Awol

I had so much to say in a blog post when access to wifi wasn’t possible. M has a one day break from his London court case and it’s raining cats and dogs so we are catching up with news and film downloads in good old Costa. Of course now it’s so noisy and busy I can’t recall what I wanted to write.

I haven’t tired of waking up amongst the pine trees. M leaves at first light and the dogs and I snooze for a bit longer. I take them into the woodland or the meadow depending on the weather, towel them down and then set about making breakfast. Riley has taken to sitting in the corner closest to the large window at the side of the caravan which happens to be next to a cluster of three pine trees. Yesterday I discovered why he liked that spot. He stood and wagged his tail at the trees and when I looked there was a cheeky squirrel at eye level looking straight at us with a beech nut in his mouth. We’ve seen several squirrels having a little argument outside, no doubt over food or females. A regular tatty pheasant goes by most mornings and there are lots of robins which always seems a bit incongruous since I think of them as garden birds rather than woodland ones.

I’ve taken the odd drive out for M&S coffee and a walk round the lake. On these colder days Riley has resisted the temptation but Harvey has not and comes home shivering. I’ve donated an old jacket to the dog shivering cause. M worries that I will be bored but that’s far from the case. I’m savouring every moment of peace and quiet I can get.

It’s been a good week for focusing on some more challenging crochet. I am making a summer top for E using squares designed for a bag in a big old vintage book. It’s slow but enjoyable. I’m not following a set pattern so there’s that element of ‘will all this be a complete waste of time?’ If all else fails I can turn it into a bag I guess!

I’ve also been trying to make the Petunia Top from the latest issue of Inside Crochet. It’s been rather frustrating as the pattern starts off with the incorrect number of chains for the small size and goes downhill from there. I suspect this size was never tested but don’t feel cocky enough to submit corrections. I persevered until the stage you see above and then threw in the towel. It’s not been a complete waste of time because it led to the decision to start again but this time make it according to what makes better sense to me. The shaping of the sleeves isn’t difficult but I’m dispensing with that and may add some subtle shaping with the edging (or not). I’ve also made completely different shoulder panels with a definite back and front edge. Finally I chose to reduce the fullness of each ‘shell’ to make a finer shell pattern because I’m making it for a toddler and also because it seemed to sit better with fewer trebles in each space.

I made a personal rule to only take two crochet projects to each stay in the caravan but somehow that craftily grew in number this time. I packed my tranquil shawl and E’s summer top this time. A free amigurumi kit doesn’t really count as another project does it? Then there was the flower garland kit that I found in the cupboard from last summer and finished off. Finally the Petunia Top happened simply because I had some spare cotton hanging around and even when I switched to basic dk wool that was also from supplies already in the caravan. These projects spread like crazy with a mind of their own, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

Sussex

My trusty vintage suitcase has barely been left unpacked lately. I tagged along on a business trip to one of the courts in the South this week. I’m pretty sure M wouldn’t normally travel a few hundred miles for work if it wasn’t the place I come from. The journey down was hot and stressful due to delays and a need to be there at a certain time. We’d left two and a half hours contingency and still only made it with twelve minutes to spare. Needless to say M did not worry in silence.

I spent a few hours in Lewes browsing junk/antique and charity shops with several breaks for cold drinks or coffee. It was over thirty degrees and not even a whiff of a breeze. A fair trade shop owner was offering cold water which was a very thoughtful touch. There were dog bowls outside a lot of places too. H and R were no doubt laying sprawled out on our hall tiles at the time.

On our way to stay with my Uncle and Aunt we stopped over at Eastbourne because M said he wanted to experience a traditional promenade stroll. I totally took these for granted when I was younger. The well kept flower beds and the architecture didn’t really occupy my thoughts at all back then. Now of course I look at the four storey Victorian buildings and realise they are the essence of this stretch of coast.

