Travel


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vagarious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awol

I had so much to say in a blog post when access to wifi wasn’t possible. M has a one day break from his London court case and it’s raining cats and dogs so we are catching up with news and film downloads in good old Costa. Of course now it’s so noisy and busy I can’t recall what I wanted to write.

I haven’t tired of waking up amongst the pine trees. M leaves at first light and the dogs and I snooze for a bit longer. I take them into the woodland or the meadow depending on the weather, towel them down and then set about making breakfast. Riley has taken to sitting in the corner closest to the large window at the side of the caravan which happens to be next to a cluster of three pine trees. Yesterday I discovered why he liked that spot. He stood and wagged his tail at the trees and when I looked there was a cheeky squirrel at eye level looking straight at us with a beech nut in his mouth. We’ve seen several squirrels having a little argument outside, no doubt over food or females. A regular tatty pheasant goes by most mornings and there are lots of robins which always seems a bit incongruous since I think of them as garden birds rather than woodland ones.

I’ve taken the odd drive out for M&S coffee and a walk round the lake. On these colder days Riley has resisted the temptation but Harvey has not and comes home shivering. I’ve donated an old jacket to the dog shivering cause. M worries that I will be bored but that’s far from the case. I’m savouring every moment of peace and quiet I can get.

It’s been a good week for focusing on some more challenging crochet. I am making a summer top for E using squares designed for a bag in a big old vintage book. It’s slow but enjoyable. I’m not following a set pattern so there’s that element of ‘will all this be a complete waste of time?’ If all else fails I can turn it into a bag I guess!

I’ve also been trying to make the Petunia Top from the latest issue of Inside Crochet. It’s been rather frustrating as the pattern starts off with the incorrect number of chains for the small size and goes downhill from there. I suspect this size was never tested but don’t feel cocky enough to submit corrections. I persevered until the stage you see above and then threw in the towel. It’s not been a complete waste of time because it led to the decision to start again but this time make it according to what makes better sense to me. The shaping of the sleeves isn’t difficult but I’m dispensing with that and may add some subtle shaping with the edging (or not). I’ve also made completely different shoulder panels with a definite back and front edge. Finally I chose to reduce the fullness of each ‘shell’ to make a finer shell pattern because I’m making it for a toddler and also because it seemed to sit better with fewer trebles in each space.

I made a personal rule to only take two crochet projects to each stay in the caravan but somehow that craftily grew in number this time. I packed my tranquil shawl and E’s summer top this time. A free amigurumi kit doesn’t really count as another project does it? Then there was the flower garland kit that I found in the cupboard from last summer and finished off. Finally the Petunia Top happened simply because I had some spare cotton hanging around and even when I switched to basic dk wool that was also from supplies already in the caravan. These projects spread like crazy with a mind of their own, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

Sussex

My trusty vintage suitcase has barely been left unpacked lately. I tagged along on a business trip to one of the courts in the South this week. I’m pretty sure M wouldn’t normally travel a few hundred miles for work if it wasn’t the place I come from. The journey down was hot and stressful due to delays and a need to be there at a certain time. We’d left two and a half hours contingency and still only made it with twelve minutes to spare. Needless to say M did not worry in silence.

I spent a few hours in Lewes browsing junk/antique and charity shops with several breaks for cold drinks or coffee. It was over thirty degrees and not even a whiff of a breeze. A fair trade shop owner was offering cold water which was a very thoughtful touch. There were dog bowls outside a lot of places too. H and R were no doubt laying sprawled out on our hall tiles at the time.

On our way to stay with my Uncle and Aunt we stopped over at Eastbourne because M said he wanted to experience a traditional promenade stroll. I totally took these for granted when I was younger. The well kept flower beds and the architecture didn’t really occupy my thoughts at all back then. Now of course I look at the four storey Victorian buildings and realise they are the essence of this stretch of coast.

We did a slow walk to the end of the pier and back too. The water looked impressively blue and inviting. Seafood seemed like the thing to have here so we found a local restaurant and had a bite to eat, sitting outside at 8pm at night in a T shirt! Go Britain! On our drive along to Bexhill I had the strong sense of going back in time (we lived a bit further along the coast). Sometimes I feel sad I don’t live here anymore and sometimes I’m just happy to be visiting. It’s when I come back to Lincolnshire that I feel absolutely no joy or connection whatsoever.

