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.

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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!

Productive 

I feel bad that Harvey doesn’t feature here as much as Riley. Just for the record he is as cuddly and entertaining but it’s not easy to capture him in photographs. We love him just as much as Riley. This morning I thought I’d try and at least get a sneaky pic whilst he was snoozing, no chance! He was up in two nanoseconds and retrieving a ball for me to throw. He’s obsessed with the game of fetch and thinks that any interest coming his way might involve a tennis ball if he drops big hints.

Three individual pieces of footwear have now made their way surreptitiously into the farmers field and so all outings to the lovely nature reserve are postponed until we’ve covered as much of the wheat field as is possible with actually damaging the crop in the hunt for them. We have a dry, partially sunny day here at long last and I can tell you, the bugs are loving it. I was picking off greenfly and thunderbugs for hours after that little trek. Harvey is, or used to be extremely talented at fetching but unfortunately ‘fetch the bloody footwear that you’ve taken into the field’ isn’t working.

I’m not sure whether it was the first sunshine for days or the run up to our holiday, but today turned into one of those extremely productive days. You know the sort, you wake up and suddenly feel like painting the kitchen window sill that actually needed painting four years ago? Check, that’s done. It prompted a complete Spring clean of the whole kitchen including two dusty dog beds. When the kids went over to double beds the dogs inherited both single duvet covers and single duvets. They’ve never been so cosy. It’s also easy to wash the covers from time to time, although it’s probably not that good for the washing machine filter 😉

I also seized the moment, with only J home and otherwise occupied with computer games, to have one of those extended clothes trying on sessions to see whether I could create a mix and match wardrobe for our holiday. When I was in my twenties I used to think those magazine articles about capsule wardrobes were quite fascinating. These days I just don’t care very much about clothes but I do care for travelling light. Turns out my black linen skirt which was brand new but from a charity shop in Bexhill, for £3 goes with bloomin’ everything! So I’ve got four daytime vest tops to go with it and an evening top if I feel the need to look smarter. My new dress is packed along with one pair of black linen shorts and then just a comfy outfit for travelling which consists of loose baggy trousers, a grey marl t shirt, a grey fat face cardigan (at least ten years old!) and my Birkenstocks. My suitcase looks suspiciously empty. All the more room for woolly souvenirs right?

Riley has been glued to the side of my suitcase for most of the day. He’s got a similar understanding of luggage as the black Cocker Spaniel we had when I was a child. Susie used to plant herself firmly by the side of any bag, coolbox or suitcase that was placed in the hall and make a sneaky dash for the car when they were taken out. She was lovely but had a bit of an evil streak if she had successfully got into the car and wasn’t actually coming along. Mum and Dad used to use to warn us that we’d lose an arm if we tried to reach in and move her and they weren’t wrong! Dad sometimes had to load the car with the bags, drive down to the village and back home again where she’d hop out happily thinking the outing had taken place. My memories are mainly of her coming along on every kind of outing so it can’t have been very often when she got left behind.

Along with painting window sills, laundry, spring cleaning, shoe hunting and capsule wardrobe creating I’ve also been tending to our various house plants. I’m slightly baffled as to why most plants don’t survive despite me paying close attention to them. I didn’t use to have so much trouble keeping plants alive. A decorative cactus came my way from E’s room. The mushroom style red top had died but I could see that the stem was ok. I have no cacti knowledge at all but I cut the dead bit off and lo and behold, months later, a tiny little shoot has sprung from the side. It’s not a looker but it’s alive! Things with tiny leaves do not like living here. Two such plants are definitely close to being added to the compost heap. Spider plants however, are thriving. Remember those little shoots I planted in April? Well that big spider plant pictured is the result. It’s even got flowers. It obviously loves the front window sill and I’m sure it will love it even more now that I’ve painted it!

Still on the subject of a distinct lack of green fingers, I recently said to M that one of us needed to take up the hobby that is gardening and since I’m a bit busy with my hobby of crochet it would have to be him! He did see the funny side and said that he did once enjoy gardening and would try and do a bit more. In the meantime we are in the middle of the wild phase again. The back lawn is too soggy to mow, the last storm brought all kinds of branch debris down, the bonfire is too wet to light and everything seems to be over six feet tall. Though, being non gardeners has some benefits, not least of all a long wild hedge full of blackberries!

I’ve been agonising over what kind of crochet to take on holiday. I know, it sounds dramatic, but it’s become my number one way of relaxing. There are weeks when I tell myself I will just read this week but it rarely happens. Books take so much longer to get through than they used to with that little background voice saying, just one more row. Finally I explained the whole dilemma to M; that a travel crochet project needs to be simple enough to do whilst other stuff is going on, yet not too boring. It must not involve too many colours in order not to take more yarn than necessary. Ideally the finished item could be worn or used on the way home. His reply, after some thought, was, ‘so a one colour garment or accessory, with a pattern that is slightly challenging but not too challenging and not too much yarn’. He then suggested a quick drive out to a yarn store! I protested that I had yarn already and that it was just a question of matching it up to a pattern or use with the help of the World Wide Web but he twisted my arm and off we went. So that’s how I came to buy the pattern for the DMC Natura Denim Genius Pullover; http://www.purplelindacrafts.co.uk/dmc-natura-denim-genius-pullover-crochet-pattern-26873-p.asp although I’ve chosen a darker colour to make it in. I’m hoping that it will see more use than the completed shawls I’ve made in the past; http://simplenaturalhandmade.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/off-hooksunday-shawl.html and http://simplenaturalhandmade.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/off-hookone-big-cosy-wrap.html They are cosy but I only wear them around the house in the depths of winter.