We did a slow walk to the end of the pier and back too. The water looked impressively blue and inviting. Seafood seemed like the thing to have here so we found a local restaurant and had a bite to eat, sitting outside at 8pm at night in a T shirt! Go Britain! On our drive along to Bexhill I had the strong sense of going back in time (we lived a bit further along the coast). Sometimes I feel sad I don’t live here anymore and sometimes I’m just happy to be visiting. It’s when I come back to Lincolnshire that I feel absolutely no joy or connection whatsoever.

It was nice to spend some time with family but also great to carve out a bit of time to be child, dog and husband free for half a day. This is becoming very rare now! I picked up a secondhand paperback, sandwich, strawberries and a much needed straw hat from one of the cheap beach shops and headed to the beach. Had I known it was going to be so ridiculously hot I think I would have packed a towel and costume too. I was rather envious of those who were cooling off in the sea. A seagull took a little bit too much interest in my strawberries. He kept sidling closer and closer and I’m not a fan of anything with a beak since an incident with a black swan when I was small. I told him, in a soft voice, no I don’t think I really want to share these (lest anyone should hear me talking to a bird and think I was slightly odd). He just shuffled over a bit closer and looked out to sea as if just casually keeping me company. Against my better judgement I did eventually give him my last strawberry, he tossed it a few times and then gulp, it was gone and so was he. Thank goodness. Off to find some tasty chips no doubt.

From the beach it is walking distance to see my Grandad. He was doing a good job of keeping his place as cool as possible by letting the breeze in through the door, keeping the sunny side curtains closed and using a small fan. It was a welcome respite from the heat. His patio thermometer read 50 degrees! A sun trap he couldn’t possibly sit out in this week at least.

Strangely we hardly ever walk down to our village pub for a drink because M would be forever chatting to people I don’t really know. It was enjoyable to walk to and from a pub one evening, sit in the beer garden and have an ice cold gin and tonic. We also had an Italian meal at Sovereign Harbour one evening too which felt very civilised. Later M conceded that maybe the South wasn’t so bad after all. I think it’s gradually winning him over.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘dreams’, as in those which seem impossible to achieve. I’ve come to realise that I need to define what my dream actually is rather than having a random selection. Location will no doubt have a part to play and it is possible that compromise will too.

For now though, home is this flat county and I must make the most of things. I’m not sure how we will make progress with the teardrop trailer that would allow me to tow it to the Lincolnshire coast since we have sited our caravan somewhere for twelve weeks. Still, all good things come to those who wait and I am prepared to wait. The caravan might not be a rustic wooden cabin in the forest but it’s not a bad substitute. We really didn’t use it enough to justify having it last year so this year we will be making up for that. The dogs are already getting used to the idea. They seem to settle down quickly for the journey and know exactly where the meadow is when we get there, not to mention Riley has a favourite half of the seating area and Harvey likes to be where he can see anyone walking by, just like home!

Hot

M is having a hot, stuffy and stressful week in court. It seems a lot of these places would benefit from air conditioning. I went along and sat in the viewing area once and it was very warm with just one fan in the main court room, not doing very much to cool anyone down by the looks of things. I’m having to take into account his early starts, travel hours and the nature of the case and be extra understanding. He’s not one of those strong silent types.

It’s been very hot here today. I’ve been mowing the grass in phases. The front on Monday, half of the back today and I will do the rest of the back tomorrow. It’s working out nicely. Last time I did the whole lot in one day I could barely hold a fork let alone a crochet hook so I’ve learnt my lesson. I’d ask J but he’s got an intense week himself. Exams every day this week except for tomorrow but two on Friday. After that he’s a free agent but lawn mowing will be on the agenda!

J is guaranteed to leave things to the last minute but there must have been talk about prom suits amongst his friends. Last night he requested a tape measure and quietly set about checking his chest and inside leg measurements and then ‘shopping’ online for a suit. Don’t ask me how it was so quick but with next day delivery it arrived today and I managed to get a photo of him wearing it. No mean feat I can tell you! There was a bit of a gulp moment when I realised that my little batman cape wearing four year old was now a six foot four teenager in a three piece suit.

