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 Β£10 and seems to have worked just as well as our Β£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?

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!

Visit

It has been a blur of days this last week or so. The start of the good weather created a headless chicken kind of attitude round here as we went from one project to another. M continues to work on the teardrop trailer, I’ve been pottering in the garden with no passion or skill for it but as usual M likes to buy a few trays of things which need planting out. I’ve now exhausted all the pots and props to place them on, out of reach of two digging dogs. Time to sit back and see them all bloom and grow.

We’ve purchased a new parasol this year due to last year’s being left outside all winter and forgotten about. For now the old one provides extra shade in an area where we have a larger garden table and benches. I’ve discovered you can buy just the fabric part for these but they seem to cost almost as much as buying a whole new parasol so I may just fashion one with an old sheet and string. It doesn’t have to look like Homes and Gardens!

It was wonderful to have my Grandfather, Aunt and Uncle to visit for a few days (they stayed with my parents). It is such a trek from Sussex I must admit I was worried that the heat and the journey would tire my Grandfather out before he even arrived. On Friday we visited one of the small nature reserves on the banks of the Humber. The photo doesn’t show the curve of the visitor centre building very well but it’s a nice piece of architecture. That’s my Grandfather sitting on the deck with the white cap, reading the newspaper with a cold drink while we took a brief stroll round the reserve. Not so long ago he’d have been strolling round with us but now, in his 93rd year he’s finally admitting he is slowing down a little.

On Saturday we had a French style lunch in our garden. It was incredibly humid and a brief shower before they arrived didn’t cool things down at all. I was just thankful it stayed dry because food always tastes better outside! Against my better judgement we allowed the dogs to be sociable and roam freely. Harvey decided he would take the opportunity to impress the crowd with his bog monster impression. This involves going down the bank into the part of the stream which is just about running out of flowing water and trudging up and down in black slime searching for a branch liberally covered in black slime. I think his aim was to attract someone to play fetch with this branch, funnily enough he had no takers. He did, however, get a hosing down for his troubles.

Today there were nine of us for Sunday dinner at a local pub. It was rather idyllic with a flock of very young ducklings sunbathing with their Mother on the grass just outside the front door. Later a chicken strolled casually in but was quickly shooed out by the landlady. So the visit is over and I feel very heavy hearted. I think I need to start helping M build the teardrop so that I can take it down to Sussex over a period of days rather than trying to do it in one go. I’ve got a shoulder and neck problem that makes long distance driving rather painful. When I was younger I used to whizz all over the country and totally took for granted that I’d always have that kind of freedom.

It’s half term week here from Tuesday onwards. J will get a much needed break that comes exactly half way through his exams. It will mean he can sleep and revise in equal measures. E will be working some days at the children’s farm. Fingers crossed there might also be some caravanning happening. A small miracle needs to take place first since M has been using the caravan as a wood and teardrop trailer parts storage area.

I’ve had some brief slots of time outside with various crochet projects. I was getting a little tired of the pattern and the cutting and starting new rows business with the Tranquil shawl so I decided I needed a project to work alongside it. I probably wouldn’t have started a new project at all but for an email which featured one of the Crochet Project shawls that I’ve already seen everywhere but clicked to have a closer look on Ravelry. I realised that it would be perfect for the 150g colourwheel ball I bought the other week when I had a couple of hours to kill in Grimsby whilst M was working in court there. Summer clothing would have been a more useful undertaking but wool shops are so much more interesting!

It’s really handy that the Crochet Project give you the right kind of information before you purchase their patterns so that you can make an informed decision about the yarn you might use. The sample shawl they showed used 230g of dk yarn but it stated that 150g and up would be acceptable for a slightly smaller shawl. That told me that it’s the kind you can work until your yarn runs out without it spoiling the design, so this seemed perfect for these multi coloured balls.

The shawl is growing pretty quickly since I keep wanting to do just a few more rows to get to the next colour! It’s creating a lovely soft drapey fabric so far. It’s not as repetitive as the Tranquil shawl because there is a little bit of counting to do or at least a bit of concentration required. It is also the perfect project to fit into my round project bag and take wherever I might get a minute to work on it. I think I might try one of the other brands of multi tonal balls out there for a different look. I’ve recently bought the latest Scheepjes Yarn magazine and spotted their version, and there’s quite a few to choose from!

