Monday, May 30, 2005

First photos

This is a building in the town nearest to where we were staying, Masseube.


I have more to sort out, this is just a taster. Not every building was like this, of course, this is the old style. Apparently, in the country, the tradition was until very recently, to use what was little more than a wattle and daub construction - and indeed , we did see some clear examples of it, quite fascinating - and when that deteriorated, simply abandon it and build another house, barn, whatever, adjacent. It was easier and cheaper. I don't think they did that in the towns, so this is more like the Elizabethan half-timbering. Jolly easy on the eye, though!


I took this on Friday, our last lunch out in the garden under the pear trees, with the temperature over 30C - actully, too hot for me really, but reasonably comfortable on our hill, with a good strong breeze, and in shade.

I'll get the photos organised and on to flickr - quite a few are there already, but I have more! And rather than resize them to blog them directly, I'll attempt to tag them and post a link. Some beadwork, too.

It has, though, been back to reality with a bump. Literally as we arrived home on Saturday night, our mad neighbour was doing something in the lane, and chose to welcome us home by standing, arms akimbo, staring fixedly at us. No smile of welcome, just the manic stare. Then, last night, it became apparent that things have been happening whilst we were away. Too long a story for now, but seemingly, someone has had damage happen to his car courtesy of madam's "storm drain". This morning, they were at it hammer and tongs outside our house, and I was on the point of calling the police, when it quietened down, but I think it is a temporary respite. It may, hopefully, be that at long last there will be some sort of resolution - or alternatively, I shall pack a rucksack and go and be a bag lady in France!

Me, deflated, gw.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

It's only words....

because I haven't downloaded the photos yet. And as I took most of them without being able to see what was what, who knows what they will be like. This was because I either didn't have my reading glasses on, although this is not crucial; I did have my sunglasses on, more significant; or the sun was shining so brightly that I couldn't see the LCD screen, an important factor if you don't like squinting through the view-finder, like me.

Oh - I'm back.

Just to start the boring everyone rigid process, France was wonderful. The gite was very nice, I especially enjoyed the resident greyhounds and fifteen year old expat moggie called Charlie, who eventually got so fed up with the interlopers in his house that he simply moved back in, took over the sofa, and marched purposefully to the fridge every time one of us entered the room. The nearby town, Masseube, was not particularly pictureskew, but nice, and with the friendliest population you could wish for. Very nice wine shop, several bakers to choose from, and, just out of town, a restaurant that was more than passable, although I do have to say that the fish stew that I had on our last night - well, when it arrived in front of me, I was instantly reminded of the offerings of C.M.O.T. Dibbler, and was definitely of the opinion that eyes were looking at me from the plate. Excellent vegetable terrine and fruit sorbets fro the other two courses, though, so no complaints. Gotta try the local specialities......

Weather - ranged from Grey, wet and bloody freezing to hot, 30c+. Yes, I know, to a Californian, that is just a nice fresh day. I lay in a sunlounger, in the shade, and enjoyed myself (haven't read so many books in years. I also completed very nearly two pieces of fairly spectacular beadwork. There will be pictures - just not yet.

To our enormous relief, we found that some of our ability to speak French came back to us. Nothing like as good as I used to be, but then there has been a gap of something like twelve or so years. But we more than coped, even going so far as to choose a vineyard at random, taste wine, and arrange to have two cases shipped home. Mind you, I thin that the proprietor and his papa were just a tad disappointed that it wasn't really twelve cases each of red and white that we wanted...

So, I shall over the next few days get the photos sorted and perhaps do a mini travelogue. Then I can keep coming back to it myself, and remind myself of the delights. I have hatched a plot to go for a month, take spinning and etc equipment and Practise My Craft. Unfortunately, Pete can't do that until he retires, which ain't for a while yet, so I am looking for volunteers.....

a bientot (sorry about the lack of accents, but if Blogger does them, I can't find them)


Friday, May 13, 2005

Bon voyage

OK, so I had intended to provide a number of cutesy photos of packing progress, but - no time, and too, um, icky anyway.

I have packed my orange-tones garter stitch shawl to finish; the green socks ditto; and a large plastic ex-Quality Street box with A Lot of beads in it. I am reckoning that that will provide me with fun, amusement and occupation whilst I relax in the warmer climes - and rain - of South Western France.