I’ve finished the second Unfold cowl. The colour looks a bit paler in the photo than in real life and that’s not the finished size but I’m planning on taking some photos of E wearing it regardless of the fact it’s summer! It turned out a little wider and a whole lot taller than my WYS Illustrious version so I think I probably will order that extra ball sometime and do the proper number of rows, I can see myself wearing it a lot in winter, so much less faffing about than a mobeus type. Over the head and go. I’m sure the dogs will thank me when they are doing their little victory dances in the hall before a walk.

Whilst away in the caravan last weekend E sent me a photo of a crochet summer top that she liked but didn’t particularly like the main colour of. She tends to avoid blue if she can. The accompanying message was simply ‘is this something you could make for me?’ With appropriate emojis of course. The shop version uses quite basic granny circles made square and then joined with a lot of chain stitches. I pondered over it a for a few days and then remembered the big fat vintage book I have with knitting, embroidery and crochet all covered in depth. There is a crochet summer tank top inside with small simple squares and not much shaping. There is also a bag which uses larger, more complex squares and a join as you go method. These bag squares are just what I need to create the lacy look in between the motifs as well as an interesting design and not having to sew them together at the end is a bonus.

I’ve chosen a charcoal grey as the main, last round colour and just grabbed an assortment of leftover dk for the rest. The number of ends involved is extremely offputting as is the number of these squares that I will need to make. Hopefully some caravan in the woods time will keep me focussed. I only take two crochet projects with me as a rule, and no extra yarn, that way I have to stick with what I’m working on.

We’ve made the most of the weather this evening and BBQ’d a simple supper. Our proper BBQ is usually stored in the caravan so I had to dig out this old bucket BBQ that I bought for the children to toast marshmallows on when they were younger. It was £10 and seems to have worked just as well as our £100 Cobb BBQ. E and her boyfriend decided to have swingball session which automatically puts Harvey on ball alert. Whenever we do anything involving balls or shuttlecocks in the garden he is very handy indeed for retrieving them when they inevitably go down the bank and into the stream. He paced up and down waiting for the swingball ball to end up in the water and of course it didn’t so he decided to have a trudge up and down in the dregs of the stream anyway. He has four very black legs and a black sludge underbelly and will be having a nice shower with Sanex for Men later. Riley has, very sensibly, spent most of the day lying on cold floor tiles.

This year I’ve got a much more useful quantity of gooseberries. Previously I’ve only had a handful and just whisked them into some natural yoghurt which wasn’t that tasty if I’m honest. This year I’m thinking gooseberry pie is probably the way to go. I might even tempt M into making one, he loves to bake. The gooseberry bush was a bit of an impulse buy a few years ago. It was looking sad and half dead on a discounted shelf and cost just pence. I could see there was enough life left in it for it to survive and now it’s a massive sprawling, annoyingly well spiked thing with a big crop of gooseberries. It may well need pruning, I need to read up.

Long may the sunshine last. I always feel obliged to soak up the vitamin D and get some proper fresh air when it’s sunny. That means I feel less obliged to be indoors hoovering, cleaning and tidying despite the fact that the dogs traipse dead leaves indoors, and leave half chewed nowhere near ready to pick apples and plums on the carpet. I can’t complain though, when we had Tilly, and Mollie before her, they had a field day catching small birds on summers days like today with the patio doors wide open and the freedom to bring in their little meals or gifts. I can’t stomach dead birds so M used to come home to an upturned flower pot in the house and have to deal with it. He’d have a cat again in a flash but I’m happier without for now.

Navigation

Well, there’s the photographic evidence of the start of our weekend. Pretty heavy rain. Apparently it made a dreadful din on the roof of the caravan, but I slept like a log. It has its advantages, being able to switch off. I let M have a nice lie in due to his disturbed night and took the dogs into the meadow for early morning bouncing around. The buttercups have taken a battering but there are so many different types of grass in that meadow it still makes for a fascinating walk. My grandfather told me recently that one of the things he enjoyed at school was when they were sent off to identify as many grasses as possible. I think he was quite good at it. We did the same at primary school with wild flowers and trees, but I can only remember half a dozen grasses.