Warmth

M and I have been taking a small picnic lunch to various scenic little spots locally. If there is water and it isn’t near the road we take Harvey and Riley too. Today though, this was our view (above) and due to the road, the ducks and number of passers by we left the dogs in J’s company at home. They’ve been paddling in our stream to cool off, in between helping me obliterate yet more nettle jungles. I’ve had just about enough of nettles now, I should probably try making nettle tea with this plentiful supply.

We introduce small amounts of colour to the garden every year. It has never seemed worth doing too much since most summers we attend so many cricket matches and aren’t around to appreciate it. This year J is concentrating on his exams and is turning down matches now and then. The dogs are also a bit destructive with plants and shrubs so pots have to be raised or guarded! I caught Riley nibbling a flower bud and after a short talking to I think he now understands!

I’ve dug out random old pots and containers from within those nettle patches and planted a few inexpensive plants in them. The best find was the long forgotten huge three handled terracotta pot which now has the Rhodanthemum growing in it. A rusty old bucket was ideal for a flowering plant that M liked the look of. We’ve also used an old wooden bucket with no bottom to give the illusion of a potted jasmine when in fact the roots will be able to grow straight into the ground and give it a much better chance of survival when we forget to water and feed it.

We might not be creating a smart and manicured look outside but I’m happier planting out these rusty vessels than I would be buying new ones and taking more stuff to the tip. I think the upcycled, rustic look outside reflects some of the upcycling we’ve done in the house too.

Now that I’ve done a few rows of the Tranquil Shawl I’m liking the fabric the pattern is creating. I’ve woven in the ends created so far and I’m feeling more hopeful that they will stay in. The alpaca yarn is a real treat to work with. I still feel a bit disappointed that it isn’t more continuous crocheting. It makes me want to make another and try working back down the rows with a series of chains or slip stitches or something just to make it more continuous. It would change the appearance but it would also prevent 134 ends!

It’s the most glorious summers evening here right now. It’s so good to feel the sun on my face. It’s quite nice to have two warm dogs lying on my feet too! They are never quite content with just being near, they like to be physically touching. It’s not surprising they are flat out and snoring, they’ve been puking up grass all day long. I think they may have ingested some of my rosemary clippings or something disagreeable along with the grass. Dogs… never a dull moment!

Gardening

I must confess that M and I have been spurred into action lately with the promise of a special visitor to our little corner of the country. It’s been a long time since my Grandfather was able to travel North, but at his age that’s totally understandable. Just a few more days, I can’t wait until he is safely here.

We’ve lived with so many jobs that really should have been tackled before now and eventually it all becomes quite overwhelming. Neither of us enjoy gardening these days but I used to and I think it’s just the size and challenge of our wild ‘plot’ that puts me off, besides I do quite like it wild. Mature trees are lovely but expensive if you need professional help to keep them under control.  Currently we have a dying one that is absolutely huge and quotes to tackle it are equally huge. Big trees also create shade which has killed off most of the tough grass we laid ten years ago and moss and cow parsley have flourished. There is still enough grass to warrant mowing it but it’s not the carpet-like quality my Dad has achieved with his lawn!

Today M and I tackled the front garden weeds including the riverbank which was knee high in nettles. I do all the bits I can reach from the path and M gets his fishing waders on and uses the strimmer whilst standing in the river. Along with chopping down all the randomly self seeded sycamore saplings (some of them over ten feet high) with a hand saw it always feels like doing battle with the garden rather than anything more dainty.

So we’ve got nettle stings all up our arms and legs but it felt good to tame just a few parts of the garden. The dogs absolutely love helping. Harvey totally gets the concept of contributing to the bonfire. It’s the only time he will actually drop a stick or branch and not expect me to throw it. I suppose this comes from teaching him to help with bonfire building when he was a puppy. Unfortunately Riley tends to steal branches from the bonfire, take them somewhere shady and then chew them up. Not so helpful. We are lucky to live near so much water, the dogs have cooled down in our stream today but they also enjoyed their dip in the lake yesterday. Riley seems to swim up and down purely for the pleasure of it whereas Harvey is all about fetching.

