Herringbone

With a heavy heart we packed up the ‘van and towed it home. It is looking a little worse for wear with green stuff streaking down from the roof. I’ll have to get a ladder and the brush/hose and sort it out. I’ve really enjoyed this seasonal pitch idea which we had considered before but hadn’t found anywhere nice enough to tempt us. This place was absolutely hassle free and with everything we needed nearby including fantastic walks and scenery. I will miss being able to open the roof shutter and bedroom blind in the morning and sit and watch birds, squirrels and pheasants going about their business as well as the trees gently swaying overhead. I think Riley enjoyed watching the squirrels mainly.

It was a great exercise in whittling down belongings and distractions. Each time I went to stay there I purposely only took a bare minimum of yarn and wips, the most being three projects at any one time (which is much less than the tally at home!). It meant that I made progress on various projects that were taking longer or were less interesting than my concentration span. I also limited the amount of spare yarn I stored in the van which is how the wristwarmers and socks came to be in the same black tweed yarn I guess. Not having my crochet books and magazines or even reliable internet resulted in making it up as I went along for more items. I’ve always liked this ‘try it on as you go’ method for gloves, mitts, socks and hats. It’s ideal for socks in particular. I was really glad of those black chunky socks when the weather outside was making itself known across the floor level in the van. The last pair of these I made were only Aran weight but they’ve also had lots of use.

I started reading so much more during this time away too. I think at home I find it much harder to relax with my head in a book because there’s always something going on. If I read my eyes are not available for seeing what sounds and activity are going on. I still find it totally amazing that M or E can read a book, be asked a question, answer it and all without looking up from the book! It’s mind blowing! When the kids were small I used to watch them interact with each other purely for the way they didn’t have to look at each other to converse. In fact I still do love to observe them having a conversation with each other because they both appear to mumble under their breath (J especially), hardly look at one another and and yet they are chatting.

M and I found an out of town book shop some miles out from the caravan site. I think I previously mentioned (maybe on Instagram) that it was dog friendly and we had Riley with us at the time. He sat like an angel in the cafe after being given a dog treat by one of the women who worked there. Anyway, we both liked the art on the walls and when we got home I found the two posters online and ordered them. The one above is the only one I’ve managed to find a frame for so far. It has livened up our bedroom wall for now. It may end up on the bare brick wall in our conservatory which we use as a living room. I’m trying to collect enough art to make a feature wall of prints. It’s slow going, I’m obviously quite fussy these days.

Three weeks is obviously how long the average student lasts before feeling homesick. E reported that she’d like to come home this weekend because most of her flat were going home, so M dutifully sent funds for a train ticket and picked her up on Friday evening. We had only been home a few hours after bringing the caravan home so I very hastily had to put her half sorted room into order so that she could actually sleep in the bed! There were no less than seven coats on our hall pegs all belonging to E so when she left three weeks ago I moved them to her room with a view to sorting out some space in her wardrobe for them. I quickly realised that was a bigger job than I bargained for.

M and I also had to confess to a small incident involving her car. I’m insured to drive it and we agreed that I’d use it maybe once a week to keep it ticking over nicely and because it’s fun to nip out in a Fiat 500 when your usual car is a big old jeep. I used it once to meet M for a coffee after a local job he’d done and as we were walking back to the cars he heard a bit of a bang and scrape and witnessed a very small woman in a very big car swipe the front bumper of E’s car. In a nutshell she admitted liability and we sorted out the repairs pronto, hoping very much to have it back on our drive way before E even thought about coming home for a visit. It’ll be another few days so we had to explain everything. Luckily E saw the funny side and said, ‘so in the three weeks I’ve been away you’ve trashed my bedroom and trashed my car?’ Um, yep.

All that had nothing to do with me readily agreeing to making her an autumn type hat! It’s not quite arctic enough for the double thick and fleece lined crochet hat I made her last winter when she was having to do playground supervising. I’m sure we discussed stripes and multi colours but then E spotted a design called the Chunky Herringbone Slouch hat from the book Crochet Style by Jennifer Dougherty. We found some tweedy green chunky yarn from my stash and agreed on a different colour for the Pom Pom. As luck would have it I already had the perfect colour and size Pom Pom in a drawer full of leftover random Pom Poms. It doesn’t look like it but the hat has just the right amount of slouch and it was easy to get a good fit for the final band by switching to a smaller hook. Without E’s head nearby I think I would have had to do a ribbed band just to be sure there was enough give for a flexible fit. I used half trebles for this band rather than the dc’s suggested because I wanted a bit more band depth. The pattern seem really well written and the gauge guidelines are really useful. I’m definitely going to make one of these for myself. I feel a whole lot of hat making coming on!

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Bristol

It’s always a treat to leave this county I’ve ended up in. When I return I often appreciate the relative lack of traffic and the way everything is nicely spread out, with lots of green between villages and towns. A whirlwind tour of London and Bristol has definitely had that effect.

In fact we started off by travelling to Worcester, somewhere I’ve never been but I had a pleasant few hours wandering round and another hour sitting at a window seat in a lovely coffee place. I could easily have used their wifi and read the news, blogged, wasted time on Instagram but instead I just watched the world go by and very relaxing it was too.

After Worcester we had to head right into London to stay overnight so that M could be in Camberwell Green the next morning. We booked a hotel in Richmond, just eleven miles from where he had to be and allowed two hours the following morning to travel that distance. We made it with ten minutes to spare and we didn’t take any detours or get lost. That’s London rush hour for you. Camberwell Green looked a bit scary and horrible. I’m not keen on London at all. My first mission was to find a good take out coffee and deliver it to M at the court, he has a lot of waiting around to do and they don’t very often have coffee machines let alone good coffee. After delivering his coffee I took mine and sat in a small leafy park. Little green spaces like this must be well used within these London boroughs.