The yarn for the ‘pullover’ should arrive just in time and I plan to get it started so that the initial rows are completed without too many distractions. There’s been talk of long delays at some of the European airports and as I told M, my worst nightmare would be to have to spend three hours waiting in an airport queue without a crochet project!

My recycled cotton top finally got finished last night and I’ve been wearing it today. Its kind of substantial in that it used 400g of cotton but it’s been cool to wear on account of the holey design. It’s not going to make the cut for holiday wear though because it takes up as much room as a woolly jumper.

Even one evening without an interesting wip is a no go so I’ve been browsing patterns with my stash of pure wool in mind and came across this circular bag pattern which ends up being felted, though that is optional. I’m still mulling over whether to source a similar strap to the one shown or repurpose a leather belt. I have a stash of thrifted leather belts which I’ve been turning into bracelets and the punching tools that would make it possible to transform a belt into a bag strap. There’s also the crochet strap option of course.

It’s a beautiful sunny evening here. I have Harvey sitting by my feet on one side and Riley on the other. I can smell three distinct scents, a slight whiff of satinwood paint, freshly laundered sheets and newly cut grass. It’s a shame I’ve got to go and trade them for the smell of Pedigree Chum!

Dabbling

The yarn I’m playing with pretty much reflects the weather we are having at the moment. Mostly grey with the occasional burst of sunshine. Waking up to morning after morning of wet starts is not terribly uplifting. Obviously Harvey and Riley don’t mind a bit of rain but it’s not what I had in mind for August thank you! I had quite enough trudging through mud last winter.

I’ve been sorting out my yarn yet again. It seems so much more under control now with a shelf to each yarn weight. Even M is impressed with my self constraint. I got nervous about my pure wool and moths since we have the windows open all year round, so I’ve bagged those up for now and plan to buy some more of the boxes that fit into these cabinets so that they are more protected.

I didn’t have as much t shirt yarn as I thought I had but I’m going to try and make something similar to J’s Asterix t shirt yarn rug for E’s university room bathroom. She’s in halls for the first year and will have her own bathroom, a far cry from my studying days I can tell you. I might try an oval one this time or just a plain old rectangular rug because stripes would be quite forgiving with the random t shirt yarn I’ve got left. In fact this might be my next ‘take to the caravan’ project since I’m not having much luck with my other crochet experiments.

I’ve dabbled with various patterns and cottons for a quick and easy summer top. I do like working with cotton in the summer but I can’t recall ever making a top that I’d actually want to wear. In fact the last one I made was a rather feminine affair and I guess I wanted the challenge of making it more than I wanted to wear the finished item. Well I’m older and wiser now and I’ve been trying to find a more geometric design to suit my taste. It hasn’t photographed well but those first few rows in a grey/denim recycled cotton (wish I’d kept the ball band!) show up as squares when held up to the light. It will need blocking to open it up a bit. It’s just two panels joined together to make a boat neck and I’m hoping it will be ready and wearable within a week! I might do something with the final rows to make a bit of a neckline. It’s supposed to be a complete beginners project (from a very old American magazine I bought in a charity shop) but it requires front and back post trebles so I’d say that was a confident beginners pattern!

If the cotton top works out nicely it will go very well with the new Birkenstocks M treated me to recently. Two pairs in one year is something of a record for me. I’m not usually quite so extravagant. My last pair, back in February or thereabouts was to replace a felt pair that Riley had got hold of that I’d owned for about eight years. I have two other sandal types that are pretty old too. These nubuck grey sandals have a white sole, and are from the softbed range. They are considerably more comfortable than my others, definitely comfy enough to spend a week walking round Madrid. (M has just read that it is hideously dangerous to try cycling there unless it’s a bank holiday or a Sunday!)

I’ve found a nice yarn shop that I’d like to visit in Madrid and they seem to stock quite a lot of cotton yarns. It’s so easy to get anything you like online these days that it does seem pointless buying yarn and having to cram it in a suitcase with a weight limit but I probably will buy a little cotton if it feels nice and has eco credentials.

The yarn I wound on my Amish winder yesterday was locally made and dyed in Barcelona. It’s a merino yarn and has a bit of a fuzz to it. I think that’s why it wasn’t the ideal match for The Crochet Project Antracita shawl pattern. I tried a bigger hook size for more drape but my gut feeling is that I will have to frog it and try another yarn for that pattern. That leaves me trying to find a suitable pattern for the Barcelona merino, something that requires serious warmth I think!

