Seclusive 

I guess it must be human nature, at least some of the time, to want what you can’t have. When things are chaotic and I don’t feel I have physical or mental space I crave being alone. When I achieve that my old fear of leaving the house comes back to haunt me. I must have spent about eight years struggling to leave the house alone but gladly going out when I was with someone. I’ve always said this doesn’t count as agoraphobia but it’s something close. It came about just after I met M and allowed him to do some of the things that I had always done for myself but decided would be easier for him to take over. So things like transactions in Post Office, petrol stations etc. The more he did the less stress I felt I had in my life until it actually became very stressful on the odd occasion that I did have to do those things again.

My recent journey to the caravan involved a fuel purchase. I also grabbed a bag of dog mixer and some milk. The first question I missed because I was retrieving a bag from my rain coat pocket was, ‘would you like a bag?’. The second one I missed was, ‘do you have a club card?’ I missed this because I was looking down into my purse for the payment card. The third question I missed was whether I had any fuel to pay for in addition to the dog biscuits and milk. Not once in any of this did the woman think, ah, this woman can’t hear unless she’s looking at me, and who can really blame her? It’s inside knowledge right? She did start every repeated question with, ‘I said…’ but at least she didn’t huff and puff and roll her eyeballs skyward like quite a few people I encounter.

My several days alone in the caravan with Riley for company and ears did necessitate a few more interactions like this one but it’s hardly an excuse to stay indoors and avoid people. I do sometimes feel like starting a campaign for fewer questions at check outs though!

When I met M he already owned a four year old black Labrador/Setter cross. He was totally adorable, a big softie. He did, however, have a ferocious sounding bark and his hackles use to rise from his neck all the way down his back if there was something he felt was threatening. Riley doesn’t have the hackles thing but I can tell from his expression what kind of warning he’s giving me when he barks. He did a slightly more ferocious sounding growl and bark very late one evening which unsettled me a bit but he stopped so it can’t have been anything too close. He seemed a bit confused when he realised it was just going to be the two of us and stayed even closer than usual, including waiting outside the bathroom door!

Riley and I were able, in amongst torrential downpours, to go on some nice long, faster paced walks, some involving a quick swim for him too. It’s really not unusual to trudge around in walking boots and a backpack in the Peak District because it’s walking country but I did feel a bit of a fraud when the ‘survival’ items in my backpack were strawberries, a bonio and a tartan blanket!

It’s surprising how fast a day to yourself goes when you factor in a short morning walk (for dog reasons!), gathering picnic supplies (strawberries), hiking, stopping for take out coffee (be silly not to) more hiking, dog swimming (essential) and home for crochet time, dog snoozing and cooking something simple for dinner like soup with part bake rolls. The fresh air exhausted us both and I was too tired to read on two nights out of the three.

I secretly enjoyed rebelling against M’s silly rule about the caravan shower. He seems to think it’s too much bother filling up the water tank for this when there are perfectly good facilities. My feeling is that you only fill the tank once in a while and it’s well worth it compared to having to walk some considerable distance in torrential rain to the ‘facilities’. Not only that but there’s something extremely cosy about having a steaming hot shower in a caravan that’s being pounded by noisy heavy rain. Riley approved too because he was able to lie down outside the bathroom door and wait, whereas he’d have been a bit anxious if I’d left him with all that rain noise. M thinks he’s a wimp but he was left for long periods of time on his own in his former life and he’s never really got over it.

Chaos soon returned with the arrival of M and Harvey, but I had missed Harvey 😉 and we did have a lovely day out in Bakewell on Sunday. The rain even held off until we were heading back. The dogs enjoyed a big long swimming session in a shallow part of the river away from all the ducks and people having picnics. We are obviously used to seeing them belly flop into the water and shove their heads under water looking for the stick we’ve thrown but after a while we realised that there was quite a crowd watching them from the bridge. I was a little embarrassed when we called Harvey out and he pretended not to hear. M said there was a lot of laughter at this point.

I don’t know what made me grab the t shirt yarn and take it with me but I did feel a bit guilty about having had it since our road trip round Italy. I could have made all sorts of things with it but in the end decided on a simple circular rug because we needed one! I say ‘we’ but it was J really. When he goes to brush his teeth or shave he always throws the bath mat down in front of the sink. Fair enough right? It’s the fact that he leaves it there instead of putting it back on the side of the bath that slightly annoys me. Call me odd but I kind of wanted the bath mat to be used for wet feet after a bath or shower, not a ‘let’s walk all over this mat all day long’ kind of mat. It’s hard to explain these things to a teenager, so instead I told J that I was going to crochet something especially for him. I think he was quite worried at first but was reassured after seeing some in progress pics. He loves the finished mat. In fact I can confidently call it the ‘let’s walk all over this mat all day long’ mat because I can just throw it in the washing machine as necessary.

Other crochet hasn’t been 100% successful. That little sleeveless cardigan from my last post got finished but I realised once I was down to the body width that it was probably more suited to a five year old than a two year old. The pattern called for four ply with a 3.5mm hook. I used dk with a 4mm hook but made a whole size less than required. You’d think that would be a reasonable adjustment wouldn’t you? I was using the ‘actual’ chest measurements as a guide too. It’ll be stored away for future use, I’ll take a photo of it sometime anyway, the mother of pearl buttons looked just right against the yarn.