My morning got a whole lot better when I discovered there was a really good art shop down one of the side streets. It took me back to my design days, just the smell of paper. I’ve been thinking of having a dabble with some hand drawn lettering lately so I treated myself to a pack of water colour brush pens. They’ve actually got some kind of ink based colour in them but produce a water colour type mark, so that should be interesting to try out. It’s been a long time since I did anything hand drawn.

Traffic was hell from London to Bristol and we ended up calling it the hamster wheel effect. The satnav started off by telling us we would be there in two and a half hours. After driving for over an hour it was still telling us we had two and a half hours to go! I first visited Bristol about twenty years ago and distinctly remember seeing models of the improvements they were going to spend Β£20million on. It seems they haven’t stopped spending money on ‘regeneration’ because it was full of roadworks, which is always a pain when you don’t know where you’re going anyway. Satnavs don’t cope well with road closures. In fact on Saturday there was a demonstration of sorts by a large group of motorcyclists who rode slowly through the town en masse to protest about all the disruption. Good for them I say! I was negotiating orange barriers, potholes, pedestrian re route signs and large piles of concrete rubble as they drove by.

Highlights of my two days wandering round Bristol included the Grayson Perry exhibition at the Arnolfini, and a quiet hour or so on the second floor of the M Shed watching the boats go by. In between these two events I did find some quirky coffee shops, a vintage street market and the tree lined harbourside area that I recognised from my previous visit.

I have no idea what the story behind the portakabin in the sky is but I would be quite happy to live up there! Neither can I tell you anything about Grayson Perry that isn’t already out there on the internet. It was packed with people, a blend of families, tourists and pretentious art critic wannabes, no actually the latter was just one Father boring the pants off his fourteen year old son. I felt like stepping in and telling him to just let the poor boy form his own opinions. I must confess I liked a lot of the work and I wish I had taken more photographs.

From Bristol I was dropped off in Derbyshire for one last week at the caravan. It was heavenly arriving back amongst the pine trees. It wasn’t so good being without Riley. I’ve come to realise that it is actually quite handy having someone or something that can hear. The fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm for instance are rendered completely useless without Riley in residence. I often leave a tap running, intending to fill a bowl while I quickly do something else and then because I can’t hear the water running I completely forget about it. My sense of smell often makes up for things though, I can actually smell things like water running in a smaller space like the caravan and I’d definitely know very quickly if something was starting to burn.

Walking round Bristol really stuffed my back up again. I needed the five day break from constant laundry, dog walking and general household stuff to rest it. Before I left for this trip I hoovered the whole house and vowed never to hoover again after it set things off. M and J proved they can cope with both laundry and hoovering. They made a deal, J would hoover throughout if M did all the laundry. Both parties were happy. Now that I’m home I need to bribe J into keeping up with the hoovering part of the deal until my back is better.

Apart from a brief trip down to the nearby town for charity shop browsing, coffee and a walk round the lake, I mainly stuck to reading and crochet all week. I managed to finish three novels! I read three books, started a fourth and that’s when I decided to replenish my stock. I wish things were as organised at home i.e. Buy a few, read a few and then buy a few more and so on. The reality is that I buy them faster than I can read them.

In between reading I managed to finish the ribbed crochet wristwarmers that I started yonks ago. They are sized to fit my wrists and hands perfectly. That’s what I love about the side to side and ribbed construction method. I love the tweed yarn and managed to buy up quite a few balls in the chunky weight in various colours at sale prices recently. In order not to get too bored with ribbed wristwarmers, honeycomb hats and anything else I’ve made more than a few times I need to source some new patterns. E has requested a stripey ‘studenty’ hat (whatever that is?) so she’s going to find a picture of something she likes.

On one day in the caravan it was particularly blowy outside. We have small vents at floor level which I’m sure are totally necessary but I’m not sure why. They let in a certain amount of cool air regardless of how cosy the rest of the place is. At some point in the afternoon I decided to see if the rest of the chunky black tweedy yarn would be enough for a pair of thick socks. I absolutely hate wearing socks usually and I particularly dislike anything that goes up past my ankle. I’ve no idea why, strangely J seems to have inherited this from me. In just an hour or so I had a pair of tailor made ankle socks with about ten centimetres of yarn leftover! I smugly sent a photo to our family message chat thing which E set up and titled ‘Fam’ (it’s a new word apparently) and they were all seriously unimpressed. I reminded them that being able to whip up a pair of socks with yarn and a hook was something akin to a post apocalyptic life skill! One day they will realise what a cool person I really am πŸ˜‰

Photographs

Well it looks like I’m just about in time for another of Hawthorn’s photo scavenge hunts (albeit using sketchy hotel wifi). I’m in Bristol for a couple of days making the most of M’s job and tagging along for a change of scene. I watched a whole load of the series Who Do You Think You Are on iPlayer recently because it’s not something M likes to watch, and I reckon there are nomads in my past. I’m happy when I’m out seeing new things, I can’t stand being tied down to one place. Anyway, I’ve been back through my archives for some of these photographs, just for fun.

1. Shut. When M gets a random day off in the week I drag him out of Lincoln to see something new. He’s very obliging despite clocking up plenty of miles for work. This photo is of Oakham Castle in Rutland which we saw on a TV programme and thought would be a nice place to visit. It was just our luck that on the day we decided to go it was shut for refurbishment! Something that google hadn’t mentioned! We had a lovely day anyway, ending with a dog walk round one of the big lakes in the area.

