Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We return to normal.

Or what passes for it around here.

The DSM went back to work this morning, seemingly resigned. He had been feeling quite reasonable for most of the time he was off, but I think was getting a bit frustrated by having to be a little "careful" with me around watching, so probably glad to draw a line under things. Still, he has knocked off a few chore-type things whilst he has been at home, including making a start on a website (don't hold your breath for future development) and more importantly, organising builders to come and look at our crumbling roof.

Oh dear. It's going to be expensive. Very. But essential, if we want to stay dry and preserve our equity, so we have to bite the bullet. Let us pass rapidly on, until the merry day when the work begins and I start moaning about the noise, the mess, whatever. One possible bright note, we may well be able to have a velux window put into the roof above the workroom, which will be nice. Fingers crossed all round.

Meanwhile, we have had another short trip down south, revisiting old friends and even older haunts - his, anyway. This is a continuing theme, I think it must be the age we are all at.

We went to have a look at his old home in Beaconsfield. Very nice, for suburbia. I did take a photo, risking the owners calling the police thinking I was casing the joint, but of no interest to anyone except the DSM.

I did find another terrific fungus though.

Bracket fungus

How cool is that!

Of the party - I say little or nothing. These were old friends who we were glad to help celebrate, and we had a good time, but there was another and very private to me reason for going which worked out as well as I could have ever hoped, to my bittersweet joy. It probably is not explainable to anyone else, anyway, so the rest is silence.

On the way home, we stopped at Stowe landscape gardens. Apart from the fact that I cannot think of Capability Brown as anything other than Very Stupid Johnson (Pratchettians will get it) - the landscaping is breath-taking. The monuments, temples, follies, etc are....irritating? Disneyland, C18th style? A few images.


Above, the house, which we did not go round. Next, a vista showing amongst other things, the gothic temple, which is amazingly awful.



The lakes were lovely.

Doorway at Stowe

And I just liked this.


This was one of the busts in the "Temple of Worthies", which in itself I found tasteless. But there was scope for some nifty camera angles and so on - I only did a couple, too many people around to take the time to find the best shots, but I like this.

I do bear in mind textile work when I wander around with my camera, and often take photographs of interesting textures, shapes and so on - hence the fungi. These last two fall in to that category.


Tree bark is always appealing. The last reminded me of when we travelled a long section of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, where they are famous for interesting wooden fences - I'll have to see if I can find some of the photographs to scan in, I didn't have a digital camera then.


So, that's me up to date. Now it's nose to the tunisian crochet hook, and on with the ongoings. I have been fiddling around with some of the beads that I was given for my birthday, too. Need to do more. Want to do more.

Want top brick off chimney...........

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Damart (yes, Damart) so it is textile related!

Damart, the very famous thermal underwear company. Damart, based a few miles up the road from where I live. I feel like going and paying Damart a visit.....

Can you tell that I am attempting to get the name "Damart" into this post as many times as possible? Perhaps I should even give a link to Damart?

Don't use them, though.

And don't read any further if you can't stand me ranting. You have been warned!

They have been harassing my mama. Now, normally, I'm the one who does that, or vice versa. But really, for a firm who know full well that most of their customers are ladies of more than a certain age, and in her case knew she lived in a care home, they have behaved in an exceedingly crass way. We brought the paperwork home with us yesterday, and we can't understand it - at least, apart from the bit that says threat threat threat pay up. She has responded at every turn, sending letters and copies of cheques and things, to no avail. Now they have sent the debt collecting agency in, she has finally paid up simply to get them off her back, but I said that I would look in to it for her.

O, thankless task.

The surly guy at the Damart call centre said that all the records had been passed to the DCA and that I would need to phone them. I asked to speak to his manager, and he claimed, several times, over my incredulity, that he didn't have one. He really was a snotty little bastard (yes, I know call centre employees have a truly hard life, but I did start out polite....) So, on the basis that all calls are recorded (although Damart did not actually announce that at the commencement of the call) I fired off a few salvoes.

Then I tried the DCA. The chap there was at least courteous. When he told me that he couldn't help as it was not my account. I suppose that is fair enough, but you might think that they would have some leeway when the case involves an 88 year old in a care home. Seemingly not.

So, I hung up, fled to my trusty computer, googled Damart, found the name of the MD and Will Write A Letter. I'm not accusing them of anything other than crass and insensitive behaviour towards elderly ladies, and extreme unhelpfulness, really. But, anecdotally, this happens often. And it jolly well shouldn't. My mama might be in error, although actually, I don't think so this time (is this a first??) But CustomerRelationsRNotUs, in the case of Damart. Good ones, anyway. They are certainly off my Christmas card list.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Yes, it is me.