Not deterred I started another cardigan using the same pattern but this time went down yet another size. I used a slightly less thick dk yarn. The final chest measurement still came out far too generous so that one will also have to be wrapped up and saved for at least a year. You can guess what my third attempt will be! Yep, four ply yarn! I’m only left with trying to make the 6-9 month size in dk to try and get a cardigan to fit a two year old and that just doesn’t sound feasible so I’m going to use the yarn and hook size suggested and do a tension swatch as well!

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Simple

Two blog posts in as many days! I’m heading to the woods so the wifi will be sketchy unless I head into town which I’m going to try and avoid. I sometimes get a strong desire for proper coffee and that’s about all that will entice me out, now that we’ve bought a new coffee machine for home I will be taking the old one with me. Happy days. The moka coffee pot is buried in amongst supplies and equipment for the teardrop trailer. I’ve given M a new deadline, it was originally April but I’ve dropped subtle hints that October might be a good month to go exploring!

M and I got up bright and early and headed to the passport office in Peterborough today. The appointment itself was a little intimidating but it was an extremely efficient process. We didn’t want to risk a postal service so we had to wait four hours for it to be done on the same day. M hadn’t really expected that so he wasn’t overly cheerful about killing that much time in Peterborough. However, he was happy to sit on the benches by the water fountain feature and watch the world go by for some of it. We really like those street level water jets that are programmed to squirt a little bit more than the last squirt and so on. Kids obviously love them and so do the pigeons.

I popped to John Lewis whilst M was happily watching the pigeons. Well it would have been silly not to! Despite the tempting yarn sales I only ended up buying buttons and a Toft crochet kit. I have to admit that I wouldn’t really be happy paying £25 for a kit to make a crochet dog despite there being a hook, needle and stuffing supplied along with the yarn. It seems like a lot of money for a stuffed toy. So I was obviously a lot happier paying £10 for the kit from the selected sale items. There were other animals and birds too but dogs… it had to be.

I already own the book Edward’s Menagerie and if you’ve been with me since my blogspot blog days you’ll have seen the rabbit, bear, polar bear, fox and sheep I made. I fully intended to give them away but they make such a nice collection, one that will be even better with the addition of a dog!

After much discussion we are going to see how the dogs get on with being separated for a few days. My guess is that Harvey will love chilling out with the men. He really is a bit of a man’s man. Riley is a softie and follows me everywhere which is a little to do with his former life and being left on his own for long periods of time. So he will enjoy the one to one time. Whether they will be grumpy with each other on meeting back up again I’m not sure.

To give myself a break from all those repetitive double trebles I’ve started a small person garment! I’ve chosen the simplest construction I can find and I’m hoping that will mean I can do my own thing with it more easily. At the moment that only entails making a small flower to finish it off with but we’ll see. Nice buttons might be enough detail. Despite sizing it up to dk rather than 4 ply and using a hook half a size bigger the chest measurement doesn’t seem anywhere near where it needs to be which is puzzling me at the moment. I shall carry in regardless because it’s a cardigan with only three buttons at the top anyway so it’ll have plenty of room.

The dogs and I took a walk around our back field this evening. Lovely low golden sunlight and the dogs stuck mainly to the edges rather than bounce through the wheat. They’ve harvested the side field but not this one and I do love the smell of dry, ready to harvest wheat. My bare legs were scratched and stung all over but I never mind, some things are worth a few scratches! Happy dogs, the sun going down and a lovely walk just at the end of the garden. Oh and those teasels, cleverly designed bug hotels. I love them.

Trials

I’ve just selected random images from my camera roll for this post and it seems there’s been a fair bit of crochet happening lately. Little E’s watermelon(ish) dress is finished. I love choosing a button for a finishing touch and I have been known to make M, E and J wait patiently while I carefully select buttons from various foreign street markets.

I liked the construction of the yoke dress so much I thought it might be possible to work out a crochet yoke for an adult. I did try and find one in a plain design and for dk but most designs out there seem to involve an awful lot of lacy stuff. Not quite my thing. Then I remembered that I had a book about top down construction and studied that over several sittings of coffee. It seems fairly straight forward in that you guess/calculate the starting chain by holding it round your neck or laying it over a favourite neckline from a garment you own. Yep, no problem. Then you calculate the yoke depth to several inches below your armpit, not forgetting that the neckline starts a little way down from the top of your neck. No problem. Then you take your starting chain number and the number of stitches you will need to go round both arms and your chest and calculate the difference. Um? Then you simply (ha!) work out how many increases per row you need to do to end up with the arm/chest number. Easy right?

You can see how well it was going in the photo above. I was just pleased it was circular. After that it all went a bit pear shaped. I got as far as the underarm chain calculations and it did actually fit at this stage but the fact that the yoke was ruffled on top of the shoulders and not flat would have meant ripping back miles of it. So I slept on it and then frogged the lot the next morning. Life is too short! Ironically, after tipping all my back issues of crochet magazines out on to the bed (with Riley as my helpful research assistant) I found just the yoke in dk I was looking for. It has bobbles but those are easily left out. For now I’ve bookmarked it and started something else but I am definitely planning to try using this yoke for an idea I’ve had for a top.

I spent a while this morning digging out my entire stash of four ply cotton. I hardly ever use this weight and all of these leftovers are from amigurumi toys, hence the very random colours. A simple cotton vest top pattern caught my eye and I’m working it up in these very colours as a trial run. So far it feels like it would be lovely to wear because it drapes very softly with the use of double trebles. They do feel quite slow going though and the front and back are made separately so I hope I manage to stick with it.