In amongst all this process of thinking, researching, dabbling and so on I needed something to work on that wasn’t going to give me a headache so I picked up the ripple blanket that I started goodness knows when. Riley must have thought I was snuggling under a finished blanket because he wanted in on the snuggling action. We had to compromise in the end with me ‘donating’ the part I’d finished hooking although this did make turning it for each row quite tricky.

We are going to squeeze in one last ‘escape’ to the caravan before our holiday. It feels slightly indulgent since I’ve got major work to do to make the house presentable for our house/dog sitters. We will only be gone for a long weekend this time though and the dogs will be staying at home so that we can do a little holiday shopping for M. He has a pattern of refusing to buy anything he needs for a trip to another climate, then makes a big fuss about being inadequately equipped. It’s a good job I learn from these mistakes even if he doesn’t. So this year I am insisting on a couple of pairs of new shorts, shirts and suitable footwear. I’ve also invested in a family document organiser! Woohoo! Yep they exist. Oh boy is M happy with this. He’s opened it up several times to familiarise himself with where the passports are, the health insurance cards, the boarding passes, the car park receipt, his prescriptions and the phrase book. No more scrabbling about in an A5 ziplock bag for a missing passport and holding up a hundred people! Not to mention blaming the three of us for the fact that his own passport was in the back pocket of his jeans all along!

Montage

1. Crane. I had plans to make a paper crane but time ran away with me. As it happened E visited Leeds last week and the ever inspiring Fred Aldous store and came away with a new found passion for origami! The first thing she made was a paper crane! I spotted these huge mechanical cranes recently in Norwich.

2. Ring. I have two special rings, a wedding ring and my twenty first birthday ring. I don’t wear any others however, E has a sizeable collection and rotates them daily. Not including the two she lost in the ocean in Italy!

3. Set. I had a few contenders for set but I’m most passionate about my set of blue and white falcon ware and vintage utensils which have filled up a large blue vintage suitcase ready and waiting for adventures in our teardrop trailer (if M ever finishes building it!)

4. Light. Is there anything better than hygge candlelight?

5. Bow. I suspect my teenage son still has a Robin Hood style bow and arrow shoved down the side of his wardrobe somewhere but in the absence of that I’ve chosen Bow as in Bow Wow. Even at a young age I really loathed this term used in children’s books to mean a dog. It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make much sense now. Call a dog a dog! Woof says Riley!

6. Spring. This photo was taken way back in Spring this year when it was just a relief to be able to shed a few winter layers and not battle through so much mud and notice things like random tulips on the edge of farmer’s fields.

7. Open. Pitching our caravan for twelve weeks in a wooded site so that we can use it as and when we are free has been the best decision. The greatest simple pleasure has been to throw open the roof windows and just wake up to a view of swaying pine trees. I may have mentioned this before (sorry!).

8. Grand. Also whilst out and about in Norwich, a very grand shop front.

9. Park. Caravan park. This tiny little Eriba caravan was our neighbour for a few nights. I love them and wish I was brave enough to ask for a guided tour!

10. Own choice. Ella. Source of all my grey hair. She never ceases to amaze me. Totally unlike me in a lot of ways but that’s what I love about her, she’s her own person, with a huge amount of talent. I don’t usually do gushy stuff but I’m very proud of her, and so would her Dad be if he were still alive.

Watermelon 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographs

A day late but I’m hoping my wifi connection lasts long enough to link up with Hawthorn Spellweaver’s Photo Scavenger Hunt!

1. The setting sun. Harvey and Riley are somewhere in the foreground of this photo I took on an evening walk in the field behind the caravan site; totally oblivious to the beauty but not to the wildlife smells.

2. Local wild place. This private lake in a hidden location in a village I used to live in really does feel like a local wild place. Home to all kinds of wildlife, I’d love to set up a night camera here.

3. Mug of your favourite drink in the garden. Well not quite the garden but as close as I can get at the moment. It’s a tin mug of Rooibos which I’m very glad I discovered when I wasn’t well and felt I should cut down on the caffeine. The first cup tasted awful but I stuck with it and now I prefer it to normal tea.

4. My kind of beautiful. Always coastlines.

5. Look to the skies. One of the small pleasures of caravanning in a woodland setting is being able to open the skylight windows and see this view. Weather permitting of course!

6. Mini beasts. Beautiful close up but I really don’t like them in the house. Or anything that flutters really.

7. Rain. Something you get used to when you live in the UK. I never mind rain as long as I’m cosy indoors (with crochet).

8. Something summery. Sussex strawberries on Bexhill beach during that recent heatwave.

9. Urban wilderness. I always think of this phrase when we are driving somewhere at the crack of dawn and there’s little traffic on the roads and somehow you notice the infrastructure so much more and particularly how ugly it all is. That’s more than likely what I was thinking when I took this photo on the way to some random city earlier in the year.

10. My own choice. The same beach as no. 8 but definitely somewhere I’d choose to be a lot more often if I still lived along this piece of coast. I’m really hoping for a family holiday there before University begins for E and A Levels begin for J.
http://livelovecraftme.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/junes-scavenger-hunt-link-up-party.html

Hot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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