I have not emigrated, abandoned my blog, or anything else. It is simply a severe case of husband-at-home.

Firstly, and he thanks you kindly for good wishes &etc, he is doing just fine, no aches and pains after the first couple of days, except for the pain of me following him around bleating "Don't lift that! Don't stretch! Do you feel all right?" and sundry other wifely expressions of concern. He did get a bit tired after visiting my sister on Friday, and likewise after Guild on Saturday, but that actually had more to do with spending the entire day teaching two new members to spindle spin.

OK, so first up in reports of my doings - Freyalynn and I Facilitated a natural dye workshop for the Guild - I use the word I think advisedly as little real teaching went on, but maybe more did than I realised as both she and I were knackerated by the end of it. Pictures - some of which are by her......

Madder and weld pots by F.

madder & weld

Brazilwood pot by F.


Indigo, I think by me this time.


Some results - F again.


And as can easily be seen, I took this one.

blue hands

We got great results this time, good colour. I used instant indigo - I have to say, I rarely use anything else these days, and I love it.

So, I have been playing with my new camera. I actually tried a video clip of indigo dyeing, it didn't come out very well, but the big shock was finding that I had recorded sound as well - there was this booming voice pontificating about the finer points of dyeing with indigo, and I realised with horror that it was me! When I have it sussed out, and when I have subbed to a suitable site, I'll link something here - Youtube info, anyone?

anyway, a few shots from around the homestead.



Cool fungus, eh, what?


And my favourite.

curly tree

Fibery pursuits - I have finished the greenish socks!! Finally!! And immediately cast on an Opal pair. (Speaking of which, I have been trawling eBay for Opal and finding way too much....) Also, I have finished the body of the Noro shawl and am nearly done picking up for the frill. Should soon be done. And I have been continuing to spin the jacob. It has been hard to get anything done with the DSM around, he wants to use the computer, for one thing. H'mm. Has a different timetable for meals, well anything really. I can see that retirement is going to take some negotiating. Still, good to have him more or less recovered - hope so, we are off down south day after tomorrow for another celebratory knees-up, a Silver Wedding bash, so he needs to be in fine fettle for that.

Hey, good to be back.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I explore Tunisian crochet

Which was a good thing to do, and I did enjoy doing it. I will put some photographs up at some point and talk about it in more detail.

What I really was doing was either sitting by the bedside, or waiting for the return of the DSM. This went on for hours, and eventually I was forced to abandon him to the care of the nurses, and got home at 9.40, knackered after doing nothing all day.

Basically, the actual procedure went just fine, and he had been given the ok to go home - once his bladder had creaked in to action again. Now, normally, this is not something there is ever any problem with, so I was all set to be on our way by around five. Simply didn't happen. Poor old chap.

Anyway, this is apparently not at all unusual, but his telephoned bulletins from the hospital do not yet include a release time. Although other information that it is not seemly to include here.....(he's going to kill me if he ever reads this!)

So as I seem to be more or less awake and will be entirely so after I have been through the shower, I shall toddle off to the bedside again and knit on a sock with crossed fingers for a speedy get-away for both of us.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Calm after storm

So, the three days of festivities are over. I really cannot remember when I have enjoyed myself more, and even better, no sense of let-down today. (Although it is very nice to put my feet up, read a book or knit, in total peace and quiet!)

Friday, yer actual day, the DSM and I went out for the day. Went over into Lancashire, through the Ribble valley, found a very nice - well, we thought it was going to be a country pub, but it was actually a time-warped 1950s-ish "hotel", very oldfashioned but delightful. We joined all the other pensioners having lunches out (talk about the shape of things to come!), where we had the perfect meal of homemade soup and Whitby crab salad, and I received a graceful compliment from a charming gentleman who was celebrating his 80th birthday with friends at the table adjacent to ours.

Then we went to Jenny Scott's in Clapham in North Yorkshire, and both spent good money on luscious yarns, including some Debbie Bliss chunky silk for socks. A super pot of tea and flapjacks in a nearby cafe, and then on to a reservoir in Gisburn Forest for a little walk and a spot of birdwatching. Nothing wildly exciting, but a Common Sandpiper and four elegant Barnacle geese,

It was a beautiful gentle day doing things we both loved, and the best company there could be.

