Thursday, July 31, 2008

31 July: Northumberland coast

One of DH's favourite walks is up the Northumberland coast from Craster to Low Newton (we did it the same day last year).

Yesterday the stiff breeze was from the south, so behind us as we approached Dunstanburgh Castle.

In order to cross the stream which runs out across the beach, we turned in through the dunes and across the bridge - watching out for trolls.

Arriving at the Ship Inn precisely as they started to take lunch orders, we were able to eat while watching the queue for food and drink grow.

The wind seemed to have strengthened as we walked back along the beach, whipping the salt spray onto the specs, and whipping the loose sand round the shins. Perhaps shorts were not the best choice.

The tide was coming in as we neared the stream. There was a nice sand bar half way across; a neat skip and a jump and I was across - with dry trainers!

The next wave swept up the stream, demolishing the sand bar, and stranding DH on the far side. But all was not lost, as another sand bar was formed by the retreating water, and he was able to hop and step over. Much more graceful by both of us than last year's efforts.

The back of my neck is sun(or wind)burnt today. DH was protected by his birthday hat.

Monday, July 28, 2008

28 July: More Durham coast

Happy Birthday, DH!

Part of the birthday celebrations was a walk on the Durham coast, which was sporting a celebratory thick mist. We started along the coast path, which is well-surfaced, has lots of signs, and lots of public art works.

The flowers in the cliff-top meadows are specific to the magnesian limestone -

And include plenty of orchids -

Then we turned inland, by Hawthorn Dene -

Several miles later, we returned to the beach, where the mist had lifted very slightly -

Jellyfish were not the only jetsam on the beach; this seaweed lay next to a pearly piece of sand-rounded glass -

And as we returned to the car, tired after an excellent walk, it was still misty -

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

23 July: Le Tour

Le Tour is the most interesting it's been for years. It was a great idea to do away with time bonuses, as it leaves everyone on the same footing - and there are so many riders who could win this time.

I shall probably be glued to the entire afternoon's broadcast from l'Alpe-d'Huez stage later today. Nobody else needs to go over the edge today, though - 2 crashes off those mountain roads is quite enough.

My Tour de France knitting is already finished, ahead of the final stages. Socks, for me. The colours represent the maillot jaune and a couple of team jerseys, and the stitch pattern is Triangle Rib (from one of the Harmony books); this represents the mountains and the zigzagging of the sprinters up to the finish line.

And, filled with the usual July enthusiasm, I cycled to the supermarket this morning for some milk. Went the pretty way, and came back an even prettier one. Need a lie down now.

Here's a picture of my bike when I got back.

As well as the milk in the basket, my (wool) jersey's in there, along with my helmet, mitts, and cycle clips. Yes, long trousers - don't want to frighten anyone with shorts.

Monday, July 21, 2008

21 July: OAP

I've been hanging out with the old folk.

One day last week there were a couple of things to be done in Durham, it was raining, and I couldn't think of anywhere to park the car that was convenient for all destinations, so I went on the bus.

I don't use the buses much, for the same reasons as everyone else - standing around waiting for ages in a cold and draughty bus shelter; unreliable arrival of buses; perching a 5 foot 10 body on a seat designed for a dwarf very short and slightly anorexic person; the driver trying to throw you through the front windscreen; and it takes forever to get to not quite near enough where you're going.

But hey, it's free now (or rather better value for the council tax), and there was nothing else to do that day, so with my bus pass in my hot little hand, I joined the queue shuffling and grumbling in the nearest bus shelter.

4 buses an hour from one company, and 3 buses an hour from another - so a 20 minute wait. Out of the 25 or so passengers, only one needed to pay. Isn't a bus-ful of damp pensioners depressing? At least the driver was encouraging introductions - a violent lurch as I was getting out of my seat threw me into the lap of another passenger.


Then there's M&S's cafe - is there some sort of invisible screening going on? Completely infested with the elderly; made me feel like getting a grey rinse.


And although I knew Monday's a bad day to go to the Post Office, it was a lovely morning for a walk, and I can't tax the car online, as DH's name is on the registration document. There were also some letters to post (how quaint and old-fashioned!), so as the local Post Office has been closed, I strolled to the next nearest, only just over a mile.

There was a short queue when I arrived, but one customer was posting 4 large carrier bags-ful of parcels - another e-business flourishing. One clerk went out the back and came back with coffee cups. By this time the queue was 25 or 30 strong, shuffling audibly, and starting to grumble. Churlish, as the staff were obviously taking their tea break as they worked, and it's more than likely that few of those queueing, in one case for only one stamp, had anything better, or even else, to do.

So I made a point of chatting in a friendly fashion to the clerk, just so that she saw a smile at least once this morning.

Looks like rain again - still, mustn't grumble....

Monday, July 14, 2008

14 July: Heritage

Friday and Saturday were spent at Gibside (a NT place) demonstrating spinning at a Heritage Skills Fair.