Unfortunately I only have 100g of that scrumptious denim dyed cotton and it is also dk, because that really would be my ideal colour way for a summer vest top. If my trial run works out well I plan to try and find something similar in four ply for the final garment. Either that or a yarn cake of multi tasteful colours which would be fun and with fewer ends to weave in.

Today has been wet and wild. I’m not sure how Riley could hear thunder over and above J’s music but he must have done because he climbed on to my lap when the rain started getting heavy and the trees were bending in the wind. Later, in the middle of hoovering we had a power cut which I wasn’t too upset about because it meant an enforced crochet break. This village seems to get its fair share of power cuts, only the slightest storm will knock the electricity out. I can remember us scrabbling about in a drawer for white pillar candles when I was a child if there was a power cut. Now of course we’ve got candles all over the place, not to mention the odd set of battery powered string lights.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this coming week pans out to include a solo trip to our caravan in the woods. I’ve even got M to agree to me taking just one of the dogs on the basis that it’s quite hard work for one person when they don’t get on in the boot of the car for the journey and are a bit snippy going in and out of the caravan. Not to mention having to towel them down when it’s been raining and it’s muddy. He says I need at least one dog with me to act as a pair of ears which I suppose is true. I do find it more relaxing when I know they will let me know if anyone is around, I just wish Riley could talk and then he could say, ‘that couple over there just said good evening to you’ and then I wouldn’t look like a snotty so and so who wasn’t friendly!

Watermelon 

E left bright and early to commute to work in her little mocha coloured Fiat 500. It’s surprising how tiny it is but how much it can hold. She packed her little sunflower seedling operation into the tiny boot; twenty five terracotta pots with a tray of spares in case some didn’t make it out of the playground gates in one piece. The children were excited about taking home a living plant and chattered about how big theirs would grow, it was a great idea but we did have to start a whole new set of plants after the first batch grew too high and became quite fragile to handle. After not much growth they really need to be in a flower bed up against a fence or wall and staked. We don’t have an ideal place for sunflowers. The pebble trough in front of the house turned out to be concrete underneath so we’ve stuck the spares and too tall ones in all over the place and I’m not expecting many, if any, to survive the dogs or the wind.

E had a tough day saying goodbye to children she has really bonded with. In the end it wasn’t actually the ones she expected to be upset over that made her cry. It was the little boy who had taken a while to come out of his shell and trust her and bond with her and ultimately follow her around like a little shadow. In fact there was one day she had to spend with a different class due to staff numbers and he slipped out of his classroom door and wandered around, peeping into various classrooms before eventually finding E and presenting the drawing he desperately wanted to show her. It was chatting with his Mum who also got quite emotional when she told E that he’d never really got attached to any teacher until now, and finding out how unusually quiet and tearful he’d been these last two weeks that got to her. I guess this is the beginning of years of this kind of thing though that doesn’t really help her right now.

Meanwhile the boy teen and I are like passing ships in the night. I see a shadow slink into the bathroom for a shower and then a shadow slink back to his man cave. At least he washes. He does leave the man cave now and then too. He’s been to football training and he’s decided that whilst the evenings are light enough he would like to cycle there and back. It’s just over three miles to this village and the roads are 60mph country lanes so I’m not all that keen, but I do remember that sense of freedom and independence so I can’t really say no.

M has had to purchase a weekly train pass to London this week. It costs £240 and works out a bit better than buying daily tickets. It’s always a gamble with a week long booking for a court type job because they sometimes get thrown out on the first day which renders the train ticket useless unless he gets alternative London work. This week he will be getting his money’s worth with the weekly pass. He does, however, message me daily with tales of passengers who have boarded the train and tried to get away with  paying for an off peak ticket and then travelling at a peak time, or various other fare dodging tactics. He gets quite cross about it and I can imagine his body language towards them speaks volumes.

On Tuesday we popped up to the huge junk/antique centre near here to look for an original or retro wall mounted bottle opener. E has worked alongside a male teacher who has been a good laugh and great support and his preferred drink is beer so we put together one of those beer trugs that seem to be everywhere now (google beer trug gift and you’ll see what I mean) for a leaving present. M had previously made the perfect trug, E chose some craft beers and I suggested the bottle opener for the side. M treats this antique place much the same as he does Ikea. He seems to think you can just walk in, make your pre-considered purchase and walk out. Never mind that there are all kinds of treasures that you didn’t know you needed but suddenly can’t live without! Actually I’m not that kind of shopper at all, I have a mental list of things we could do with and at the moment most involve equipping the teardrop trailer ready for a trip in October. We found the bottle opener and added it to the trug but there was absolutely no chance of browsing.

Today I nipped back just to browse at my leisure. I bought several inexpensive old books, two are poetry and for my Mum who has broken her arm recently and is lousy at sitting still and taking things easy. It’s a family thing! I also had a great time rummaging in tatty old wooden boxes for a small draw shave. At least I think that’s what they are called. We saw a pricey one on Tuesday and M said he didn’t want to pay that much for one so I said I’d look next time I was up there because I tend to know, despite the many many buildings and the hundreds of rooms, who sells what at reasonable prices. This one is the same size as the one he first saw but a fifth of the price, just £3! It might need honing but M can fix it up. My other find, and totally random, is a wooden handled grapefruit knife in great condition. We used to have a plastic one but it is long lost and they are ideal for avocado too. A bargain at £2. On the drive home I developed a craving for an avocado and banana sandwich. I’m not sure if that’s an advisable combination but it worked for me.