Of course there have also been coffee breaks. We’ve found yet another new coffee place which might just become our new favourite. M is happy with this one because no one seems to like the Times crossword there. He gets a bit ratty if someone beats him to it and yet refuses to buy his own just for the crossword. I’m also happy with this new one because it is a few doors down from a very good charity shop that specialises in just vintage stock. We popped out for coffee and we came home with a lovely Β£5 cane chair (which E has currently adopted for her bedroom). I also picked up the little wooden box which seems to be a hand carved Victorian pin box with a name plaque which someone has filled in more recently! E is a big Harry Potter fan so it’s currently by her bed and being used for rings.

After the marathon gardening session, a cold shower and some wool winding I was ready to start a new crochet project. The pattern is called Tranquil, it’s by Sarah Hazell and it’s available in Erika Knight’s Ravelry store. It’s intended for EK’s studio linen which I was able to have a squish of last week but the item would have cost over Β£80 to make which is a bit extravagant for me. I ordered the Drops alpaca to make a cosier version, the sort you’d wear for late summer evenings. With the sale prices it has cost a quarter of the price of the suggested yarn and I’m loving the way this alpaca feels to work with.

I’m not too happy to find that there are going to be a billion ends to weave in, ok maybe not a billion but definitely over one hundred ends. I might even have given it a miss if I’d known that before purchasing the pattern but I will do a few ends every evening and hopefully it won’t seem as bad. Despite being hairy in a mohair kind of way this alpaca does not catch on itself so I’m a little worried the ends will escape. Mind you, I worry about ends escaping on everything I make so that’s probably just me.

Tomorrow our plans involve taking some stray garden equipment to the tip; we are still finding random flymos and leaf shredders left by the last owner. More nettle jungles to be conquered underneath the plum tree. We will be investigating whether or not you can buy new parasol covers since our frame is fine but the fabric is what we’ve called the ‘Oliver Twist’ look, i.e. it’s in rags! I will also be liberally re-applying the garden furniture paint to the bench that J jetwashed off a few weeks ago!

(E was very happy with her Yellow/grey version of the slouch bag. I could have steam pressed it nice and flat but I like the way it’s naturally textured. I’ve asked E to put it through its paces and decide whether or not it’ll need lining. Fingers crossed it won’t!)

Together

Today was an extremely rare day with all four of us at home. Unusually J did not have a cricket match but does have plenty of revision to do instead. E is trying to avoid working both Saturday and Sundays at the children’s farm whilst also working Monday to Friday at school so she had today to catch up with herself and recharge her batteries. She has been coming home from school exhausted because, lets face it, a class of 26 six year olds is pretty full on! M wasn’t umpiring or scoring at one of J’s matches. So it was a lazy lie in kind of morning, not a long enough lie in for my liking but M is an early riser and he mentioned coffee so I was dressed and ready by nine a.m.

M and I tried a new coffee house locally, it’s half way up Steep Hill which is an absolute killer of a climb when you’ve got a dodgy knee (me) or a dodgy hip (M). The coffee was worth it, and breakfast of banana and peanut butter on cinnamon toast with seeds and honey was a nice change from the usual… even with M doing mock vomit gestures in the background because he really does not like peanut butter! How can you not like peanut butter?

The view from the bottom of Steep Hill up towards the cathedral makes the day look deceptively bright and sunny. By the time we got home and M had taken the covers off the teardrop trailer to do some work it was already beginning to turn a little grey. An hour or so later and he was back inside again expressing his ‘disappointment’ with the weather in a series of choice words.

So, there was really nothing for it but to embrace yet another rainy afternoon. Riley was totally up for it. I’m now on the home straight with the yellow bag gusset. Nearly two metres of double crochet is ideal for movie afternoons as it happens. We decided it was the perfect time for popcorn and a family viewing of Fantastic Beasts. I don’t know whether it was the New York theme that got us started but it also ended up being a good time to discuss one last family holiday before A Levels for J and University for E. I’m keen to explore somewhere new, they are all keen to return to Barcelona. I seem to be outvoted but I’m more than happy to go back to Barcelona.