2. Copper. Before tackling our kitchen knock through we collected lots of pictures like this one of a cafe in Wales with the modern rustic look that we like. In addition to the copper chairs they also had light fittings and exposed copper pipes. So far we’ve only managed to include the latter, but I’ve been on the look out for copper stools.

3. Wrist. One of many pairs of wrist warmers I’ve made over the years. This particular pair was gifted, as were all the rest so it seems because when I sorted out the winter hats and scarves recently I couldn’t find a single pair! That can soon be rectified with crochet!

4. Quarter. The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona last October. My son looking rather bored as I slowly examined every single type of yarn for sale in this wonderful yarn shop! I have a collection of similar photos!

5. Beginning with C. Colosseum, Rome. A few years ago now. Temperature in the forties and far too hot for us Brits! J must have been about 14 in this photo, long before the stubborn teenage thing kicked in.

6. Foam. The very same holiday actually. We spent two weeks travelling round Italy. Each day J would use booking.com to book a family room within budget and he did that brilliantly. We stayed in all sorts of places including a converted railway station apartment which was excellent. The foam was part of the fun at the Rome Water Park, that’s J on the left!

7. Scarf. One I made earlier this year for M which incorporates his favourite colour; orange! Beautiful WYS yarn, and a simple crochet linen stitch.

8. Line. Sometimes only a washing line is suitable for photographing big shawls! It would help a great deal if we had a nicely pruned hedge behind it!

9. Nostalgic. That’s my Nan in the middle, between two of her sisters. I’m biased of course but I think she’s definitely the most beautiful of them all. I think there were six altogether but to be honest I still get muddled up. I have very precious memories of spending time with Nan (and of course my Grandad) when I was a child and it often seems as though I’ve taken on their ways and values in the same way that my daughter has taken on her Grandparents’ ways. I miss Nan a lot.

10. Own choice. Cloud gazing. Big cities are all very well (I’ve also been in London before this trip to Bristol) but I will always be glad to get home to my fields, even if they are not exactly Sussex fields, and breathe good clean country air once more!

Thank you Hawthorn!

http://livelovecraftme.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/septembers-link-up-party.html

Cape

This week has been E’s last week at home before moving to uni halls. It’s been a funny old week. Boxes have been piling up, last minute purchases made, bits and bobs retrieved from the back of the kitchen cupboards that might come in handy. Although I was happy enough to care for her Roborovski hamsters, Scout and Jem and a Russian hamster named Badger she has an animal loving friend who offered and we came to the conclusion they’d be enjoyed more by the friend. I love little furry creatures but not when they die. I’m still getting over Lorelie, the little white Roborovski hamster that was set free from its cage via a loose tube by Mollie the cat. That didn’t end well.

Today though seemed like a good day for one final outing with the dogs. As Riley was making himself at home on E’s bed last night, grabbing the duvet in his mouth and tugging it into a nest shape, I think she finally realised that he wasn’t going to be sleeping on her bed for the next three years at least. We took them to Whisby Nature Reserve which is not far from where we live and has a lovely lake and wooded walk. The sun even made a brief appearance but it definitely looked like Autumn with fallen leaves everywhere after the recent stormy weather. The dogs wasted no time finding the water’s edge and plunging in. They later settled on a generous pile of blankets and towels in the boot while we had a nice lunch overlooking the lake.

They are still a bit grumbly with each other in the boot but more so when the vehicle is moving. I recently discovered that they growl less when I sing on the way home from my usual walk which was a fact I wished I hadn’t shared wth M and E on the way back from Whisby. M insisted I start singing because he said he was getting stressed about them whilst driving. I was on my third Glen Campbell song when I stopped to ask if they’d settled down yet. M and E said they had stopped growling ten minutes ago but could they have Wichita Lineman now please!

Everyone seems to be slightly hyper and the banter is in full swing. J stood at E’s bedroom door and asked when he could move in. It’s a long running joke that her room will become a craft room, a guest room, or J’s room. The truth is that we aren’t allowed to touch it for three years but I’m still mulling that one over.

I can’t seem to concentrate on crochet this week. My mind is definitely elsewhere. I have added tassels to the Sunday blanket albeit using unravelled squares from a project I’ve abandoned. It’s given them a curly look which is ok with me. It’s been tested, one chilly evening in front of the tv and it’s very cosy. I’ve started another using up a large ball of Aran for the main body and whatever I have to hand in that yarn weight for the border rows. This one will be for my niece so there is pink involved but I’ve sworn I’ll never buy pink yarn again after this project. I really dislike pink that much I don’t enjoy crocheting with it.

Tweedy yarn however, I do enjoy using, so the Little Red Riding Hood outfit was a quick, fun make. It was extremely simple, even a complete beginner could make this though I find it’s never really clear when a pattern includes a rejoin instruction. On this occasion it really didn’t matter too much because both sides work as right sides. Ribbon would work equally well for a cape fastening. I need to crochet a red apple or two for the basket now and although I initially worried that children these days might not know about the story of LRRH, E assured me that her class of year two children did, so I figured she’s still relevant.

The cape pattern is from the book Crochet Dress Up by Emma Friedlander-Collins. I like the fact that these aren’t impractical lighter weight yarn projects that take forever to make. Most seem to require chunky yarn with occasional dk. Perhaps my favourite pattern is the fairy wings made with the help of two coat hangers. Definitely one to try in the future.

Balance

I really hope September goes nice and slowly. Just look at these blue skies, the late summer sun, refreshing lake. I don’t want to be trading this in for wind, rain and cold just yet. Harvey and Riley look so happy don’t they? Harvey is forgetting his pain and just enjoying the moment. I’m trying to do the same with my sore back. We walked an extra long route this morning while M was umpiring a few villages away. E was packing a few boxes for uni. J was doing last minute A Level reading which was puzzling as I could have sworn he said he didn’t have any prep or work to do for A Levels back in June after he’d finished his exams.