Yesterday, I had my birthday lunch. I had invited family and oldest friends, and booked a meal in a newish and rather cool restaurant in town. Being me, I was terrified that something would go wrong, but it was perfect. There is something incredibly wonderful about sitting down to talk and eat with people that you have known for 52, 42, 38 years - or life, of course, in some cases. The food and the service were excellent, the conversation better.

And the presents of course....I had toyed with the idea of saying "no presents" but couldn't bring myself to do it. I am glad (for one thing, I would have deprived all those lovely people of the pleasure of giving. Ahem.) Every single gift was...oh, dammit, perfect. The thought, the care that had been taken was nearly overwhelming. I'm not going to give a catalogue, but there was beautiful pottery, and beads! More lovely beads, from Cyprus and from New Zealand, where people had been on holiday.

Best of all, though - and I had wondered about being cheeky and asking, but hadn't - my niece had done me a painting, which was a huge compliment as she is always very self-effacing about her work.

Alice blue

This isn't a great photo, the colours are brighter than this - I'll maybe try again with the new camera when I have the software loaded. But it gives an idea. I was thrilled.

OK, so today is a lovely restful day. Tomorrow - well, the DSM has to have relatively minor surgery, so we get to spend the day at the hospital, and then he is home for the week. So, I may not be around much for a few days.

Could be a relief? But all the birthday blather is over now, and it should be back to fibre, work and chit and chat. Maybe pictures. I have plans.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Brilliant subject line, eh? We shall see.....

Yesterday, the Coven came to lunch. I did the savoury stuff, fed them on my favourite goodies - poached fresh salmon, smoked salmon, an asparagus quiche made with my own fair hands fresh that morning, salad, homemade potato salad from a new an interesting recipe (no time now), Kettle chips, really nice cheeses and olive bread made by the DSM. Oh, and Prosecco. Nanny Ogg made a luscious Guinness chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, and there was a really nice trifle.

We sat and knitted, talked, spun and ate and drank. Were very silly, and laughed a lot. The only thing wrong was that the Fabulous Freyalynn was missing, stuck at home with her head in a bucket. (Don't ask - get well soon!) By the time the DSM arrived home at 5pm to be a taxi service, we were mellow. Lovely day.

The dear things gave me these:

beady goodies

Very pretty beady goodies, hours of fun and enjoyment. That's what I call a present!

OK. He's at home again today, but not for work. We're off on a Grand Day Out. Which might be the clue?

Yup. Nearly the end of this on-going saga.

Off to see what's in the.....


Happy Birthday to me - only I'll spare myself the singing!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Midweek; or the lull before the storm

My week got off to a very unusual start - the DSM was actually able to work at home for two days, slightly unofficially and with the aid of a memory stick. He might just get converted to technology yet.

This was very nice for him, and for me as we got to have lunch together and he was "home" by 4.30 instead of two hours later. The downside for me was that of course he was in MY workroom on MY computer all day, so 4.30 saw me hurtling upstairs to do all the checking of emails and blogs and whatever that are so essential to my diurnal round.

Sad, innit?

But basically, that was the Universe being nice to me, as it was on Saturday when I was taken off to buy my birthday present. A new digital camera. With lots of video time available, and sound. So, once I have fathomed it all out, which will take some time, this blog may be graced with all sorts of bells and whistles, and I could just mean literally.......

Fibrewise, I am combing my way through the jacob fleece, a pleasant occupation on a sunny afternoon, iPod in ear. It is a very variable critter, and I think a lot of it may never be used, but the good stuff is quite good, and nice to spin. That may well be the task for this afternoon, although I want to press madly on with the Noro shawl as we may be going to the splendid woolshop in Clapham (North Yorkshire) as part of my actual birthday treat.

Tomorrow sees the Coven arriving for lunch. The Universe was nice to me at Sainsbury's as well' where I found smoked salmon and other goodies all on special offer. The obligatory Prosecco was bought some time ago. Had to make sure of that!

But the best treat of all from the Universe came last night. We had been to Book Group, had a very pleasant time, and were driving back down one of the interesting tracks that there are so many of around here. These are relics of the pre-industrial times, when substantial houses were built whose inhabitants both farmed sheep and wove "pieces" on handlooms - I can't find an actual quote that is relevant at the moment, but Daniel Defoe's "Tour through the whole island of Great Britain" paints a great picture of the time. Anyway, there we were, driving down, through some woods.

