a school study area - I did not take advantage of the box of clothes marked "dressing up".

Only a very small part of the fort has been excavated, and as you stand on the boardwalk you can clearly see how the commandant's quarters with the bath-house stood right next to the road -

This is part of the Roman Dere Street, which ran from York to Scotland - on the left is the gutter and on the right are kerb stones. You could almost hear the rattle of cart wheels.

The outline of the ramparts is still visible in the neighbouring field, now the home of some handsome cattle and big fine sheep. Bucolic now, but once a busy army base.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

11 September: Cleanliness is next to something or other

Last night there was an interesting programme on TV (for a change), called "How dirty can I get?"

For those of you who dashed into the kitchen straight after Nigella's bit, in order to curry scallops (oh dear, scallops need to be ordered a week in advance), mash some beans in garlic (can't have food tasting of itself when there's coriander or garlic about), or whip up a melted marshmallow (yuk) - it involved a woman, and a peripheral man, not washing themselves or their clothes for 6 weeks.

Partly triggered by concern over the number of chemicals in washing products and cosmetics, the scheme was rather a confusion between basic washing and applying cosmetics and lotions for other purposes. One of the aims was to see if her hair would "self clean" after a few weeks, and to illustrate that she went to visit Matthew Parris, who says he hasn't washed his hair for years. Actually I would suspect that he washes it with water, but not with shampoo, which is quite a different matter, but it wasn't specified. When my hair was really short, it was washed with water only, and that was fine.

There was lots of armpit sniffing, and extremely graphic problems with the man's underparts, plus visits to people living in tents in the woods (and of course doing what bears do in the woods - in the woods), and the production of a "perfume" to match her body odour; amusingly, this was taken to be inspected by a number of perfume experts, of whom only one correctly identified it.

One person in a laboratory stated that breast cancer is much more often found in the area near the armpit, and chemicals in deodorants were suspected as the cause. There were allegations about ingredients in many skin creams and cosmetics, and the 'cocktail effect' of them. This was all very unsettling or alarmist, depending on your point of view - but who would pay for research to find out?

The results of the whole experiment were not very clearly stated, but it seemed that neither participant had an unusually high number of bacteria on their skin. But the woman said that she felt healthier - her skin certainly looked better than at the start.

But there's a big difference between basic hygiene and the use of oceans of lotions.

Keeping your body, teeth, clothes, and home fairly clean (without getting obsessive about it) seems a sensible thing to do, but using dozens of preparations on your skin seems like asking for trouble. There has never seemed to be any point in scrupulously removing all trace of natural oil from your skin, then putting some greasy artificial stuff back on it. You may gather that I am not a fan of face creams or cosmetics - they make me want to wash.

Apropos washing, though - at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, one of our neighbours was power-washing his block paved drive. He appeared to be doing it all day, and was still out there with the gear in the evening. As this is the man who washes his cars very thoroughly every weekend at least once, perhaps it wasn't surprising. Well, everyone needs a hobby, and at least it gets him out of the house, and away from her indoors. Anyway, now they are parking the cars on the pavement, presumably so as not to get the nice clean drive dirty.

Oh, and on the news, Our Leader seemed to want us to believe that pay rises to public servants are the cause of inflation - it has nothing to do with big pay rises or gigantic bonuses in the private sector.

Is is me?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

9 September: Catching up

StatCounter tells me that visitor numbers have dropped - apart from those perennial searches for Fred Knittle and string bag patterns.

So, while everyone else is away, here are some fresh delights, just for you.

The purple jersey (wonderful phrase for the Middlesbrough or Liverpool accents) is finished, though it wasn't dry for the knitting and spinning workshop on Saturday. Here's a picture -

And a close up of the neck - a few rows of garter stitch instead of the hood - and the button fastening. There was just one orphan button in the box that was the right size and colour.

The workshop was exhausting, and I came home with a sore throat. A couple of participants learnt new things, but perhaps not as much as I did.

And I haven't yet mentioned the new CD from the Young@Heart Chorus; it's called mostly live, and it's available for very reasonable cost from Among the tracks are a studio version of Fix You by Fred Knittle, and excellent versions of Every Breath You Take, Forever Young, Ruby Tuesday, and, my current favourite (sorry, Fred) - Jealous Guy; I like this version better than any other I've heard.

There, that should give the stats a bit of a boost.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

4 September: Hamsterley Forest

We took our cameras for a walk in Hamsterley Forest. We saw lots of wood ant nests, and a spider's funnel web, as well as deer footprints (that probably isn't the correct technical term) in the mud. There was a bit of this deciduous woodland -

And some of this conifer plantation -

And lots of bilberries and bracken along paths like this -

And even one of these -

But there were lots and lots of flowers, and most of them were in pink-to-purple shades. There were heather, knapweed, rosebay willowherb, burdock, thistles, and foxgloves. We also saw a few ox eye daisies, buttercups, ragwort, some harebells and silverweed, a patch of eyebright, and a single viper's bugloss (isn't that such a wonderful name!).

There was also a small area of these orchids - probably common spotted -

And as the camera was focussed on this scabious, a bee arrived -

Some red clover had large flowers -

And there were some umbellifers with intact seedheads -

We had a lovely walk, and were home in time for tea.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

2 September: Work in progress

I was a bit shocked to see Jane's photo of her progress on the top-down hoodie. I hadn't realised the true colour of her wool! So mine is much more of a copy-cat than I ever intended; please take it as a case of "imitation is the sincerest from of flattery".

Here it is so far, firstly indoors -

And out on the bench -

The wool is 2 strands together, so I have been able to blur the joins of the different balls a bit by alternating the threads; the pinker stuff is towards the top, and the darker towards the hem. The sleeves may get browner towards the cuffs. And it's not going to have a hood, probably just a bit of garter stitch round the neck.

Even though I swatched, the size is not quite as expected - it has worked up smaller. Perhaps it will "relax" (i.e. stretch a bit) when blocked. Perhaps I should swatch more carefully.