Rumour has it that I may have internet access while I am away; if that means a wireless network or an access point in the gite, that's no use as I Do Not Have A Laptop. But if it means that the owners have a pc for public consumption, then I may just sneak on once or twice and record how many interesting wines we have found, or types of olive, or what birds we have seen (I am hoping for hoopoes). I won't be able to post pics as I Do Not Have A Camera Phone. Now, there's a relief.....

I hate this stage - as much as can be prepared and packed is dealt with, and we are now just hanging. Apart from going out this evening, of course - dinner at the Mumtaz (we often eat out the night before a trip, it's becoming a ritual) and then the opening of the Guild exhibition alongside the Jerwood furniture prize exhibition. Pics of that later.

Much later.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sannidges for George

First, a warning - probably little or no fibre content today. Flagging emotional, personal content, in fact. Don't drum me out of the Brownies.

The phrase "sannidges for George" crash-landed fully formed in my mind this morning whilst wandering in an aimless fashion (ie trying to remember what I was supposed to be buying)around town this morning. I don't actually remember myself, age somewhere between two and seven, saying it, but apparently I did, every time George came in to the bar of the pub run by my parents in those days so very long ago. Seemingly, he always had sandwiches, and I used to request them of my father.

It was always my father that I spent time with in the bar. In this age of curiously mixed feelings about alcohol, I am sure that there are many who will throw up their hands in total disgust at the thought of an innocent child exposed to such horrors. But what I do remember so very vividly is the warm pleasure of spending time with my father, and as he was a busy man, this had to be early mornings and early evenings when he did work that allowed him to keep an eye on me at the same time. In the evenings, I would be behind the long wooden bar with him, and I would often be allowed to hang on for dear life to one of the big wood and brass club-shaped pump handles and Pull My Own Beer. I can't be sure of the size of the glass, but if it was a shot glass, I would not be surprised. I also used to pick runners in the horse races for his customers (with great success) and, of course, order sandwiches for favourite ones.

But what I do genuinely remember with great clarity is the mornings. These memories are particularly strong because they are linked to the smells associted with our activities. Together, we would open the cellar door, and start down the dark stairs. To one side was the coke house, and this had a warm, black, sooty smell. Although it was dark, I was never frightened because I was with my daddy. Then we turned to the right and went in to the beer cellar. This was completely different, brightly lit, walls painted white, and cool, with a strong but mellow smell of ale. He would do what he had to do - all I recall is him tapping gently on a little wooden peg in the top of the barrel.

All my other memories of our time at the pub are of me on my own, or playing in the big kitchen on my own with other people around but not joining in with my game. Well, I do have a couple of things, one being knocked over by our dog and hitting my head on our old gas cooker, necessitating a frightening rushed trip to the hospital: And one of my mother cooking and something going wrong, and me aged less-than-seven suggesting a remedy.

I do think about these things from time to time, but why so much all of a sudden? Because yesterday, I was watching some soap opera whilst doing some chores (ahem) and the father of a character died and all of a sudden I was overwhelmed with sadness. And I wanted to record that even when one's father dies aged 90 and it is not entirely unexpected, it is indeed the next natural stage in his and my existence, and even though more than two years have gone by, that there is still grief, that last little bit of "getting over it" has yet to take place and may never do so - I don't know yet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Counting down

I have only three days left, including today, to clean the house from top to bottom (this almost certainly won't happen, it is a compulsion that I have to leave home to go on holiday with everything pristine and orderly. This is a state rarely achieved.) To finish the ironing (see above). Gather together everything I want to take with me (those items of clothing included in that objective waiting to be ironed will be...although there will be an iron at the gite.......)

This is all learned behaviour from Mommy Dearest, who takes great pride in her ability to panic over every last thing. I have at least reached the stage where I not only realise what I am doing but can moderate it by perhaps 50%. I regard this as a major achievement. So, I have spent the morning so far doing the round of blogsIlike, including the one or two I keep on my list as what used, I think, to be called a "hate-brace" (can't think what that means, but it is the term that springs to mind.) Or perhaps, to make me realise that not everyone in the world is a gentle, kind, liberal, supportive person like moi. (Even I need to rush to the loo at this point - to remove my tongue from where it is stuck in my cheek if for nothing else.)