J did really well with his GCSEs. I’m not sure if he was serious or not but he did say his aim was to beat his big sis with the number of A’s. I think he got the same but she just pipped him with the number of A*. It was O Levels in my day so just when I’ve got used to the A and A* business they’ve now introduced numbers for heavens sake! J will be back at school soon and E will be moving into halls round about the third week of September. M is quite miserable about it, whereas I’ve probably gone through all the emotions and feel prepared myself and just happy that she’s going to do something she loves. I can’t say I totally loved every minute of my Graphic Design career but it did have its moments.

These days I’m happier without that level of stress. I worked mostly in advertising and the responsibility of making sure that the huge amounts clients spent on it produced favourable and accountable results weighed on my shoulders. Lighter work included working with a few famous musicians whose manager worked in offices not far from ours. It helped that I was young and not particularly aware of who they were when they came to me for CD cover artwork and publicity material.

I sometimes feel very old and I haven’t reached the big five o yet. It’s probably because everyone around me keeps harping on about that time of life and am I getting symptoms yet? Jeez, bugger off, I’m fine! Then I think, heck, does that mean I’m moody? I’m much more concerned with other things going wrong like tearing the cartilage in my knee last year. It’s taken a long time to get it back to normal and just when I’ve been able to walk miles again my back starts playing up. I’m sticking with walking as my cure all though, it really is uplifting to be out there just breathing in good country air.

I’ve missed being able to reach the big lake comfortably with my dodgy knee but trekking round Madrid made me realise that it was time to have another go and sure enough we did the whole big loop without a single twinge. It was rather disappointing to discover that the lake has been taken over by a plant or weed that makes swimming a bit dangerous. Harvey took a dip and realised that things weren’t favourable but Riley carried on swimming regardless and then had a bit of trouble on the way back to me. Needless to say we won’t be walking that way unless it dies off over the winter months. There are plenty of safer streams to swim in on a slightly different route, although some of them only consist of black sludge at the moment as you can see from the colour of Riley’s legs in the photo!

Life is a good balance when you enjoy the big outdoors in reasonable weather and something like crochet for instance πŸ˜‰ when it’s bucketing down. I wound those messy cotton hanks from Spain one rainy afternoon recently. With both winders spinning at the same time one of E’s friends was so curious she asked politely what I was actually doing. I suppose to the average person this would have looked quite confusing! Just wait until I have lots of dye bubbling on the hob!

Another rainy day provided the chance to finish the shawl that I started on the way to Madrid. I know I was going to take the slightly variegated deep yellow one with me but somehow that just started growing quickly in those last few days before we actually left and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of crochet to last a whole week. There was a muddle with my yarn order for the pullover that I had planned to take and somehow the express delivery got overridden by the free postage offer and so the order took over five days to process. I rummaged through my dk shelf and found the variegated purple/green/goodness knows what else coloured yarn right at the back, wound into cakes already. Then I just chose seven random balls of leftover yarn all under 50gms. I shoved it all in a fabric drawstring washbag so that it was extra squishy for packing. Although I have the pattern on my iPad I also printed it out and tucked that in with the yarn. That proved quite handy when we ended up spending most days at one of the public pools.

Every time I make one of these I wish I’d done the shell row with right side the other way up. It’s easy enough to do by cutting the yarn at the row end and starting at the other edge. In the grand scheme of things though it doesn’t really matter that much. The edging doesn’t use much yarn so I still have plenty of the lovely malabrigo purple left. It’s so nice to work with it nearly got chosen for every other border row!

I’ve now gone back to my yellow version of this shawl. It’s a nice easy relaxing make. I going to make the body of this one slightly bigger. I’ve also got to work out how to do the border with just two colours including the main body colour. I might even leave some of the border rows out, especially if I decide to just alternate the colours. I’m doing more of the make it up as you go along kind of thing these days.

I also saw a great idea on the Instagram hashtag for this shawl that I tried to find a second time and couldn’t, but in a nutshell someone had cleverly used the pattern and made a square instead of a triangle. I really fancy having a go at this using my supplies of Aran weight yarn to produce a good size lap blanket. I’m sure M will be very pleased about this plan because our heating bill last winter was quite a bit more than usual!
The Sunday Shawl pattern is by TheLittleBeeNZ and is available on etsy.

August

It’s a rainy day in August and I’m home with reliable wifi, unlike July’s photo scavenger hunt when I somehow managed to publish the draft with montage only. I’ve added the words since but it was annoying at the time! Thank you Hawthorn (http://livelovecraftme.blogspot.co.uk/) for hosting this fun monthly photo challenge.

1. Relaxed. It’s quite possible that crochet is the only thing that makes me feel relaxed. It’s the most unexpected of hobbies that came about as the natural progression from knitting which I was having trouble with due to rubbish wrists. I took up knitting after browsing the haberdashery department in John Lewis one day looking for creative inspiration. The range of denim yarns they had at the time with chunky needles was too tempting to resist. Later a cricket mum showed me how to do a crochet granny square whilst we were sitting on the boundary and it’s been crochet ever since.

2. Something beginning with M. Well, there is a significant M in my life, I’m married to him. We don’t take a lot of selfies but I do occasionally take his photo. I have to tell him to stop pointing at the scenery first. Weird habit. So, M for mushrooms. They are mostly fungi really. We discovered a guide to fungi lurking on the caravan book shelves and it’s been fun identifying all the different types that grow in this patch of woodland where we have kept the caravan all summer.