When not one but two badgers suddenly scampered across our path! I was so thrilled, I have always wanted to see badgers, and have only managed dead ones by roadsides so far. These were fine and fat and fit, and a splendid sight. They do live in our woods, and at bluebell time you can see their pathways easily, but this coincides with prime midge season, so we have never been out to see if we could spot them. These came as an unexpected gift.

If I survive tomorrow, I will report on the feast and fun. May even play with my new camera.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Ironing. Seems to me that I blather on about ironing rather a lot. It does tend to loom rather large in my life, mostly because I allow it to breed under the kitchen table, where it lurks, glowering and growling at me.

And whilst it might seem extremely strange that I should choose to do this in my period of celebration, I developed the notion that to clear the basket out Would Be A Good Thing. So, with no further ado, with a drum roll, a fanfare, several loud and imperious chords, I give you....

rare sight

...this rare and unusual sight. The bottom of the ironing basket, free and unencumbered. Wow.

Whilst I laboured, I had Coldplay on the cd player. (Another of my guilty secrets. I like Coldplay. And James Blunt. Get over it.) The two things led to meditation, the subject of which being - as should be no surprise - my upcoming significant date. Now, it may seem obvious to others, but it wasn't to me. One of the reasons that I have been feeling so equivocal about my birthday is that somewhere along the line, at a very early age, I must have acquired an image of what constituted an old lady. It is equally true, and this I was more aware of, that any such image is daily reinforced by the media. You do really still see in the paper, frequently, Mrs X, pensioner, aged 60. Hand on heart, I am not kidding, in this day and age. But still, it is the childhood-imprinted picture that is the most significant and hardest to overcome. Fast following this rather obvious conclusion, I realised that no, I am not going to wake up one morning next week with iron-grey hair set in tight curls and body clad head to toe in crimplene. (I do have from my childhood a memory of my grandmother, who would have been in her sixties at the time, struggling to encase herself in her Barbie-pink cotton corset. Would that lurk beneath?) Neither are the contents of my skull suddenly going to morph from where they are now, struggling along trying to make sense of a lunatic world, into a rigid neocon set of Values, Family or otherwise. Simply ain't gonna happen. You have only to look at, say, Germaine Greer or some other older woman icon. Joan Collins...no, perhaps not. Ark! Washes mind out.....

Anyway, as well as the empty ironing basket, I gained a calmer mind, and a better grip on certain things. So, now to return to the finer things in life, and go spin up this little lot, prepared yesterday sitting out in the sunshine. Oh, that is so much better.

jacob locks

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I'm obviously not spinning this up fast enough......

I'm sorry, I can't resist this. There is fibre involved.

fleecy cat

Admitting I was wrong about Zadie Smith

I am a very tolerant and broadminded person. Very. But possibly that comes at the cost of my very few totally irrational and vituperative prejudices. As in my feelings (unprintable) about kitchener stitch, long-tailed cast on, Kate Humble. And until this morning Zadie Smith. Well, not her, personally. Her books. Which I had never read any of (ouch). But I can change, and admit to my change (perhaps, though, not about Kate Humble. I hope.)

When "White Teeth" came out, to great acclaim, many glowing reviews, brouhaha in general, I really did not like the sound of it. I can't, now, remember one word that was said, but I acquired at that point a very deepseated notion that it was Not A Book That I Would Ever Want To Read. So I didn't. I kept hearing Zadie Smith on the radio, and thinking how intelligent and personable and funny she sounded, what a shame she wrote such dreadful books. Which I had never &etc. Mind you, I used to feel exactly the same about Alan Clark - who is this erudite and sensible man, I would think, before his name was mentioned and I blushed fiery red with shame. But we won't go there.

Move forward a few years and a few books, and I am scratching around on the mobile Library van for something to read, and not only that but something to show the snip of a new assistant that I can read things other than Janet Evanovich and Kkkkkatie Fffffforde. (Although, I do like them, and Maeve Binchy and Charlotte Bingham and Jilly Cooper, and Kathy Reichs and....so now you know another of my guilty secrets.) My eye, closely followed by my hand, falls on "The Autograph Man". By Zadie Smith. I take it.

It sits on my shelf. Sits and sits. Until finally this morning, I have read all the other library books bar....it. I have to try, I can't risk the young snip asking me what I thought. "Couldn't be arsed, I have an irrational prejudice" would not be an adequate answer.

Now, so far, I have only got to page twenty. I have laughed more than at any book for a long time, and am drooling at the quality of the writing. This author is intelligent and personable and funny. Who is it? Er - Zadie Smith. Say again? Oh, all right, I admit it. I Was Wrong. Zadie, I apologise. I am your newest. Biggest fan. After twenty pages of one book.