I’m pleased I’ve got my cable drum table back in action after the sunflowers moved on. I set up my crochet supplies there this afternoon with the patio doors wide open for fresh air but without the need to suddenly grab everything and go inside if it rained, it looked like it was going to to all day but never did. Some time around three or four this morning I awoke with the idea of adding a watermelon motif to little E’s dress rather than the black pips. It took two attempts but I’m happier with the second one. I’ve got about four more centimetres of dress to crochet in trebles and then some ends to weave in and the motif to sew in place. I’m already thinking about making another with a totally different look. I might see how the sizing works out first, it’s always difficult to guess.

J and I finished a rather large watermelon between us today. He used to like melon so much we did actually call him melon boy for a while. In the summer months we’ve usually got three types of melon in the fridge at any one time. So, our lazy melon eating filled days have come to an end I suspect. E has the entire summer holiday at her disposal now. She will spend some of it in Leeds with her boyfriend and some of it spreading her belongings throughout this house in that special 19 year old way!

Dexterous

I should have had that blergh Monday morning feeling today but despite J being home following exams for weeks now and trips to the caravan and to the South, it actually only feels like the summer holidays has started this week. E finishes her year at a primary school on Wednesday and most schools in this area will have finished by the end of the week. Maybe it’s more to do with finally booking a holiday! We are absolute experts at leaving everything to the last minute. I am the complete opposite to a friend down the road who plans and books holidays two years in advance!

E and J were accepting of our plans to go to Copenhagen but not exactly bouncing up and down with excitement. A casual remark from M made me pick up my iPad and surf for yet more holiday apartments. I pretty much put in our dates, our budget and see what comes up. This time Madrid caught my eye with an apartment that is much more spacious than the one we were about to book in Copenhagen and for quite a bit less money. So it’s booked and that’s that. Who needs two years to plan? I’m not too enthusiastic about temperatures over thirty degrees but hopefully we will find ways to keep cool.

My Scandinavian dreams will have to wait. M and I will no doubt be able to travel more in the future, just the two of us. For now though the kids like cities and we all agree that sitting by a pool or sitting on a beach all day is less than fun. Barcelona worked well for us as a family so I’m hoping Madrid will be a similar experience.

J was sleeping off a post party hangover this morning. E was at school. M left for London at 6am. It felt like the greatest luxury to make a proper coffee and take it back to bed with my books, a few magazines, my iPad. I’m not naturally an early riser but by mid morning I’ve usually done a day’s work. Laundry, hoovering, gardening, housework, dog walking (not strictly work). Harvey and Riley bounced round the corn field this morning. Sadly no sign of my missing flip flop.  Various shoes get dropped at the fence just before they hop over into the field but on this occasion they must have taken it further. This afternoon the combine harvester was in that field so either my flip flop is destined for Weetabix or it’s been revealed for me to find tomorrow morning.

So, with my trusty planning assistant Riley, we came up with the idea to make a cotton summer dress for a tiny person that we know. I gathered my dk cotton supplies and absolutely did not want to make it in water melon colours so I’m not sure how that happened. Once you get to the skirt there’s no counting to do so it makes a nice lazy afternoon kind of project.

I’m sure I’d be a bit further on with the dress if I hadn’t stopped to keep trying the Mayan spindle very kindly sent to me by someone who has known me all my life, pretty much. It arrived with the challenge, if you can do it you can keep it. Well I love a challenge! There was some starting yarn on the spindle and with each failed attempt I managed to pull off a bit more of it. I kept wrapping the yarn round the ball instead of spinning it freely.

By the time M got home I hadn’t managed to spin a single centimetre of yarn. Without even showing him the YouTube video he picked it up, spun the spindle, spun some yarn, drafted some more fleece, did it again. I was a little surprised and a tiny bit miffed! I think he was surprised too, I’m usually the more dexterous of the two of us. Somehow that brief demonstration helped me make the connection where various YouTube videos had not. I picked it up and got the hang of it, albeit with periodical whacks to the chest! It’s quite a bit more taxing on the spinning arm than a basic drop spindle but I expected those muscles will tune up if I stick with it. Spinning with something a little more colourful is fun too. I need to start introducing the right weeds to our garden with dyeing in mind!

Travel


Turns out that a few days at home before our next caravan escape is no bad thing. I’m particularly enjoying our power shower daily instead of the caravan shower which is pretty compact and not at all powerful, or the site showers which give you precisely ten seconds of water before you have to press the button again. They are hot and fairly powerful though so that’s something.

It’s quite nice having wifi too although I hate to admit it. I prefer to blog when the mood strikes or there are a few new photo’s. I also use my iPad for research and since I finally braved the whole drop spindle thing I’ve been wanting to read up on it. M ordered two great books from Amazon for me to do just that so I’m saving them for our next trip when wifi will be patchy once more. I also spotted an article in Country Living that looks interesting and talks about natural plant dyes too. I’ve already got a good book on this but as I mentioned, I need some space in which to get messy.

Talking of messy, I decided to go with the butler sink for the washing of the raw fleece I was given at the Sheep Festival. I studied an article on the internet first and bought Ecover Delicate for the cleaning agent. Despite all doors and windows being flung open it smells pretty strong! The dogs both came and lifted their noses to the sink, they obviously know it’s an animal smell. The male occupants however, both remarked, ‘pwoar, cow poo!’ Not very discerning noses!