Then I finally fluffed out the latest silk and soy samples.

more indigo & madder

In both cases, the soy came out slightly paler, but with a better coverage. Silk top is much easier to dye than brick; this may be a scouring issue, a dye penetration issue, or most likely, both of these.

Again, in both cases, it was much easier to get a better result both in terms of colour and the condition of the fibre with natural dye extracts rather than plant material. True, I was using "wood", not "leaf". But I soaked the chips in both cases for a good long time, and did the dyebath slowly, and left it alone until completely cold never mind cool. By condition of the fibre, I mean just how much the structure of the preparation is disturbed by tangling or matting. Still and all, they all come up quite nicely when smoothed and tugged and whatever.

All in all I am well pleased with these dye runs. I have got colours that I really like, and a reasonably satisfactory dye job - for instance, in handling the logwood, it hasn't crocked on my hands. Now this may change when working with it for a prolonged period, but that is logwood for you - what I didn't want is colour coming off immediately. The madder is paler than I had wanted, but I think that this is something to do with the madder itself - I had the same problem with the same batch at workshops last year. That is one of the troubles with natural dyes, you can get these fairly wide variations. If this had been a different kind of exercise, I would have samples and adjusted. However - when I get back from France, I must face up to the last big one. Indigo. Or....just maybe something else! I found us a nice place to visit, and easy day out from where we are staying, see?

I also found us a bead shop in Toulouse - well, I say us, you know what I mean. But as there is also a daily organic farmers market and a vegetarian restaurant, it will actually make a nice day out on one of the days we are being promised showers.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Only in Hebden Bridge

Fond father to obviously the birthday girl, standing on the pavement in town "Now that you are eighteen my darling, you will need to pay more attention to spatial awareness!" In other words, "Keep the hell out of people's way." I love it!

Also, the pleasure of watching a gorgeous retriever waiting patiently under a bench outside our fine-weather-favourite cafe whilst mum goes in to order her latte. HB does dogs well, by and large. Lattes, too, although I am more of a cappucino woman myself. There are many, many cafes, but only a couple with tables outside. We were frequenting OFWFC because the sun was shining beautifully this morning when we went in to town to post eBay packages, pick up a Grauniad and rescue my Readers' Group book from where I had remembered that I had left it. So we sat in the sun with aforementioned cappucinos plus red pesto and black olive panini (I did say Hebden Bridge, remember...) and practised for France.

I was teaching yesterday, it was a blast, although once more knackering. I had sixteen participants in total, including two complete beginners and two intermediates, plus everyone who wanted to be making felt. But my "regular" crowd always but always rise to the occasion when they know I am pushed, and more or less looked after themselves. The two first timers could have been a pain, but I managed to keep them occupied and sweet. They had misunderstood the brochure, and not been put straight by the staff, not too much of a surprise under the new regime, and thought they were coming for more of a taster day of everything I list as the sort of programme we run throughout the year. But fortunately, they are embroiders, and loved the idea of spinning funky yarns with spindles, so spent the entire day learning how to do that, very successfully, too. What is more, they elected to keep the bookings in for the further two classes with me that they are signed up for, so I felt decidely pleased with myself.

I also enjoyed to the hilt spending time doing real and actual spinning tuition with my intermediates. One, a newcomer, but I know her mother from a previous existence, has been well taught in the very limited basics. I gave her a whistle stop tour of drafting other than with short draw, fibre prep with combs, how I like a wheel set up, few other bits and pieces. She absorbed it like rain on the desert, and will be another returner. The other one is a person I like very much indeed, and she is very bright and self reliant, so usually gets a little bit short-changed, to my shame. But I gave her lots of time yesterday, and had to field a barrage of forensic questioning on the technical aspects of spinning (hard for me, as I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants, intuitive type of spinner by inclination) It was all immensely satisfying. I also garnered a jar of her honey (she is a beekeeper and indeed expert, travels abroad on bee-projects; and from another class member a large bag of cashmere as a thank you for picking up her two (yes, TWO!!) Timbertops wheels last weekend.