3. Time for… Apple and blackberry crumble. Ironically this year, although we have an abundance of both vital ingredients in our back garden we actually collected these from around the caravan site and bought the apples from M&S. Scandalous! Home is an hour and a half away and we forgot to bring the apples with us. The smell of it baking in our little oven must have wafted out of the windows and all round the site, it certainly provoked a few comments.

4. Tangerine. Yarn. Well, what else? I do love tangerines to eat but I don’t like it as a colour in the home. M on the other hand is drawn to all citrus flavours, smells and colours. He’d have an orange car if I didn’t threaten never to get in it! So when we went into El Gato Negro, the yarn store in central Madrid, he naturally pointed out the orange or tangerine coloured yarns available. Um, no, I’m not planning on crocheting any play fruit at the moment.

5. Something beginning with O. OK I’m flat out cheating on this one, because it’s an opportunity to share my fascination with ChurrO’s. They weren’t new to us for our recent holiday but they were fairly new to us last October when we visited Barcelona. We were fortunate enough to be able to roll out of bed, get dressed and tumble into a bakery/coffee bar a few yards from our apartment. J did this with absolute style ending with a double portion of churro’s and a coffee cup full of melted chocolate. All week I watched him tuck into this for breakfast thinking he was bonkers and despite loving all things chocolate I just couldn’t do it for breakfast. Neither could some of the other nationalities that frequented that cafe for coffee and croissants. In Madrid, however, everyone has them, young, old, rows of outdoor tables with chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and churro’s.

6. Whiskery. This makes me think of cats more than dogs, or old men with beards. I wasn’t a cat person at all when the kids persuaded me to adopt a cat but Mollie was an absolute character and definitely won my heart. Now and then, with cats, you find a big old whisker that’s fallen out and I’ve always wondered if they ever grow a new one back?

7. Lace. Mum swears I was only about two or so when I expressed my opinions about all things lacey, pink or girly. I’ve hated lace all my life. I think that’s why I was miserable in all the photos of my Uncle’s wedding because I had to wear a lace trimmed bonnet and a dress (Shudder). Well it was the seventies. I don’t usually go for crochet with holes in much because it does remind me of lace but this piece became a crochet top and about as lacey as it gets round here!

8. Bridge. I’m always drawn to lovely old bridges, especially the stone type with little features that tell you how old it might be. There have been so many significant bridges in my life I could write for hours and not cover them and that’s something I’ve only just realised today. I wish I had a photo of the kids when they were small and we took them to the real Pooh Bridge in Sussex and played Pooh Sticks. Harvey was a young dog back then and we also had our big black Labrador cross, Jake. We had to hold them back of course otherwise they’d have been straight in the water and retrieving the sticks before they’d travelled under the bridge! I’ve been over several famous bridges in America, I’ve been over the Humber Bridge more times than I care to remember, I’ve been under every bridge on the River Medway and as far along the Thames as Abingdon where the river becomes to shallow for big boats. I’ve stood on the famous Rialto Bridge in Venice. I’m sure there are hundreds more. What a thought provoking category! The photo was taken in Matlock, Derbyshire.

9. Letters. I used to be a great letter writer, it’s how I kept in touch with my grandparents before the age of iPads and FaceTime. Now I rarely write a letter unless it’s a sick note for J for school. He rarely has days off due to illness but this year was an exception when he managed to get a really nasty pneumococcal chest infection that went on for months. Thankfully he’s fully recovered and back to his slightly annoying sixteen year old self. So, letters carved into this big old tree at the hidden lake where my parents live. I walked my dogs there twenty odd years ago so I know that some of these letters have been there that long!

10. Own choice. Riley guarding his patch, or maybe just wondering whether the little Eriba Puck owners across the way have a dog he can play with! They didn’t and we wouldn’t have let him play anyway, we are mean like that. We take them for long walks and swims instead, and try and wear them out. I’ve chosen this photo because on our last visit to the caravan over the bank holiday M and I both agreed that pitching the caravan for twelve weeks in one place was one of the best decisions we’ve made this year. It’s been a great bolt hole to allow us some relaxation time and space from the teenage stuff. The dogs have enjoyed all the new places to explore too. The site is changing owners unfortunately but the deal will remain the same so we will probably do the same next year. In the meantime, where shall we tow it next? There’s still time for autumnal camping.

Recovery

The weather has been great since we got back from 37 degree sweltering hot days in Madrid. It’s been a gentle transition over the bank holiday weekend through to today, a measly 17 degrees. I don’t mind a bit. Nothing lasts forever. It was enough to take the dogs on some lovely walks last week and do a spot of cloud gazing. Apparently there was an air show not far away on the day I snapped that aeroplane flying low, one of many flying over my head.

We don’t use our secret nature reserve so much in the summer because we are usually away or watching J or E play cricket. I often miss out on all the wonderful planting that volunteers did years ago that produce so many different wild flowers. I just caught the end of some of the varieties on these recent walks. Harvey seems to be doing ok after his two month stint on painkillers. It’s some kind of arthritis and he’s grumpy about it and probably always will be now so we will just have to keep them apart at times. I’m sure lake swimming helps keep Harvey in fit condition. It’ll be cooling down gradually but they’ve plunged in that lake in all seasons so they must love it that much.

H and R were left in the capable hands of J while we nipped to the caravan for the bank holiday weekend. If truth be told M and I needed a few days to recover from the heat, the walking and all the swimming that we did in Madrid. I have calves like Usain Bolt! I would have been quite happy to do some, gentle hiking with water and picnics but M has slipped easily back into his U.K. routine which involves moving about a lot less. He looked pretty shocked when I suggested a walk round the lake in Ashbourne which is no distance to speak of.