The dogs may have bounced through the waist high grasses but they still got soaked right through and spotted with buttercup petals and grass seeds. I’ve got a black sack full of wet towels to deal with, caravans don’t have radiators as such. Somehow Riley dries off so much quicker than Harvey and with less shivering involved.

Friday night was movie night. Wifi was down due to seem unknown technical issue at the site. So instead of selecting a Netflix film we thought it would be a fabulous idea to play a DVD. There’s a random selection permanently in the caravan, none of which we’ve actually watched. It took us half an hour to plug all the cables in the right place and then find the channel that cooperates with the DVD player. Reading a book was becoming an attractive option at this point, especially when M decided he would choose the first film. His choices invariably involve guns and someone blowing someone’s head off with one. Sure enough, ‘Sleepers’ fit the bill nicely. My choice was ‘Wild’ after the book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. Nowhere near as good as reading the book but M did manage to stay awake for it, which is rare when it’s my choice of film. Riley snored noisily through the whole thing.

Saturday night may well have been movie night part two but a four hour long power cut prevented that. Our lights go over to battery back up when there’s no electric supply and since M was reading and I was crocheting at the time we didn’t realise why the men from the caravans nearby were all suddenly appearing with their rain coats on and torches to examine the electric hook ups. Although we have an electric kettle we also have a gas hob and luckily at the back of a cupboard an old fashioned whistling kettle. I can’t hear high pitched noises at all but the dogs had never experienced this kettle so they went slightly bonkers when it whistled. They turned their heads from side to side and then decided to get up and do a little bouncing around. Who needs ears when you have dogs?

I sort of finished the unfold cowl before I set off on Friday. The yarn ran out nine rows short which is quite a significant amount of cowl given that each row is treble height. This was yarn M treated me to in Wales without paying too much attention to what it cost. I would have ordered an extra ball but it’s quite pricey stuff and the cowl works perfectly well this height. I’m going to weave the ends in, leave it like this and keep it for myself although it probably won’t be cold enough for woollen cowl wearing for quite a while now.

I love the pattern and I’ve totally got the hang of it now without referring to the written instructions or chart for every row. With that in mind I decided to make one for E next. There isn’t a yarn shop close to where we were this weekend but there is a small selection of yarn within a card shop. The choice is a little strange. The nastiest cheapest acrylic you’ve ever seen, floor to ceiling in every colour they make, or a small shelf of nicer yarn. Of the nicer yarn I was pleased to see the very Harrap Tweed range I used for my Grandfather’s fingerless mitts recently. I’ve chosen a mossy, olive type of green for E, she likes green. Is it just me or does everyone start a new project with those little doubts creeping in? I worried about the tweed yarn distracting from the geometric nature of the raised pattern but after a short while I could see that it was fine.

There was no proper hiking this weekend. The weather was terrible and we had supplies to gather which inevitably involved quite long coffee breaks here and there. We also relocated our caravan to a long term pitch which will enable us to use the caravan more often whilst not costing the earth. Having tried to find a holiday let for a week, for four of us and two dogs, in my home county of Sussex recently I’ve come to realise that a twelve week long term caravan pitch will cost us about half of the cost for one week in holiday accommodation in Sussex. I’m trying to interest J in some of the activities available nearby too, abseiling, canoeing, hiking, cycle trails, swimming. OK maybe not abseiling, in fact I won’t mention that one, he’s a boy who likes to make up his own rules, in a stubborn kind of way rather than a rebellious one but either way it’s a worrying trait when it comes to matters of safety. In Barcelona, for example, he decided that bicycles shouldn’t have to wait for red lights. I’m not reminding him that he can apply for a provisional licence later this year either. With a bit of luck he will forget.

