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!

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!

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!

Eerie

We are home after a long weekend in Derbyshire. The weekend was fairly busy with caravans coming and going including the lovely vintage one that I took a quick photo of this morning. It looks like it’s got the original gold and mustard flock upholstery inside too! We didn’t see who owned it but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t one owner from new! The photo isn’t clear but it has a central section that runs down the middle of the roof that is raised and has little windows and extra head room. I didn’t get close enough to see a make or model name but it must be pre 70s.

M had a job lined up for Tuesday and because it was in a big city I decided to tag along and do some last minute holiday shopping. I didn’t have a huge list but I was on the look out for a plain linen dress of some kind. I don’t usually wear dresses but I’ve been keeping an eye on the temperatures in Madrid and mid thirties seems to be a common theme. I also wanted a plain coin purse with no frills, flowers or cute animals; it’s surprising how difficult it is to find such a thing. For previous holidays I’ve always left my main purse with room for cards, loyalty cards, cash, notes etc behind and taken one of E’s childhood purses, the least embarrassing of which is either a silver one with a butterfly or a denim one with a sheep on it. This year I wanted a grown up one!

I did find a linen dress too. It was a bit of an investment buy. I rarely top up my wardrobe with new items and manage to find perfectly good thrifted clothes but I liked the quality and simplicity of this dress and could easily make it work in a less sunny climate. https://www.johnlewis.com/toast-sleeveless-linen-sun-dress-slate/p3219141 Pretty much everything else in my holiday suitcase is thrifted or years old. I recently found two brand new vest tops with the labels still attached for less than £2 each, one in black and one in grey. I had planned to add a few embroidered stars or something but we’ll have to see how adventurous I’m feeling.

M’s job ran over by an hour or so and I basically shop like my Dad now; I have an idea of what I want and go in search of it and that’s that. Browsing is less appealing. I remembered mini toiletries at least and after that I bought a very large coffee and watched the crowds in this large multi cultural city go by.

Whilst the weekend was busy with people spending just a weekend at the site, the week days were eerie and quiet. M and I had already driven out to Buxton to add to our sightseeing days to Matlock and Bakewell. It just didn’t feel like the height of summer but we did at least pop into a few junk shops and charity shops. M was hesitant but I insisted on buying the three legged light oak stool in the photo above. When I got it back to the van and put it next to my favourite spot with a cup of tea on it he finally got it. There’s an L shaped arrangement of sofas in the van but nowhere to put a coffee within reach unless you get the big table out and even then it’s easy to spill drinks with the slightest of nudges. I’m sure it would be just as handy at home too. E has a similar one in her room and I’m always borrowing it to reach the top of a floor to ceiling book case.

My other good find for the day was the three balls of Debbie Bliss Luxurious Tweed DK. Only 150g in total but gorgeous yarn in a lovely light straw colour. I’m sure I’ll find some way of using it, a bargain at £2.

On those quiet week days we relaxed with crosswords, books, a couple of pre-downloaded films (one of which was rather disturbing; The Box with Cameron Diaz, not our usual thing at all but we made it to the end) and of course some crochet.

I chose a crochet pattern from a back copy of an American magazine I came across in a charity shop. It was a special edition of patterns for items that can be made in one day. Whoever reckons that this crochet top with front and back post trebles can be made in a day should probably try out for the Guinness World Record for speed crocheting! I’ve been crocheting away at it for days and I have still got a fair amount to do. Having said that though I have totally turned the whole thing on it’s head. Instead of crocheting from the bottom up I’ve joined the start of the two panels at the shoulders and created a top down construction. This was partly so that it ends up the length I like but also because the cotton I have in this rustic recycled look is limited. I’m also leaving out the edging altogether because I think the cotton lends itself to a raw edge. After crocheting enough depth to both front and back panels to choose where to finish the armhole depth I joined the two sides and started crocheting in the round. I figured that the post trebles make a dense and therefore weightier fabric so I’ve only stuck to that for the front (shown above) and I’ve replaced them with plain trebles for the back panel but still in the same arrangement of squares as the front. So in a nutshell I’ve butchered the original pattern to suit my needs but it seems to be working out. Initially it was not a relaxing thing to be making at all but once I’d turned it into a top down garment I was more confident it would end up the right shape.

M had a few very disturbed nights with the rain pelting down on our van roof. He eventually said that he did feel just a little envious of my ability to switch off and hear nothing. I really can’t comment on what it’s like to be kept awake by noise at night, I’ve never experienced it. I did find the daytime rain strangely nostalgic though. I’ve been thinking lately how similar some of our times at the van are to my childhood when we had what I now call our ‘caravan on water’. I wish I’d thought of that when I was school age and nobody batted an eyelid at anyone who had a caravan but it was spoilt brat territory to have a boat.

Mum was and still is an expert on making a tasty feast with whatever she has to hand. I’ve been revisiting some of the stock items we always had if it was a rainy day on the river and we were moored up for lunch. Simple warming things were the bees knees if you had been the unfortunate one to have to sit on the front of the boat in a mac looking out for shallow obstructions and jumping on to the bank with the rope. You can’t beat Heinz cream of chicken soup for nostalgia, though I think my brother preferred tomato soup despite us ending up with orange lips. Unlike caravanning you can’t rely on being able to nip to the local supermarket for supplies so we also had circular French toast, I forget the brand name, Melba toasts maybe? It was no hardship not to have fresh bread, we loved that stuff! I tried it out on M recently and although he did impressions of someone eating sawdust he did eventually concede that it was quite tasty with marmalade on it.

M and I will have been married for ten years this October. He has some wonderful ways but being very quick to have a strop or shout about something is not one of them. I have adopted a technique these days which is to let him rant and not throw fuel on to the fire so to speak. It tends to be over quicker that way and afterwards when he’s calmed down I describe an alternative response. For example, we took a wrong turn today and despite requesting no road rage today he let rip with all kinds of angst about this wrong turn. We were heading for the M1 in a southerly direction but I resisted the temptation to suggest we visit my family three and a half hours away! Amongst his shouted comments was a suggestion that it would take an hour to turn round again. It actually took four minutes. So when he had calmed down I quietly suggested that he could have saved all that anger and energy for when something actually happens, like it taking an hour to turn round, as opposed to before it happened, because half the time, the worst never actually happens.

In a similar vein it looked like we’d be needing to buy a new washing machine in the same month as our holiday expenses. There was a bit of a rant about this, of course. I looked up error codes, read forums and advice sites and eventually worked out that it could be the filter. Much swearing later and a cut thumb due to the screwdriver slipping, oh and a flooded floor of limescale bits and grey water, M had wrenched the filter off and found three wire hair grips, a broken ice cream scoop and 20p. Not mentioning any names here but M, J and I don’t use wire hair grips! M is so happy that we don’t need a new washing machine (it works perfectly now) that I haven’t the heart to remind him that the rant was completely unnecessary, again. I have put in a request for more thorough pocket checking though!

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.

Seclusive 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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