I came home, threw quorn fillets (what is this nonsense about a lawsuit? Obviously some food giant company behind it, she said cynically)into Thai green curry paste and coconut milk, which is way tastier than it sounds, ate that with relish (ha ha) downed two largeish measures of Jamesons' with lots of ice, watched "Have I Got News For You" and The Simpsons (so now all my grubby secrets are out) and fell in to bed.

And, amazingly, no political rant. As Andrew Marr apparently has said, democracy actually achieved what so many wanted it to do. Good grief, does this mean I have to stop being cynical about the democratic process?



Thursday, May 05, 2005

Acting my age

Today is election day and I have no intention whatsoever of listening to any more soi-disant "news" than I absolutely have to. It seems to be wide open. Watch out for rants ahead, maybe.

A small amount of fibre activity - I have redyed the silk and soy silk with madder and have improved things quite a bit. I would say that the soy has not taken up the dye as readily as the silk - or any of the other dyes for that matter. I have no idea why that should be so. Pictures later.

Now, the rest of this post has no fibre content whatsoever, and indeed is shamelessly self-indulgent not to say navel-gazing. Readers of a nervous disposition, and I am including myself at a later date here , should stop reading immediately.

Today's secret about moi number one: I am a sucker for online quizzes. Recently, I have done two on "what is your mental age?" (for want of a better title.) Answering as honestly as I can, which is not easy, as sometimes the questions are so ridiculous that I sit in front of the screen thinking "just why, pray, am I doing this?", I have got a remarkable consistency: 37/39.

Now, I am extremely happy with that. And do not think for one minute that I am deluding myself that this is the age I look. No, not that stupid. As an aside, when I was at Convergence last year, I was chatting to a couple of persons who shall remain nameless, but are famous - a nameless namedropping, here? - and they were very concerned because I looked so tired - was I ok? Well, yes, more or less, but I pointed out to them that this was the first time that they had seen me not wearing glasses, and that I had just not realised what a multitude of sins the old gig-lamps concealed. Those Start under-eye bags, for one thing. Every time I notice them in the mirror, I think of my father and my Uncle Harry. But late thirties as a mental age, is pretty cool, and I can live very cheerfully with that. It is an age of some maturity, not to say gravitas (all right, I won't), but still young and of an enquiring mind nature. I intend to stay at this point for as long as I can. Pete likes to say that when our generation is in its dotage and retirement home, the music played on festive occasions won't be all Vera Lynn and Henry Hall (or even, heaven forbid, Semprini or Richard Claydermann) but the Who and the Stones. Actually, I've updated a little bit from there meself, well, added on - but I digress.

Today's second secret isn't. Well, I have never kept it as such, but then neither have I shouted it to the roof-tops that I have been seeing a counsellor for quite a while. I don't front up to strangers, and say "I see a therapist" out of the blue, but I do mention it lightly and in passing if the conversation warrants it. So why is it cropping up here, now, then? Because talking to her yesterday was, I think, something of a landmark, and I want to record it. And in part because it is a hard thing to put in to words, and this is yet another attempt to do so - articulation is part of the process, I think.

OK, so imagine me sitting here in front of the monitor, eyes glazed. I can't do it. Not properly, not yet. If this was paper, there would be words and sentences scribbled down and crossed out. Ulp. This is not really such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but obviously is in my small corner of the universe. I am really quite amazed by how hard this is, and I am going to leave these apparently meaningless burbles in place, to be my first clue, first footprint in the sand.

Reading back over this, I realise that of course, it has to do with age, with achievement, with status, with employment, with balance. Wow, that's progress, and will have to do for now.

I realise that I haven't given my actual age. I was just about to, when I decided that it would be much more fun not.

So mean.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Calm after the storm

Weatherwise, it wasn't much of a storm. Little bit of this, little bit of that, nothing to write home about. I'm talking more about - well, sort of internal, private storm. By which I mean going en famille yesterday. No dramas, squabbles, everything fairly sweetness and light, apart from Mama not being at her most philosophical. But I dunno, just the family dynamic, I guess. Too many of us all in one small room? Or maybe it was just me........