The fleece is drying in the sun as I write. It still has a fair amount of foliage in it but I’ve managed to get most of the straw out. I’m really not sure what to do next except spin it as it is. I’m still keeping up my half an hour a day with the drop spindle. M is always very supportive of my creative pursuits but the kids have barely acknowledged the new skill I have acquired! I say that with some sarcasm actually. The yarn is still very lumpy and I’ve got so much to learn. I suppose it’s completely off their radar of interesting things to comment upon. ‘Wow, Mum, you’re spinning sheep fleece into yarn, that’s amazing!’ No I can’t see it somehow.

All this handling of fleece and spinning lumpy yarn made it feel quite strange to handle commercial yarn again! I finished the campfire cardigan albeit in totally unplanned colours. It was meant to be a prototype but I’ve been wearing it, and in public too which I never thought I would. I’m clearly working towards that eccentric crochet woman look. It looks a bit longer on E and a bit looser too but you get the general idea. I didn’t enjoy crocheting Aran weight yarn with an 8mm hook because it felt so loose but I can see why it would work better with this ratio. It would be so much heavier with a denser fabric. It is still a warm garment to wear which is surprising since it’s full of holes!

M is away in London next week. He’s not very happy about it. Yesterday we went out for a stroll round the Bailgate area of Lincoln and to have a nice coffee somewhere. Most unexpectedly when we were wandering down towards the cathedral M spotted the oak leaf and acorn necklace in the window of a wonderful little handmade jewellery collective kind of shop and before I’d spotted it too he dragged me inside and asked if I could try it on. I have a bit of a thing for oak leaves and acorns so although I said he could wait until my birthday I didn’t need much persuading.

This morning we took Harvey and Riley to one of their favourite riverside places. They darted straight for the river. Harvey stands in the middle and waits for a stick to be thrown. Riley tends to run up and down, including under the concrete farm bridge. For some reason Harvey has never been under the bridge. It was a great way to cool down because it’s been pretty muggy and hot today. I’ve mowed the lawns, tended E’s sunflower plants, chopped bamboo foliage down by a foot, trimmed all the overhanging ivy and honeysuckle from our side path, swept it all up and stacked the bonfire with cuttings for later. I’ve got washing drying, fleece drying and I’m sitting here wondering if I can fit in a quick Harvey hair cut (yes I probably can).

We’ve finally made some decisions regarding a family holiday before E starts university and J starts A Levels. J wanted somewhere hot and E voted for Prague but that was only after we’d discussed possible destinations for weeks and finally came up with Copenhagen. So J might well be disappointed with the temperatures in Denmark but I think there will be plenty that will win them both over. They were unsure about Barcelona but loved it. The main thing is that M can cycle so much better than he can walk. Don’t ask me how or why. Once we’d hired bikes in Barcelona we were able to get around at a pace slightly faster than his usual 0.002mph. It’s not his fault of course, he had an accident a long time before I met him and is lucky to be walking at all.

I tend to dread the whole travel part on the basis that it’s hard work making sure everyone has everything they need and that we all get where we need to be on time. Yes, they are old enough to pack for themselves but for J last year that meant packing more footwear than actual clothes. Not a scenario I am keen to repeat this year. I’m probably the queen of travelling light, at least that’s what M calls me. It has the added bonus of being able to fill my suitcase with yarn if I happen across any on my travels! Does anyone know of any good yarn stores over there?

I took a travel crochet project with me to Barcelona but I didn’t get much of it done. A little on the flights and not so much in the evenings. It’s tempting to go without this time but knowing my luck I will regret that as soon as we arrive. M has recently revived his kindle habit and E has been reading a lot too. J listens to music through his phone as a way to relax. So I can see me needing my own form of relaxation. One of my favourite memories of our tour round Italy a few years back was waking up very early one morning, it was about five a.m. and I tiptoed out to the balcony with a chair and some crochet. There was a beautiful warmth that you only get abroad and the smell of the sea. I watched a few locals going to and fro with bread. Across the street a woman was watering plants on her balcony, she spotted me and motioned with her hands that she was a crocheter too. I nodded and smiled and couldn’t think what the heck else I could convey. Language didn’t matter because the distance wouldn’t have allowed conversation. She disappeared and brought out a white crochet throw, wiggled her hands again and then pointed at herself. It was obviously that she had made it. I signed that it was beautiful, an understandable sign in any language. She nodded vigorously and smiled broadly and that was that. A brief exchange but one so touching.

Magic

If winter was long and monotonous then summer is most definitely making up for it. We’ve been away for less than a week but it felt so much longer with all that we packed into six days. Last Friday work took M to Norwich and I decided it was a pleasant enough city to spend a day wandering around so I went along too. I shopped for the few bits that were needed and then noticed just how many clocks there were in the town, I posted one on Instagram but my camera roll is full of Norwich clocks! It was hot and I was a bit too laden down with books with three hours left to kill. I wandered a little more and spotted more clocks and eventually found a shady spot just off the market square and settled down with a book and a coffee. It was what I’d describe as a peaceful afternoon despite the two Native American Indians playing pipes and drums for the entire three hours.

A long and slow journey across country took us to our caravan in Derbyshire. M moaned about the Friday traffic and pretty much every driver on the road. I tried singing loudly over the top of him but that annoyed him even more so I took up my usual position which is to stare out of the window and concentrate very hard on my own thoughts. He does have the odd day when he tries to be charitable and patient but they are quite rare.