It was a 3-day event, but I was there for only 2 days. The weather was completely awful on Friday, with pouring rain all day, and I suspect there would have been few visitors if they hadn't been herded in on buses from all the local schools. Saturday was dry, though the mud was still all around, and entry was free, so there were lots of people wandering past all day.

A bonus for me was the music. The fiddler on Saturday was able to walk around the whole site playing, but on Friday it was too wet for the 2 musicians, a girl with a fiddle and a lad with Northumbrian pipes and a fiddle (and one green sock and one orange sock) to go anywhere but our marquee - I had great rhythms for spinning. The chap making the event video filmed my feet treadling in time to the jigs and reels.

These events when the Guild has a stand and demonstrates weaving and spinning are all different, though one or two of the questions are very predictable. It still surprises me that so many people think it's unusual to have any sort of manual skill, or even to consider making anything yourself from scratch; are these the same people who buy ready-made meals in the supermarket? When did so many folk lose the ability to mend and improvise; when did they lose the will to do anything for themselves?

But the most unlikely-looking people have fascinating bits of information, or are involved in other minority activities which are often very interesting. You never know when somebody stands and watches what sort of conversation may start up.

They were quite long days, including the drive there and back, and it was tiring, being "full on" all the time, in the words of the Guild member who organised our stand.

But how else do I get the chance to sit and spin for 2 days solid, with a constant stream of people to chat to? And discover suddenly that I'm part of our "Heritage".

Thursday, July 10, 2008

10 July: Knitting Photos

Some FOs.

These two have been made as samples for a spinning demonstration tomorrow, to show what can be made from handspun yarn -

They are made to the pattern for Estonian Hand Puppets by Anu Kotli and Carol H. Rhoades, with stitch patterns from Scandinavia. The eyes are buttons.

The latest socks for DH - the cat normally only investigates shoes, but this time he got up close to the socks.

They are made from Yarn Yard sock yarn, in the colours Housebrick and Agatha.

And lastly the Hallowig (in acrylic yarn from the local market) I made a few months ago, and have only just got round to photographing -

I knitted it for fun, but it looks really awful on me, and it's hellish hot....

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

9 July: Rain

There's been so much rain lately that I thought the River Wear might be high when I went into Durham yesterday.

High enough to wash away the debris that's been caught on the weir for ages.

But it wasn't.

The weirs themselves now look to be in poor repair, with chunks out of them. No matter how many shiny new theatres, bars, hotels and swimming pools are built, the river is one of the city's main features - pity nobody seems to care how it looks.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

6 July: Tottering on

So we are locked into Le Tour yet again.

Every year it begins with wondering if I can cope with all the press hysteria, scandals and speculation; then a breakaway looks like it might just keep ahead, a catch, a sprint for the line - and I'm hooked again.

Takes about 3 days to get the hang of the new colours of the jerseys, then we're back in the swing of it.

Having 2 TV programmes yesterday and today has meant that I have progressed phenomenally well with my current sock knitting, nearly a whole sock done in the past 24 hours. Just as well there's a ball of Euskatel-and-Saunier-coloured sock yarn waiting in my work-room.

There's another plot afoot this week - to finish one or two samples in time for another spinning demonstration next weekend.

As the weather forecast was poor for the weekend, I began on a gardening project on Friday afternoon. Dead raspberry canes were dug up, posts and wires re-positioned, and an area of border dug over. It was very difficult, as the soggy clay stuck fast to the fork, and had to be poked off. Just as well it was done then, as the subsequent rain has formed a small pond there. Perhaps it needs a bit more sand...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

2 July: Post No. 300

You know how it is - you've been wittering on about the garden and your knitting, and the occasional day out for a couple of years, there's not much new to say, and you've fallen over the boredom threshold. Lots of the blogs you like have packed up, or are "taking a summer break". The witty comments are drying up.

Should it be "Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish"?

It's tempting.

But then I went out for a super walk yesterday, and I want to blether on about it.


My journey home from Peterlee Magistrates' Court used to pass a sign pointing into a housing estate to Castle Eden Dene. I noticed it every time I passed, but I'd never been there till yesterday.

The car park is small. At one side is an overgrown piece of fenced off land, with these carvings in the long grass -

The path drops steeply into the Dene, with big shady trees on both sides. It's muddy in places, but mostly very easy walking. The stream was almost dry yesterday but clearly it is not always so. The bridges over the stream are sturdy -

The reason for it to be an SSI is the magnesian limestone cliffs on each side, with their unique flora and fauna -

It was magic, walking along in the dappled shade. The whole Dene is about 3 miles long, from the car park eastwards (the way I went) is about 2 miles. I had the place almost to myself. A couple of dog-walkers, a fat woman exercising, and near the end of the Dene, some local lumberjacks were working (not singing when I was there) -

After crossing a road and passing underneath the railway viaduct, with its traditional graffiti, I reached the sea! Not quite Southwold, but there is some white sand further north. And plenty of rocks to sit and enjoy your picnic.

But this is East Durham. Burnt-out cars are almost compulsory -

Even so, there's likely to be a return visit quite soon.