It was nice to spend some time with family but also great to carve out a bit of time to be child, dog and husband free for half a day. This is becoming very rare now! I picked up a secondhand paperback, sandwich, strawberries and a much needed straw hat from one of the cheap beach shops and headed to the beach. Had I known it was going to be so ridiculously hot I think I would have packed a towel and costume too. I was rather envious of those who were cooling off in the sea. A seagull took a little bit too much interest in my strawberries. He kept sidling closer and closer and I’m not a fan of anything with a beak since an incident with a black swan when I was small. I told him, in a soft voice, no I don’t think I really want to share these (lest anyone should hear me talking to a bird and think I was slightly odd). He just shuffled over a bit closer and looked out to sea as if just casually keeping me company. Against my better judgement I did eventually give him my last strawberry, he tossed it a few times and then gulp, it was gone and so was he. Thank goodness. Off to find some tasty chips no doubt.

From the beach it is walking distance to see my Grandad. He was doing a good job of keeping his place as cool as possible by letting the breeze in through the door, keeping the sunny side curtains closed and using a small fan. It was a welcome respite from the heat. His patio thermometer read 50 degrees! A sun trap he couldn’t possibly sit out in this week at least.

Strangely we hardly ever walk down to our village pub for a drink because M would be forever chatting to people I don’t really know. It was enjoyable to walk to and from a pub one evening, sit in the beer garden and have an ice cold gin and tonic. We also had an Italian meal at Sovereign Harbour one evening too which felt very civilised. Later M conceded that maybe the South wasn’t so bad after all. I think it’s gradually winning him over.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘dreams’, as in those which seem impossible to achieve. I’ve come to realise that I need to define what my dream actually is rather than having a random selection. Location will no doubt have a part to play and it is possible that compromise will too.

For now though, home is this flat county and I must make the most of things. I’m not sure how we will make progress with the teardrop trailer that would allow me to tow it to the Lincolnshire coast since we have sited our caravan somewhere for twelve weeks. Still, all good things come to those who wait and I am prepared to wait. The caravan might not be a rustic wooden cabin in the forest but it’s not a bad substitute. We really didn’t use it enough to justify having it last year so this year we will be making up for that. The dogs are already getting used to the idea. They seem to settle down quickly for the journey and know exactly where the meadow is when we get there, not to mention Riley has a favourite half of the seating area and Harvey likes to be where he can see anyone walking by, just like home!

Hot

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve made the most of the weather this evening and BBQ’d a simple supper. Our proper BBQ is usually stored in the caravan so I had to dig out this old bucket BBQ that I bought for the children to toast marshmallows on when they were younger. It was £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.

Navigation

Well, there’s the photographic evidence of the start of our weekend. Pretty heavy rain. Apparently it made a dreadful din on the roof of the caravan, but I slept like a log. It has its advantages, being able to switch off. I let M have a nice lie in due to his disturbed night and took the dogs into the meadow for early morning bouncing around. The buttercups have taken a battering but there are so many different types of grass in that meadow it still makes for a fascinating walk. My grandfather told me recently that one of the things he enjoyed at school was when they were sent off to identify as many grasses as possible. I think he was quite good at it. We did the same at primary school with wild flowers and trees, but I can only remember half a dozen grasses.

The dogs may have bounced through the waist high grasses but they still got soaked right through and spotted with buttercup petals and grass seeds. I’ve got a black sack full of wet towels to deal with, caravans don’t have radiators as such. Somehow Riley dries off so much quicker than Harvey and with less shivering involved.

Friday night was movie night. Wifi was down due to seem unknown technical issue at the site. So instead of selecting a Netflix film we thought it would be a fabulous idea to play a DVD. There’s a random selection permanently in the caravan, none of which we’ve actually watched. It took us half an hour to plug all the cables in the right place and then find the channel that cooperates with the DVD player. Reading a book was becoming an attractive option at this point, especially when M decided he would choose the first film. His choices invariably involve guns and someone blowing someone’s head off with one. Sure enough, ‘Sleepers’ fit the bill nicely. My choice was ‘Wild’ after the book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. Nowhere near as good as reading the book but M did manage to stay awake for it, which is rare when it’s my choice of film. Riley snored noisily through the whole thing.