It felt extremely odd not to have Harvey and Riley with us this time. Not only would it have been tricky to drag them round Norwich for a day we’d also planned to attend a Sheep Festival. If it had been a hot day we wouldn’t have been able to leave them in the car and walking them close to sheep wouldn’t have been fair to the sheep, though plenty of people did just that. It also meant we could explore Matlock on Sunday and have an ice cold beer in a trendy bar (I never drink beer but it was nice!) rather than trying to find the nearest point of entry for the river to cool them down and give them a walk. We were also able to browse the junk and antique shops together rather than one of us standing outside with the dogs. Even so, we did keep saying, funny without the dogs isn’t it? J sent us various phone messages with Riley fast asleep on his bedroom rug in one and another where they are just two specs in the distance with the message, ‘they will come back won’t they?’

The Sheep Festival was just a small affair in the local market square with rare breeds and talks about their characteristics, wool types, etc. There were hand sheering demonstrations and drop spindle demos too. I’m naturally pretty shy and wary of talking to strangers knowing that a heavy accent or a quiet voice will render the attempt completely futile. M on the other hand will chat to anyone so he dragged me over to the drop spindle woman and she convinced me to try even though I said it looked a bit tricky. We went home with a Turkish drop spindle and bundle of Southdown sheep fluff and I dropped it about fifty times before passing it over to M and suggesting he had a go. He got it straight away which was a bit annoying and then proceeded to make up technical jargon to explain how it was done. Eventually the penny dropped and I found a rhythm and I’ve been doing at least half an hour every day (about how long my arms will cooperate for). The spun yarn is definitely improving, as is the speed and the ease of joining in new fluff. I told M that he can call me Rumpelstiltskin from now on. I might not be spinning straw into gold but it’s the next best thing! It feels like a similar sort of magic.

A quick google and I can see that there is a huge amount to learn and so much choice about what to spin. I’m happy to keep it nice and natural and rustic with bits of straw still in the fleece and lumps in the yarn. I’m hoping my first attempts will be suitable for plying together so that I can crochet a small lumpy bowl. Humble beginnings!

At the sheering demonstration, with M being chatty to the very friendly sheep farmers, I was given a large armful of fleece straight off the sheep! It whiffed a bit and it’s full of lanolin but it’s entirely possible to spin it and wash the lanolin out of it later. I tried a bit but found it a bit greasy so I’m going to follow instructions to wash it a bit first. If it works out ok we’ve got a farmer near here who has offered fleeces in the past, but I’ve always said I wasn’t ready for spinning yet. I’ve also put off having a go at natural plant dyes too. It’s the sort of thing I’d have done by now if we had a bit more space to be messy. The workshop that was supposed to be my space and mine alone got rather taken over when M’s workshop roof started to rot and cave in. We had to salvage all his tools and wood which have totally filled my workshop to the rafters. A new roof is on the to do list for this summer with J having already spent the money he would have earned helping M!

So we are home once more, very tired, with huge piles of laundry to catch up on. Two very pleased to see us dogs. Riley is of course sleeping by my side as I type. I will miss waking up amongst the pine trees, all this week the weather has been dry enough to throw open every window and roof skylight and breath in the pine smell. On the days that M attended court or police jobs locally I was able to lie under the skylights just daydreaming without having to bounce out of bed and take two excitable dogs out for a morning walk. I did take one less excitable husband out for evening walks though. Last night’s walk was absolutely magical. We got as far as a big old farm gate and leaned up against it to chat and watch the sheep grazing as the sun went down in the distance. After a little while I saw something in the corner of my eye but before I could turn and see what it was a huge snowy white and beige barn owl swooped past us at head height about four feet from my left shoulder. Neither of us moved or said anything until it was out of sight, and then only a whispered wow! M said it flew completely silently and he hadn’t heard it coming. We walked back, met two dog walkers and mentioned the owl. They said they’d been walking down that lane for seven years and never seen an owl!

(The castle is Norwich Castle. The lovely old stone bridge is in Matlock. The cable cars are at The Heights of Abraham, Matlock Bath).

Vagarious

I’m pretty good at going with the flow, I thrive on spontaneity, I loathe routine but life does seem all up in the air at the moment. The younger children at J’s school have another few weeks to go before they break up and yet J finished his exams yonks ago and seems to have been on holiday for months. He’s probably fairly typical in that he divides his time between sleeping, playing computer games, meeting up with his friends for a game of football and the occasional trip to the cinema, he’s also been taking his bike out just for a ride round the local villages. This year is the first break he’s had from intense cricket playing since he was about seven years old. I can hardly blame him but of course M is slightly gutted. At least M is getting his fix by umpring now and then and we’ve been watching the England Ladies play today.

I’m absolutely loving having a bolt hole to escape to but it’s feeling a bit weird now living betweeen two places. I come home, do massive amounts of washing, stock the fridge with food and go back again. I’m not complaining though. It took quite a bit of effort to get M on board with this long term pitch idea and it is relaxing once we get there.