Who knows, I may even try "White Teeth" next.

Fibre pursuits are being pursued. I continue to knit, in a fairly gallopy fashion, on the Noro shawl. It is too easy even for me, and boring. It will get a little more interesting soon, but my next project will be just a tad more challenging, by my standards. I have spun a little more of the Jacob. Quite fun, and rather soothing. The other spinning at present is some alpaca top, very nice, which I will move back to if the weather as is promised and as seems to be happening, improves.

Now, there was something else. Whatever was that? (Terrible how the memory starts failing as you get older. Much older, rapidly. Something to do with fibre, and colour........

Oh, yes.

More blue

I do so hope that no-one is disappointed. It is rather subtle, no? Just three patches. And it is all a cheat - this isn't a dye job, it is hair extensions.

I am, you realise, still working on growing old disgracefully, which I do so enjoy.

Actually, I could do with some suggestions for my next trick.......

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

αφήστε τα παιχνίδια να αρχίσουν

According to the online translator that I used, the above is the translation in to Greek - modern, I assume - of Let the Games Begin!

I have never studied Greek. Latin, yes, I have dim shreds and shards of memory of Latin. I put the same words into the translator for that, and didn't recognise anything that came out, so the above probably says something like two taramasalata and hold the lemon. Or worse.

But it is a momentous day, and needed marking somehow. It is the first day of August. 1/08/06. It is the first day of my birthday month. As this is a special birthday, I am having, in my head at least, an entire month of celebration. Well, in some ways, year, but publicly one whole month, and today is the day that it kicks off. So...

Let the Games Begin!

I first of all did a huge amount of ironing, which had built up again with the hot weather (that happens, you know, temperatures in excess of 25C encourage the rapid proliferation of unironed shirts. Fact.) That isn't as daft as it might sound at first hearing, the DSM now has enough shirts to last for weeks, so I can forget about it again. Well done, me.

Then, I finished off plying a skein of red yarn. This came from a Falkland roving that I had dyed myself, as I considered it, badly. It looked like a robin in a blender. I very nearly threw it but at the very last minute reprieved it and have spun it up rather quick and dirty to see if it would make socks. And it is quite amazing, it looks much nicer spun, and is perfectly usable. Well, whadja know!

red yarn

Then, I picked up a chunk of the Jacob, which had managed against all odds to dry. It isn't half bad. Quite short stapled, on the cusp of "would be better spun longdraw", but I really didn't want to card it, did want a worsted yarn, and thought I would see what a quick comb-out would do. Quite nicely, actually. It is not the best Jacob I have ever had, but is better than most. It feels funny spinning fleece again, I haven't done any for ages. Maybe this will inspire me to deal with the minor mountain that I have stashed away.....

jacob yarn

This fleece needs spinning up quite quickly, I didn't wash it quite well enough. I was rushing to get it out into the fine weather, knowing that it was likely to change, and I should have given it another hot soapy soak.

When I wash fleece, I fill the sink with the hottest water I can stand, and use a good squirt of washing up liquid, usually Ecover. I leave it soaking for ten minutes or so, more and the grease resettles on the fibre as the water cools. I drain, and usually repeat, maybe more than once if the fleece is particularly dirty. This wasn't, so I just gave it the one soapy wash, and then rinsed a couple of times. Same procedure, fill sink with hot water, leave ten minutes. Repeat as necessary - and in this case, a further wash and rinse would have been good. Never mind, it will do.

When I first started spinning, it was considered sissy to wash fleece, spinning in the grease was the thing. Especially for a beginner, it "helped the yarn to stick together." Good grief. People still worry a lot about felting the fibre. I have only ever done that once, and that was with some Polwarth(?) in a washing machine, attempting to spin dry it. I may have mentioned it before....... With some fleeces, hot washing is essential to remove the waxiness, Wensleydale for one. A cold wash makes it disgustingly sticky. Merino and other superfines too, in fact, for the same reasons, but with greater caution. The swishing locks about in very hot soapy water does actually work, I've done it.

While I had the camera out, I finally got around to photographing the Noro shawl-in-progress. Doesn't it look like moorland!

noro shawl

Actually, having said that, the "peat" is right up the top left hand corner, and not terribly noticeable, but I think it is, anyway.

Tomorrow's indulgence is a trip to the hairdresser's. You have been warned!