Unless it’s a one off event I never really see the point of joining hundreds of people on the road, having great trouble parking the car and then seeing or doing something with crowds of people on a bank holiday when you could just as easily do it or see it on another day. So I mentioned this to M and said we could try and think outside the box and go somewhere nice but not popular, bit of a tricky brief. We did indeed manage to pull this off quite by mistake on the way back from a small town I’d dragged M to just so that I could get a copy of Inside Crochet. It’s hard not to notice that you’re driving by the world headquarters of JCB with a twenty foot high water fountain, manicured lawns, huge lake, sculptures and a big white helicopter parked on a raised helipad just outside. It was quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and reminded me much more of those huge companies in America that you see on Secret Boss or whatever that programme is called.

I suggested that we stop there on the way back because I’d spotted a lay by with an ice cream van and even if M didn’t fancy another walk around a lake we could at least sit and watch people doing just that. Turns out that if you have fishermen miles round the lake then it suddenly becomes a lot easier to move in that direction! On the way round to speak to them I was told all about the different carp species M could see near the surface of the water. It did strike me as not much of a challenge to catch them when there were so many but I didn’t say anything along these lines. M used to fish before he met me and I’m extremely glad he’s more interested in watching cricket these days.

We eventually made it round to the fishermen and gosh, I must have spent some considerable time organising the photos on my phone, taking pictures of the sumo sculpture I had been sitting on, daydreaming about my next crochet project, wishing I had my book with me, contemplating downloading a free book to kindle for iPhone, making a mental list of things to do after this caravan break and about fifty other mental lists and finally M finished chatting to these guys about fish.

There was a little fuss about how the lake seemed bigger now that we were walking round it and he hadn’t wanted to walk that far. This was after I suggested it was shorter to continue walking than to turn back. We then witnessed a public row between a husband and wife who were presumably taking it in turns to push their mother or mother in law in a wheelchair that ended in the husband leaving them and stropping off back to the car. At this point M uttered the most fantastic line, ‘well I don’t know what he’s making a fuss about, it’s a lovely day for a walk!’ Um, yeah, I think you were complaining about that yourself thirty seconds ago.

By the time we made it back round to the car the stroppy husband was leaning against his car licking a big 99 ice cream! Nice guy. I didn’t get any pictures of all the brightly coloured ducks they have there but from behind M’s shoulder I did take the photo of the black swans. I haven’t seen any of these for years and they gave me something of the shivers. They are the reason I didn’t like anything with a beak after one attacked me when I was small. He probably just wanted bread but it was enough to put me off for life. They are stunning looking creatures though and they must be quite rare.

M decided it was probably an amazing place to work given that you could take your lunch and sit by the lake every day. There were obvious JCB employees doing just that as well as those taking advantage of the flat paths for cycling. We later learnt that you could take a 2.5 hour tour round the whole factory which M would have loved to do but I’m fairly certain I’d have been bored ****less.

It did remind me of the time Ella spotted a little pair of yellow wellies in a farm shop somewhere and announced they were the nicest she had ever seen and she really needed some. She actually said ‘I really meed wellies’ which was the last of her sweet mispronunciations. They were displayed alongside toy JCB diggers and they had the JCB logo on them which did not put her off at all. They were yellow for heavens sake! She wore them until her feet would no longer squeeze into them and then reluctantly passed them on to Jake who wore them with a yellow fireman’s helmet wherever he went.

Goodies

The best laid plans and all that… I didn’t actually make it to the one wool shop in Madrid I researched and liked the look of. There was some kind of mishap when I copied the address into a message for M to navigate to the following day and we ended up somewhere entirely different. It wasn’t all bad, we walked up the equivalent of Fifth Avenue past Champagne Shops, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Chanel, Gucci… it was quite jaw dropping.

There was a more central yarn store which seemed to have less than enthusiastic reviews on Trip Advisor but I always take those with a pinch of salt anyway so we bravely entered even though I felt quite intimated by the floor to ceiling arrangement of yarn and two enormous weighing scales at the far end. ‘No tocar’ signs were everywhere, which means don’t touch! Kind of tricky when you’re considering buying yarn! In the end, after watching several Spanish people purchase yarn by the weight we stepped forward and asked for their dk cotton in five colours, 100gms of each. Our Spanish is rubbish but we googled a few handy phrases just to get started and then resorted to gestures. The woman was quite patient and polite. Messy hanks were pulled off each pile and slapped onto the big brass trays and then popped into paper bags with a ticket. At this point I really wished I was local because you’d just pop in, buy your exact requirements and leave. The customer before us came in with two bag handles, said a whole load of Spanish we couldn’t follow at all and then, with a lot of arm waving from her and the server, with example crochet bags held up to talk about sizing, weighed out what she recommended she’d need for the bag size she wanted. At this point I was extremely impressed.

We had a similar experience in the indoor market type shop which has slightly creepy looking models in the window and bizarre displays of neon zips tacked to the display boards. Once inside there is one of everything you can buy tacked to the walls or displays and you tell them what you want and they retrieve it from a wooden drawer. You then get a ticket and take it to a cashier and they give you your goods. It’s absolutely bloody amazing. At the start I chose a raffia bag base, got the ticket, paid for it, received the goods wrapped in brown paper. After that I was feeling quite confident so I chose some buttons, some silver charms, a couple of embroidered patches (cacti). Everything got wrapped in paper.