It sounds like we had the perfect weekend. I’ve just glossed over the fact that it took me twice as long to actually find the site on my own without a satnav, because M needed it on Friday to find an address he’s driven to half a dozen times before but is incapable of going anywhere without one. Having expressed my low opinion of satnavs in general I thought I’d prove that road maps are just as effective as they always were, after all, I used one the day after I passed my driving test to start a tour of the whole of Devon and Cornwall. How the heck did I manage that or all the trips since that one without a bloody satnav? I can only assume that it was easier to pull over and read your stupid AA route plan due to the much smaller volume of traffic on the roads in general. In my defence M did say that the AA had suggested a terrible route and that there was a much easier one. I may also have glossed over the fact that I did eventually manage to find a McDonald’s, had a much needed wee, bought a calming cup of coffee and sent a not so calm message to M’s phone about how I really could have done with the satnav just this once! Even with the ridiculous delay I managed to have three peaceful hours to myself before M arrived (after his stress free satellite navigated journey) and by then I had banished all negative thoughts and plans to insist we buy another satnav! I’m going to do that journey again and I’m going to do it without technology. So maybe J gets his stubbornness from me?

Unfold

We are not impressed with June’s weather offerings so far! The warmth and sunshine was pushed aside by this relentless wind and rain. Riley has been most disturbed by the noise the galeforce wind has been making. We didn’t brave a proper walk today for various reasons but mainly because it was hard to stand up let alone walk! I did venture up the garden and into the fields with Harvey bounding off regardless and Riley looking rather sheepish beside me. Twigs and branches have totally covered the grass and will need a big clear up job before I can get the mower over it all.

The decision on whether nor not to order a new cover for our old parasol was dealt with last night when we woke to find the metal pole snapped clean in two and half way up the garden. Our new one is bravely standing up against the weather in its temporary sleeve. I’m sure other things will depart or arrive in the garden overnight.

With M away for a couple of days, E at work and J revising for exams I decided it was quiet enough to start a crochet project that required a little more concentration and effort. I hadn’t anticipated quite how worried Riley was about the wind so after the third time he climbed on top of the crochet to get on to my lap I decided to give in and try and reassure him everything was ok. Harvey seems fine with wind, storms, thunder and lightning but we’ve had him since he was a puppy so we have been able to teach him that it’s no big deal. After a nap on my lap Riley calmed down and I put some music on to drown out the wind a bit. Acoustically I have no idea whether this worked but Riley settled next to me rather than on my lap so it must have helped.

The project I’ve started is called Unfold and is in the PomPom magazine edition I bought way back last February whilst in Brighton for a visit. It came with a free digital version which I’ve found really useful. I must admit I liked the look of this cowl last year but thought it was just out of reach in terms of skill level. I’ve been drawn to these raised treble stitches and although some patterns still get me into a right old tangle I’m more confident with them now. Thanks to dogs climbing on my lap whilst counting for the set up rows there are a couple of little mistakes in those rows but I decided to carry on regardless and quite honestly once it’s finished no-one is going to notice! It hasn’t prevented the subsequent rows from settling back into the proper pattern.

The pattern calls for 4-ply but I had this lovely Illustrious WYS yarn just waiting to be used for something special. It’s DK and I’ve used a 4mm hook instead of the 3.5mm hook suggested. I think I probably should have used 4.5mm but it’s not working up too stiffly so I’ve got away with it. This many raised trebles make for a thick fabric and since it’ll be a single thickness cowl just bunched slightly when worn I think it’s going to make a very warm one.

We will be spending more time in our caravan this year so I’m hopeful that I will be able to make a few more of these as gifts. It doesn’t look like much now but once it’s finished I think it will look a lot cleverer than it actually was! Naturally I’ve been absolutely not clever about calculating yarn requirements. I didn’t even looked at the weight or yardage required and it has chomped through the first ball rather speedily. I’ve counted the number of rows left and the number completed and phew, I think it’ll be enough but in future I will do the maths first.

Derbyshire

It’s always so thoroughly beneficial to get away for a few days. Even accounting for minor disagreements and the general hard work involved in camping, or caravanning with dogs there is still room for plenty of relaxation. In relationship terms I think holidays rate as one of the best opportunities to really to get to know someone, for better or worse. We had a little bit of both this last week but survived and ended on a good note with new things to contemplate.