Earlier in the week I had a delivery of some sale yarn. The postman decided to pop it down in front of our now redundant cat flap. We’ve had to tape it up because this new postman is terrified that a Springer Spaniel might be able to get his body through this small square and attack him. I’ve told him that there is physically no chance of either of their bellies getting through a seven inch square and that even if they did they’d only lick him to death but he said he’d refuse to leave any post at all if the cat flap was not secured. It’s been secure until this week when they both or perhaps just Harvey decided that he really didn’t like parcels being left so tantalisingly close. We came home to a rather chewed up cat flap and pieces of tape all over the hall floor. I knew something was up when they didn’t bark on hearing the key in the door. They appeared in the hall shaking their entire backsides like dogs do when they are feeling guilty but still want to seek forgiveness. It was such a pathetic sight it was hard to be cross.

At least my yarn remained intact. Had it been letterbox size I think it would have been a disaster. I had already had another of those ‘research’ sessions with books, magazines, the internet and a hunch that I wanted to make a wrap type scarf in something lightweight. A Drops yarn sale came to my attention including the very yarn I had researched and decided upon. As I was popping it into a spare basket to admire a certain someone was also admiring it and wondering what it would become. This same someone likes the plan very much. So on that basis plus the fact that she will be leaving home in September I think my next make will also be for E. If we get a peek of proper daylight tomorrow I will photograph the new yarn and share my plans. There’s nothing like getting stuck into a new project!

Rain

I don’t feel a bit guilty that the dogs got sent out in the pouring rain today to trot round the fields without supervision. Well ok maybe a little bit guilty. They came back looking like drowned rats but soon dried off on warm towels and with a warm bubbly foot bath which they both absolutely love and fully cooperate with by holding up each paw in turn (they are poodles at heart) they were soon able to roam freely throughout the house and keep us company.

It is absolutely bucketing down here today. M and I nipped out for a quick flat white giving J time to revise in peace before his first exam. Technically M should be in London all this week but court cases are notorious for last minute changes and he particularly hates the whole London scene. If he travels each day it is very tiring and he hates being away from home if he stays down there. So today he got paid to drink coffee and do the Times crossword and didn’t moan too much about the weather preventing him from working on the teardrop trailer, well maybe just a few mentions.

It was M’s birthday this week too. As well as books on wooden spoon carving (on his wish list of things to learn how to do) we also bought him a copy of the well known book Cabin Porn. Let’s hope I don’t regret using that word in my blog, I know how WordPress matches readers to blogs. He was really impressed with the cricket print I found at an antique centre and it’s hanging by his side of the bed for now. Talking of art, J always creates a masterpiece for family birthdays which involve superimposing our heads on to other bodies. This year M has become a slimline Manchester United supporter. It’s so convincing it’s funny.

Less romantically I secretly bought him a rather swish (and flipping expensive) three tier toolbox on wheels that he kept examining every time we went to B&Q. I don’t think it’s very practical because it’s heavy enough when it’s empty so goodness knows how it’ll be moved, wheels or not, when it’s full. He’s like a kid with a new toy though so as long as he’s happy.

It’s dark, wet and flooding our local roads so I’ll be happy when E is home from work and J home from school. The heating is on already, candles are lit. I’ve reached the end of The Killing and Netflix has helpfully suggested another foreign thriller type thing, this time in Iceland. It makes no difference to me whether a series is in English or Danish or whatever, I would still need subtitles to rely on. The only difference I’ve noticed with The Killing is that they seem to give much less away in terms of body language and facial expressions. That does make it a bit more challenging to solve before it’s over!

I’ve started E’s catherine wheel stitch slouch bag and I don’t care what the ball band says, this grey still looks brown to me! Oh well, I’m sticking to using up the jacob’s because it’s ideal for bags. Even though the yellow is extremely sunny and cheerful I swear I’d never touch anything bright if it wasn’t for requests. E certainly makes me think outside the box. I’ve realised that I could now just throw the required number of balls of yarn in a bag with a 4mm hook and start making a bag on holiday without the need for the pattern. Even though the gusset is more work than a bag made in the round I like the final shape it creates. This latest yellow version could be made in record time with all this rain happening!