I came out of there in quite a daze, for a start there must have been every button ever manufactured in there on rolling drums, organised by colour and/or material. I suddenly couldn’t think what I needed buttons for and then remembered a little person project that requires the type of fastening shown above in red. Two little leather triangles, loops and a toggle button, the perfect finishing touch. I can punch some small holes with my leather tools to sew it on. The natural leather version I thought would make a nice clasp for a crochet bag with a flap.

Along with buttons, silver charms and a huge selection of embroidered patches there was every type of trim imaginable, parts to make your own bras or underwear, paper mache blanks, polystyrene shapes, string, rope, wool, embroidery thread, knitting needles, crochet hooks, embroidery tools, embroidery hoops, tapestry frames, bag handles, rug making supplies, lace and much more. Everything you could possibly need. It made our haberdashery departments and Hobbycraft look extremely lame.

Some of the products on sale at Almacen de Pontejos were available in the U.K but mostly the prices were cheaper than the U.K. T shirt yarn for instance, in a shop round the corner from this haberdashery place was €4 or €5 depending in whether it was plain or patterned, for a big fat roll of it. There was about a hundred different designs to choose from. Choice is very good in Spain!

I always buy crochet magazines whenever I travel to another country. I’ve never come across a French, Italian or Spanish crochet magazine that hasn’t got diagrams in it. I love the ones with just crochet fabric patterns in them or crochet edgings. These two Spanish ones have a lot of fine crochet in them but one is mainly garments and they are quite different to anything in British magazines which is always interesting.

I’m not big on shopping so there wasn’t much else that I planned to buy. I did buy the grey star bag with leather straps that I posted on Instagram last week from the huge El Rastro market on Sunday. To be honest it was a nervy experience because they stepped up security with police barracades at the end of every street and there were armed police everywhere. It was too hot and too busy and we were all glad to leave and get back to the apartment for our swimming gear. I also invested in a couple of Turkish towels to keep the sun off in between swims. They were in the sale at El Corte Inglis which is a very handy chain out there with branches everywhere.

I now need a week to get over the week we had away. I’m absolutely shattered. So much walking and swimming. Ironically I think it’s actually helped my sore back so I might keep up with the swimming now that we’re home. I haven’t minded the rain and patchy sun since we got home either. Seven days of thirty degrees plus is quite enough for me. We all look as brown as berries and I’ve even got sore shoulders which is highly unusual for me. I don’t burn very often.

Holidays always feel slightly surreal and then it’s back to reality with laundry, housework, dog walking. J gets his GCSE results tomorrow and starts in the sixth form in a week or so. He spent all of his holiday money on clothing and will probably be the best dressed sixth former they’ve ever seen, he has been meticulous in his choices and has bought all sorts of items he knows are much more expensive in the uk. He couldn’t get his coat jacket thing in his case so he had to wear it on the way to the airport and through to the plane. He was very warm but very glad of it once we picked up the car at Gatwick!

Madrid

It’s early in the morning. I’m sure the only noise is the hum of the air conditioning and gentle snoring from three different bedrooms. I’m never an early riser at home but on holiday I guess I sleep more soundly. There’s something mildly fascinating about waking up and seeing sunshine and feeling warmth, and if I’m honest I do like casually observing the permanent residents here tend their balcony plants and in turn casually observe their neighbour’s doing the same.

We are staying in an air bnb apartment which is in an old building with ornate balconies to the front, several very elaborate cast iron elevators, huge wooden doors with decorative iron reinforcements. The whole thing is very fancy but pretty much the norm. There are some modern apartments scattered around and even those have a certain charm.

One of the things we’ve had this time but didn’t have in Barcelona is a washing machine. This has been very handy after swimming several days in a row. Washing lines are on a pulley system between our kitchen window and an apartment window about fifteen feet away. The drop is at least thirty feet to the ground floor patio which is home to two terrapins in shallow crates. It takes a steady hand to peg out the washing without dropping anything. My greatest fear is not losing the laundry but suffocating the terrapins with a large bath towel!

It’s been ridiculously hot all week so for the first half we stayed permanently in the shade which was not difficult to achieve. A lot of the side streets have sails or trees which provide a bit of shade and just the height of the buildings provide the rest. Outdoor cafe areas have misting parasols which is heavenly when you are having a glass of Sangria and a break from walking.

Public transport has been the biggest surprise. We hired bikes for a week in Barcelona which was ideal because it meant M could move almost as fast as us. Madrid has bike hire stations everywhere but it’s not such a good deal as Barcelona nor as safe. You must cycle on the road and not on the path and there’s not as many cycle paths. So we sussed out the buses on day one and the metro soon after. Any single journey anywhere seems to be €1.50 by bus or metro. It’s an impressive set up, buses are clean, metro trains are clean and I’m no train expert but I think they are wider than London tubes. Staff are really helpful and friendly. One bus driver even got off to point the way to the area we were looking for. The metro does get busy in popular places but nothing like London in August, we’ve always managed to get a seat.

We are a little wary after the Barcelona attack. We came close to returning to Barcelona since we enjoyed it so much last October and the only two things that changed our minds were the anti tourist protests and the fact that we like seeing new things. E was particularly upset about La Rambla attack because we spent so much time there and it really felt close to home. By this point we had visited most of the tourist hotspots in central Madrid so we found a swimming pool slightly out of town. Another good value for money place (€4.50 for adults and €4 for under 25s) and clean set up. I mention clean again because I really struggled to cope with the bathroom facilities when we spent two weeks touring round Italy. Call me fussy but a hole in the floor or a toilet without a seat (let alone toilet paper) is not my idea of sufficient.