Then there’s that background niggle I seem to have rather a lot lately. That little voice that reminds me that my daughter is leaving home in September and more than likely only going to turn up here now and then with two month’s worth of laundry. Will I miss having to clean glitter off the bath? Will I miss the way she leaves a coat or a jacket on the back of every chair in the house, a pair of shoes randomly in the middle of every room, hair grips on the shower tray ready to be washed down the plug hole and cause untold damage. You betcha. Yet I needn’t worry I suppose. She was born independent. I can remember taking her to a ‘Messy Play’ group in Oxford when she was small. I figured art needed to be encouraged from an early age but didn’t want to force her to be sociable if she didn’t want to be. I decided that if she didn’t like it I’d whip her out of there and home before you could say Tony Hart. Well that wasn’t necessary because she breezed in there, took one confident look round the room, walked over to a table spread with blank paper and paints and various toddlers and said, ‘Hi, my name’s Ella, what’s everyone painting today?’ I had obviously expected her to react as I would have done in that situation; be painfully shy! I gulped a kind of proud, relieved, incredulous kind of gulp and slunk over to the tea and coffee table hoping no-one would speak to me. I tell you, her way is so much better than my way, but you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

A while ago we were chatting about end of term gifts for the twenty five kids she’s really bonded with over the last year. Her apprenticeship salary is peanuts and you can only buy plastic junk for peanuts so I suggested a bulk buy of pots, soil and a packet of sunflower seeds. She has personalised all the pots with special pens and started them off at home. They are actually growing a little bit too fast given that there’s a couple of weeks to go until the end of term. E decided to grow a few spares just in case she didn’t take… fifty spares because there were 75 seeds in the packet! The only place we could support sunflowers is the front of the house so it looks likely that we will have a substantial display of sunflowers out there in about a month’s time. Should be fun!

So, crochet news. The project that caught my eye on Instagram was the Campfire Cardigan by the Make and Do Crew. There’s a nifty little speeded up video of it being made. I think medium to heavy weight worsted is equivalent to our Aran so I raided my supplies and came up with a basket of random stuff that wouldn’t really be good for anything much. If it works out nicely I can order some specific yarn in more desirable colours. It uses an 8mm hook which is quite loose for Aran so I think I could also use a lightweight chunky yarn and get away with it. The sizing is easy to adjust. It all hinges on making the arms, back and front in one go to start with and then lengthening the cardigan and the sleeves and adding a hood. I’m almost at the stage where I can hook the two sleeve/body sections together and try it on for size.

I’d have enjoyed my afternoon with a spot of crochet so much more if I’d had a more comfortable 8mm hook! I didn’t realise how awful this one was. I’m visiting a bigger city tomorrow and I’m definitely heading for the John Lewis in order to rectify this oversight! It looks the part but it’s nothing like my Clover Amours! I’ve tried my bamboo 8mm, my old aluminium 8mm and concluded that this silicone handled one is the best of a bad bunch for now.

It’s a beautiful sunny evening. Riley is absolutely loving the ginormous beanbag I put down between the patio doors, threw a blanket on and intended to spend an hour on just reading. We shared it for half an hour but it was rather somniferous and not a lot of reading took place. I’ve left him to it now but not before seeing if Harvey wanted to try it out. He wasn’t keen once he stepped on it and the beans moved. He prefers to move in time with the patch of sun that crawls from one side of the sunlounge to the other as the evening wears on, just like our previous dog Jake used to do, with Mollie the cat companionably close by.

Makes

Is it too soon for another photo mosaic? Probably, but whilst selecting photos for the scavenger hunt it suddenly occurred to me to put one together purely for my own reference to see what I’ve made so far this year. Pic Collage only works for up to twenty images so there are a couple of simple cowls and projects that were started but not finished left out of this collage.

Twenty finished projects though! I think it’s fair to say I’ve been more adventurous with colour this year though really that has come about mainly when I’m making something for someone else. Some of these projects were started last year and were only finished this year because I decided to have a ‘wip attack’ and get them out of the way; the Last Dance blanket, the whale and the ripple baby blanket.

I’m usually one of those people who suffers from second sock syndrome (not that I’ve made many socks) so it’s interesting that this year I could cope with making two Catherine wheel stitch bags and two Unfold cowls. I can recommend both of these patterns as fun, not too difficult but fairly impressive looking! The bag pattern is by Nicki Trench and it is in her book Geek Chic Crochet. The Unfold Cowl is in last Spring’s issue of PomPom magazine.

There was one sneaky knitting project which should have been fairly quick and enjoyable but turned into a bit of a slog. I foolishly keep thinking that if I let some time go by that my wrists will be able to cope with knitting, but I’m proved wrong every time. Thank goodness for crochet because I really would be lost without it. If you’d told me that I’d be very keen on crochet in my adult years I’d have laughed for a long long time. I famously got banned from home economics or whatever fancy name they called it, both the cooking half and the sewing half. Well cooking is still as unappealing as it was back then, but if only we’d knitted or crocheted instead of attempted to sew a nightdress (yuk, I hated nightdresses back then and still do!).

I’ve got a few wips on the go but something caught my eye on Instagram and it doesn’t look like it will take forever to make so I’m having a little go at that with leftover Aran yarn. If it works out then I’ll happily order carefully chosen yarn and make another. I did this with the recent Petunia Top for my niece by starting it in an unbleached cotton I had to hand and I’m so glad I didn’t rush out and buy expensive cotton first because it didn’t really work out. Now that I’ve got a pattern worked out I can make one in any cotton or wool that catches my eye or is lurking at the back of my yarn cupboards!

So that’s my half yearly review of all the crochet items I’ve made. It’s probably time to start thinking about making a few gifts for Christmas! Riley says he’s up for a crochet collar if I’d care to make one!