Lincoln

Becoming a tourist in your own town sometimes helps when you’ve ended up living in a place you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen. M is very understanding when I harp on about trying new things, exploring new places and not settling for repetition or monotony. He would be so happy with a daily routine involving the same coffee in the same cafe with the same newspaper but alas, he met me, and I like to shake it up a bit.

So this morning, with M unexpectedly back from a London court case early I dragged him down to Lincoln’s Brayford Pool, the riverside area with lots of places to eat and drink, boat trips, university buildings and quite a big population of swans. It was very dull and overcast so it wasn’t exactly photo opportunity weather. There’s a tired old narrow boat to the left of the photo that I’d love to buy and do up, and live on, perhaps sail away and moor elsewhere first!

We had a riverside coffee for a change of scene and the coffee wasn’t so good, which didn’t help my cause for trying new places. It did necessitate a walk into town along the river and up the steep narrow steps to the side of the building also pictured above. Once you appear at the top of those steps you are in a high street much like any other. From the high street side of this building you can enter a wonderfully old cafe which we call High Bridge Cafe. The bridge is called High Bridge and dates back to 1160 apparently. It’s claim to fame is that it’s the only medieval Bridge in England which still has houses on it. The cafe building dates from 1540 and is exactly as you’d expect inside with lots of beams, low doors, wonky wooden floors and those lovely Tudor window panes.

I left M enjoying a better coffee whilst quickly picking up a couple of balls of a certain yellow yarn to start another of these slouchy catherine wheel stitch bags. I’m really pleased with the way this denim and grey version turned out. I initially thought that the undyed jacob’s yarn was brown but in good light it does seem to be grey and the ball band describes it as light grey. The two yarns have worked nicely together in terms of making a comfortable yet sturdy bag fabric. I used the cotton denim yarn for the gusset and strap for softness rather than the grey yarn which would have been as itchy as hell. I think I might get away with leaving it unlined for now, though I have bought a magnetic fastening about the size of a 5 pence piece (or one u.s. cent) and ideally this would be clipped into place through the lining so that it doesn’t show from the outside. I could add a round of webbing just inside, like a band of something denim maybe, or I could just live without the fastening. I need to road test the bag!

I’ve already made a start on a yellow/grey version using the same jacob’s yarn but with a pure wool yellow I managed to find today. It’s a much more subtle colour combination but I think it’ll work. E left a hint on Instagram about me making the bag in these colours so I’m more than happy to oblige. She hasn’t gone away to university yet and we are already communicating by phone whilst under the same roof! I don’t usually like making more than one of anything but the catherine wheel stitch is a very satisfying one and works well with Netflix for company. I’m currently working my way through The Killing series two. Yes I know it’s old news but luckily I haven’t heard any spoilers. I’ve also clearly forgiven the Danes for killing off an innocent Springer Spaniel in The Hunt!

Talking of which, the boys have had a bit of a lover’s tiff. It’s funny that they do this from time to time and we’ve no idea what sets it off. Harvey is so passive but I suspect even he has his limits and he seems to be trying to put Riley back in his place. He stands in a bit of a threatening way and does a low grumble which makes Riley walk sideways on tiptoes. It’s a bit like two peacocks trying to outdo each other. It’ll probably take a few days before they are best buddies again and nipping at each other’s ankles and play wrestling on the carpet.

Clearly one riverside coffee and a stroll up to High Bridge was enough pretend tourism for M for one day but we both agree that a proper break is long overdue. We’ve usually done a shepherd’s hut stay by now at the very least. We did have a short trip to Wales tagged on to a business trip but that was very brief. Several things have got in the way not least a whole series of coughs and colds and bugs and viruses. J has had the worst of it with a nasty persistent chest infection. He’s now in better shape and taking gcse exams over the next few weeks so I’m on standby with brain food and proper lunches. When I say brain food I just mean fruit/yoghurt smoothies which we both agreed would be useful vitamins during this exam period! J being J this means that I cut up all the fruit, he eats a lot of it before it reaches the blender, then he wrecks my carefully thought out and balanced flavour combinations and then finally declares it a big success because ‘he made it’. He’ll go far.