The kids aren’t really enjoying the food if I’m honest. We’ve succumbed to marguerita pizza a couple of times. They weren’t impressed when we had seafood paella even though J quite likes the supermarket versions at home. I’ve never really enjoyed the typical tapas menu but there are one or two safe bets like patatas bravas. We’ve ordered the Parma ham by mistake a few times. M and I love the smoked meats but the Parma ham just doesn’t seem to dissolve no matter how much you chew it. Naturally the kids find it hilarious when it arrives as a complimentary tapas and M does his fake thank you smile.

I can’t get over how many people tuck into churro’s and chocolate for breakfast. People of all ages, shapes and sizes. We thought J was mad when this was his staple start to the day in Barcelona. Personally I couldn’t face chocolate in the morning and I’m something of a chocolate addict! I’ve had them once this holiday and felt pretty queasy straight after.

Whilst we had a fairly long list of things to see in Barcelona, here we’ve shamefully not visited any of the museums, so far anyway. It’s been more a case of taking it easy, a little shopping, a lot of stopping for cold drinks or coffee, a bit of swimming. I’ve had plenty of time to crochet in the evenings when everyone is flat out on their beds recovering from the day’s heat and walking.

We’ve got a simple filter coffee machine here. I put it on around about a quarter of an hour before everyone starts to stir, I swear it’s the smell that brings E out of her room. They all wake puffy eyed with the heat and two of the three walk in a straight line to the coffee. I don’t bother with small talk until the first coffee has been served. Judging by the smells wafting up between apartments I think it’s a universal way to start the day.

Ready

I blame my mother for this recent blitz on the house. I swear it must have been her influence that has made me dash round like a mad thing doing all kinds of trivial diy and cleaning this week. I know we had ‘the Queen is coming to tea’ level cleaning whenever we had visitors (not that it was ever messy in between) but I’m pretty sure we also left everything spotless whenever we went away. I have no idea what the logic is behind this except that it will be nice to come home to. No doubt the dogs will undo a lot of it since they are spending the week here with ‘babysitters’ who will spoil them rotten.

I’ve just managed to stop short of grouting the kitchen tiles. That was just a bit too messy to contemplate. Thanks to a bit of a back problem (that I really don’t want to make worse for next week) M was encouraged to get the lawn mower out this morning and take over my mowing duties. J concocted a make shift ironing board (we don’t have one because life is too short to iron) by placing a large bath sheet sized towel on our kitchen island and clamping it in place with M’s DIY clamps. I’ve learnt never to question J’s logic because I’m just wasting my breath so I let him get on with ironing everything he’s taking on holiday. I can only assume he’s decided that life is not too short to iron by following my Dad’s example (since he retired he’s done all the ironing, including underwear and tea towels!)

My little crochet radial bag has turned out to be just what I needed to hold my new coin purse and mobile phone for evenings out when I won’t be needing my Kanken bag. Although it was 63% wool it didn’t felt very much but its round about the size I wanted. I used dk rather than the Aran suggested. I’ve used 2mm thick pure wool felt sheets that I bought in Barcelona last year and cut two circles and a gusset, sewed them together with strong cotton and then just tacked the top edges to the bag itself. I used one of those magnetic clasps since I had somewhere to hide the backs; between the felt and the bag. It’s made just the right level of firmness for a bag but without being too boxy. Apart from still having the stitch definition that I was hoping to lose with the felting I’m quite pleased with it. It wasn’t the most exciting make but it will be useful.

Over the weekend I’ve been spending the evenings sitting upright in a chair that doesn’t aggravate my back which led to the beaded bracelet session. I gathered a few jars of wooden and felt beads, elastic, big needles, chose an iPlayer film and had a couple of happy hours just threading beads. I made a few smaller ones for E who has tiny wrists compared to mine. Since I don’t wear patterned clothing or bright colours it’s a nice way of having just a small splash of something colourful.

I ordered yarn on Wednesday (for my previously mentioned holiday crochet project) and paid for Express Delivery. I’ve always received goods this way with two or three days at the most so I’m quite concerned that it hasn’t arrived yet. There’s just one more business day left so in case something has gone wrong I’ve quickly decided that I’ll make another Sunday Shawl as a plan b. In fact I started this one last year and I’ve no idea why it wasn’t finished. It’s a really enjoyable pattern and the double trebles and bigger hook guarantee good drape no matter what dk yarn you throw at it. I’ve made two as gifts and one for myself, the latter in a grey alpaca mix yarn for the main body which is ridiculously warm. I think this yellow version was an attempt to make one not quite as suitable for minus temperatures! I was obviously also contemplating a less colourful border. I can’t remember whether I was going to do the whole border in grey or alternate them or make it up as I go along and since I’ve long forgotten it will have to be the latter! I’m trying to leave it alone but I keep doing a row here and there and it’s growing and I’m in danger of finishing it before we’ve even left the country!

One of the best things I decided to do when we started having holidays abroad was to have everyone name just one thing that they wanted to see or do. The conditions were that we all had to cooperate politely and patiently with each other’s request no matter what it was. This guarantees at least four visits, events or whatever with everyone being nice to one another. So in Italy M wanted to visit a big food market, J wanted to visit a water park, E wanted to go to a general market and I wanted to try the outdoor thermal springs. When it came to the clothes market shopping for example the men were forced to be polite and patient and all went well. The kids and I don’t find food markets in the slightest bit interesting unless we are actually buying to eat so we suffered in polite silence while M looked at dead fish and smoked meats. The water park was slightly more family friendly but I have to be honest M and I are amazed that we survived some of the slides… and the thermal springs? Maybe next time.

This year the requests have been pretty similar. Food markets for M, swimming of any kind for J, art and craft markets for E and mine is of course, a visit to a yarn store, just to add to my collection of ‘bored family whilst waiting for Mum to choose yarn’ photo’s!