Solitude

The dogs are in a state of confusion at the moment. Well I’m sure that Riley is. We’ve managed to squeeze another week away at our caravan pitch in the woods but it’s been a bit tense with H and R. They’ve never really fought with one another and although Harvey probably wondered what had hit him when the little bundle of hyperactive fur that is Riley came to live with us he has always been passive and accepting. It was a nice part of his character. Unfortunately he seems to be suffering in some way and the painkillers that were doing wonders are now making him sick. I think I know enough about dogs to know that when they are ill or injured they don’t really want you or any other dog too close. The only time I’ve ever been bitten by a dog was when I was trying to free it’s paw from between two pieces of metal. I understood why she must have thought I was hurting her and why she clamped her teeth into my hand. In fact I was so concerned about the paw the hand only hurt much later.

So Harvey is in some discomfort and every time he gets in or out of my boot or has to clamber up the caravan steps he growls like a grumpy old man. Riley thinks that Harvey is looking for a fight and starts growling back. It all gets quite snarly and alarming and sometimes we’ve had to pull over and remove Riley from the boot and put him on the back seat. Most dogs would think this was a special treat but they’ve never travelled on the back seat and he just hangs his head and looks sheepish and thinks he’s being punished.

Fortunately it’s only the boot and the steps that causes the upset. I think we can solve the boot situation by buying or making some kind of divider. Ironically when we travelled home today in two different cars, each with a dog in the boot, and stopped half way at the services Riley just wanted to get into Harvey’s boot. We will be taking Harvey back to the vet as soon as possible to see if we can try anything else. He’s been doing pretty well running around as normal, swimming most mornings in the nearby lake and they absolutely love the patch of woodland that we are next to. You can just about see our caravan, awning and my car in the photo I took coming back from our woodland walk one morning. Riley can’t wait for the blinds to go up every morning since he saw a cheeky squirrel peer into the caravan at eye level from a tree. He sits and studies the trees waiting patiently for another sighting. He may have a long wait, you can just imagine the squirrels chatting amongst themselves, ‘No Cyril, give this one a miss I saw two large hairy four legged beasts in there.’

One of the best features of the caravan is the bug mesh. In my opinion the window treatments are a total overkill. There are curtains, horrible beige things but they kind of go, then there are the blinds and finally the bug screens. I have the windows open and the bug screens down all the time. At this site it’s not so much the bugs I worry about as the squirrels!

I had quite a bit of this week to myself since M had a week long court case in London. He is used to high speed trains from home but the nearest station used older and slower trains so it did take him a bit longer than usual but instead of being grumpy about that he managed to be reasonable for a change. I do believe the simple living had a calming effect! There are two of us in this family who like solitude and two who like to be with people all the time. J and I are in the former category and E and M are in the latter, consequently M must have asked me a dozen times whether I was lonely or bored. Quite the opposite, on one morning I posted a video of the dogs swimming in the lake on Instagram. The next time I looked it said that it had been posted seven hours ago and I thought to myself, seven whole hours to myself! Fantastic!

More than anything I like the space to think without feeling pressured. It’s hard to please everyone all of the time. Meal times is one example. M likes to cook and therefore likes to do the food shopping. This should be ideal for me because I don’t like either but it isn’t because I don’t always like what he chooses to cook. With M safely out of the way in London I’ve been given free rein in the M&S food hall down the road and I’ve chosen much simpler meals. M hasn’t made any fuss about this at all. He even remarked that rump steak with potato wedges was a superb choice and yet we so rarely have that at home. He’s also stopped complaining that M&S is expensive since I bought the two steaks, wedges, dessert and a bottle of wine for £10. The bottle of wine was usually £7.50 but came free with the dine for two for £10 deal. He likes a bargain and I like M&S food so it’s a win win!

I think I mentioned the struggle I was having with the Petunia top. I did some sums and changed yarn and redesigned the shoulders and ripped back a few rows here and there, changed the shells and eventually produced a simple lacy summer top to fit a three year old. Then causally one evening whilst showing M the finished item he asked me how old our niece will be this month and I said, oops, she’ll be two! I now need to google the approximate sizes for a two year old and quite possibly start another top! Third time lucky! I’m not too worried, I enjoyed making this pink version from yarn supplies I had in the caravan but now that I’m home I can have a dig around for something a bit more adventurous. There are a couple of little tweaks I might do too. I added little splits at the side but these could be deeper next time. I also worried a lot about the neck circumference. I measured it after completion and found it was spot on for the age thank goodness but next time I think I’d make it a little more like a boat neck which would mean rethinking the whole shoulder design again.

I do wish I had a series of little cardboard torsos sometimes. That sounds kind of weird doesn’t it? It would be so much easier to tweak a design with a 3 dimensional torso to try it on. Little E’s Ermeline cardigan was a complete guessing game for size and it was sheer luck that it was a good fit. I guess I will have to settle for good old fashioned chest measurements!

So, for now it’s back to organised chaos. Cleaning the bath out after E has used a glittery bath bomb (she always says, oh yes, I was going to do that!) Thanking J for finishing the deck jetwashing but spending some time clearing up the muddy mess he left behind. Wondering why teenagers think it’s ok to leave black unidentifiable gunk in the kitchen sink despite warning them that we’d be home in two hours. On the plus side there were no piles of washed but forgotten about washing for me to re-wash and the rest of the kitchen didn’t look like something had exploded in there. I did hastily re arrange the fridge before M saw it though. Instead of the four pints of milk that usually reside in the door there was a bottle of Pinot Grigio and several bottles of Peroni. M would have taken that as a sure sign that wild parties had been held or that our children were raving alcoholics!