Saturday night may well have been movie night part two but a four hour long power cut prevented that. Our lights go over to battery back up when there’s no electric supply and since M was reading and I was crocheting at the time we didn’t realise why the men from the caravans nearby were all suddenly appearing with their rain coats on and torches to examine the electric hook ups. Although we have an electric kettle we also have a gas hob and luckily at the back of a cupboard an old fashioned whistling kettle. I can’t hear high pitched noises at all but the dogs had never experienced this kettle so they went slightly bonkers when it whistled. They turned their heads from side to side and then decided to get up and do a little bouncing around. Who needs ears when you have dogs?

I sort of finished the unfold cowl before I set off on Friday. The yarn ran out nine rows short which is quite a significant amount of cowl given that each row is treble height. This was yarn M treated me to in Wales without paying too much attention to what it cost. I would have ordered an extra ball but it’s quite pricey stuff and the cowl works perfectly well this height. I’m going to weave the ends in, leave it like this and keep it for myself although it probably won’t be cold enough for woollen cowl wearing for quite a while now.

I love the pattern and I’ve totally got the hang of it now without referring to the written instructions or chart for every row. With that in mind I decided to make one for E next. There isn’t a yarn shop close to where we were this weekend but there is a small selection of yarn within a card shop. The choice is a little strange. The nastiest cheapest acrylic you’ve ever seen, floor to ceiling in every colour they make, or a small shelf of nicer yarn. Of the nicer yarn I was pleased to see the very Harrap Tweed range I used for my Grandfather’s fingerless mitts recently. I’ve chosen a mossy, olive type of green for E, she likes green. Is it just me or does everyone start a new project with those little doubts creeping in? I worried about the tweed yarn distracting from the geometric nature of the raised pattern but after a short while I could see that it was fine.

There was no proper hiking this weekend. The weather was terrible and we had supplies to gather which inevitably involved quite long coffee breaks here and there. We also relocated our caravan to a long term pitch which will enable us to use the caravan more often whilst not costing the earth. Having tried to find a holiday let for a week, for four of us and two dogs, in my home county of Sussex recently I’ve come to realise that a twelve week long term caravan pitch will cost us about half of the cost for one week in holiday accommodation in Sussex. I’m trying to interest J in some of the activities available nearby too, abseiling, canoeing, hiking, cycle trails, swimming. OK maybe not abseiling, in fact I won’t mention that one, he’s a boy who likes to make up his own rules, in a stubborn kind of way rather than a rebellious one but either way it’s a worrying trait when it comes to matters of safety. In Barcelona, for example, he decided that bicycles shouldn’t have to wait for red lights. I’m not reminding him that he can apply for a provisional licence later this year either. With a bit of luck he will forget.

It sounds like we had the perfect weekend. I’ve just glossed over the fact that it took me twice as long to actually find the site on my own without a satnav, because M needed it on Friday to find an address he’s driven to half a dozen times before but is incapable of going anywhere without one. Having expressed my low opinion of satnavs in general I thought I’d prove that road maps are just as effective as they always were, after all, I used one the day after I passed my driving test to start a tour of the whole of Devon and Cornwall. How the heck did I manage that or all the trips since that one without a bloody satnav? I can only assume that it was easier to pull over and read your stupid AA route plan due to the much smaller volume of traffic on the roads in general. In my defence M did say that the AA had suggested a terrible route and that there was a much easier one. I may also have glossed over the fact that I did eventually manage to find a McDonald’s, had a much needed wee, bought a calming cup of coffee and sent a not so calm message to M’s phone about how I really could have done with the satnav just this once! Even with the ridiculous delay I managed to have three peaceful hours to myself before M arrived (after his stress free satellite navigated journey) and by then I had banished all negative thoughts and plans to insist we buy another satnav! I’m going to do that journey again and I’m going to do it without technology. So maybe J gets his stubbornness from me?