We stayed just outside Ashbourne in Derbyshire. It’s got a bit of everything we like including lakes and rivers for the dogs, a small market town, beautiful countryside. Only this time I wasn’t happy about missing out on walks longer than the half a mile that M can manage. On day one we did that half a mile walk and sat watching people stream by with walking boots, backpacks, kids, dogs, picnics. It was nice enough sitting there with our own small picnic despite the fact that there were a million dogs and small children and letting two Springers run amok just wouldn’t have been the done thing. Both fidgeted and tried to sit in our laps (they were soaking wet too) and were generally a big fat pain in the neck. I couldn’t really blame them, like me they just wanted to get on with a bit of exploring.

An extremely fit woman who must have been at least seventy five years old approached us to ask exactly where she was on her laminated map. We clocked the brand new and matching walking trousers, backpack, footwear and walking poles and M said later, ‘All the gear and no idea!’ However, the poor woman had walked for four hours and got totally confused with her map reading and I kind of admired her for sticking with it especially when she realised she was the wrong side of a very big tor. She could so easily have caved and asked for a lift back to her hotel.

It sounds like a simple thing to ask your husband to drop you at the start of a walking route and meet you at the other end on the basis that you enjoy walking but he doesn’t. M prefers to do things together. My first attempt was just met with laughter. The second with anger. Armed with more research on route, timings, weather, suitability for my footwear (for goodness sake) I eventually got him to agree but he wasn’t happy. The plan was for him to take Harvey and his bad shoulder to a scenic riverside bench we’d discovered previously and for Harvey to have a swim, and for M to read the newspaper and do the crossword and then head to the meeting point where there was free parking, coffee and toilets. Meanwhile Riley and I would try hard not to break our necks or twist our ankles!

Apart from the sheer pleasure of walking for over two hours on my own with Riley alerting me to approaching walkers whether ahead or behind us, amazing scenery, stopping only for quick swigs of water or a cooling swim for Riley, I ended up learning a valuable lesson when we met up at the end of the route. With lunch, coffee and a bench overlooking a stream with tiny fluffy baby ducklings (dogs safely in the car by now!) we witnessed two other couples who were managing to cope with different physical abilities. A middle aged woman with limited mobility and a stick waited quite happily watching the same ducklings for some considerable time until her hiking boot clad husband came into view. Next to our car a man with more severe mobility issues (a wheelchair in the back) read the newspaper and set up a flask of tea while his wife set off for a walk.

It’s worth mentioning that we are sort of equal when it comes to things we can and can’t do. M can’t walk far or fast but he can enjoy theatre, live music, the cinema, the radio, chats with complete strangers. He can make phone calls and ask for things in shops knowing that he will hear the reply. There’s probably quite a few more but the point is that we can’t always enjoy the same things.

With the sulking and the strops conveniently forgotten M said he’d had a lovely day! He’d actually got to our meeting point and decided to walk as far as he felt he could manage with H knowing that I’d be making my way towards the same path. Despite taking a tumble when the path offered up a random rock in an otherwise smooth surface he was happy he’d seen some of the route. I’m hopeful that we can do similar things in the future.

Apart from walking there was crochet time, reading, staring up into the sky through very tall trees (I did quite a bit of this!). My fronds shawl got finished. I used a 150g Colourwheel ball of yarn which turned out to be a good sized shawl. I’ll wear it more like a cowl or scarf so didn’t need too much more bulk. I liked this pattern and would happily make another using a different brand of multi tone yarn or something similar to the green variegated yarn used in the pattern details. The pattern is by The Crochet Project and is absolutely perfect for a travel or holiday project, just a little bit of concentration required!

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was Riley finding a huge fresh cowpat and deciding to coat not just one side of his head and neck with it but both sides. M was ranting, Harvey was shaking with fear, I was rearranging the car boot and deciding which old towel to donate to the cause. Riley just stood there dripping liquid cow poo from both ears. We wrapped him up in the towel and drove to the nearest lake with all four windows wide open and howling with laughter!