A Friend (yo!) just asked me on the phone how I was getting on with my new wheel, to which I had to reply that I had barely touched it. I seem to find it harder and harder to find the time to spin these days. Several reasons for that; one, ahem, I spend way too much time on the internet - trying to cut it down, but just as I reduce the email lists I am on, so the blogs hot up.......There are such interesting blogs out there. Got to thinking today after a trawl around, how a subject will come up in one area of blogdom and another more or less simultaneously. Actually, I seem to recall from my college days that this phenomenon was documented with regard to children's playground games (ref: Opie & Opie: The Games Children Play IIRC) A new one would appear at about the same time at opposite ends of the country. At the moment it is how number and mathematics play an important role in knitting, weaving and maybe, spinning. So that's where I fall short then. Numbers and me are oil and water. Can't handle them, retain them, see them. I'm a feeling kind of - oh, heck, I am being forced to say "gal" - sorry! I know how I want something to be and it just gets thrown on to the needles and I clickerclacker away and then. Usually failure, but not always. Design by intuition - intuition serves me well in many ways, but not always when it comes to design. This is something I need to mull.

I must just document my tulips. Despite everything the weather has chucked at them, they have been quite gorgeous.

This was the first pot, and the paler ones are nearly over, but you can still see their charm:


This is a close up of one of the above - still a really pretty colour:

another tulip!

The darker purple ones, still at their peak. I love this colour.

dark tulip

And finally, this one, which is so delicate and beautiful. I think it could be interpreted in silk somehow. I might do a bag.

cream tulip

That's a nice thought to mull around as well.


Sunday, May 01, 2005


I have my new wheel.

It is gorgeous.

See it and drool.

new wheel

And it spins nicely, too.

I have lusted after a Timbertops wheel for ages, and this is my consolation prize for not going to SOAR this year. We went down to Anne and James Williamson's home in Leicestershire yesterday to pick it up, and had a lovely time with them. Their home is beautiful, and the garden fabulous - they encourage wildlife, and their pond is full of newts. And for the record, James makes a mean chocolate cake! My only regret is that I forgot to take my camera, so I can't post any pictures.

This is a Leicester (ahem - that's pronounced "Lester" - I do know that is one that causes difficulties to some!)wheel, made in natural oak. I'm really going to enjoy it.

Whilst on the subject of expensive acquisitions - this is the Patrick Green drum carder that I won on eBay.

drum carder

It needed a little bit of work as it had obviously been standing unloved for a long time - I had to soak the drive band in very hot water, give it a thorough clean, refit the handle, adjust the feed tray so that the licker in didn't bind on it. But I got there, and have finally plucked up courage to try it out with some alpaca and sashe silk. It did the job very well. Interesting, though, looking at this photo I can see not only the dark brown of the alpaca, but also some of the gsg fleece that I thought I had removed all trace of - obviously not! Plus, the drum almost appears to be slightly off-set in the box. It works fine, without any binding or rubbing, and I don't think there is any problem - but I will check.

So I am going to have a quietish day playing with my toys, before girding my loins for a trip to York tomorrow. We really must go before we go to France, and I will actually try to fit in another visit if at all possible. Seems strange that we are off on holiday so soon - not only is it the wrong time of year, but the weather here is not in the least summery, so how come I am about to go on a summer holiday, eh?

And finally - many thanks to the Guardian for introducing me to this.
I have actually met her - she came past the house with her husband walking one day when I was doing indigo dyeing, and was very pleasant and interested. I think this is a hoot, and can only hope that the faceless backroom suits don't make her give it up.

And whilst on the subject of politics, I found out from the local paper what happened about the meeting we attempted to go to. The organisers had not invited the BNP candidate, and he requested that he be included. So they pulled the plug on the meeting, without making any effort to let anyone know. Now, let me be absolutely clear - I abhor and despise everything that the BNP stands for. But - they are a legal political party, and as such have the right to all the same campaigning methods as the rest, much as that might make me shudder. They should have been invited in the first place, and to cancel the meeting as was done was,frankly, cowardly as well as wrong. Indeed, possibly illegal. I'm on my soap box again, but this whole issue is one that is really getting to me at the moment, so no apologies!