Festival

It was lovely to attend a wool festival with my daughter this year. We did the usual arts and crafts when she and her brother were smaller and she did take to knitting for a while but I was taken by surprise when she wanted to buy a simple shawl kit on our visit to Loop, she’s had the bug ever since. I think it probably helps that she has a bit of a passion for woolly jumpers.

I’m back home after my three day visit to Leeds and she has an inset day; every now and then I receive a messaged photo of her progress with her first knitted jumper. She’s following a simple pattern from the book I bought her when we visited Baa Ram Ewe. Whilst she’s keen to try new stitches and new techniques for now she can see the benefits of just having a simple project on the go for those snatches of time in between her paperwork and placement teaching.

We both went to the wool festival with yarn requirements for specific patterns in mind. I had just signed up for the mystery crochet along by The Crochet Project and the yarn requirements were released on the morning of the festival. I sent the screenshot to my phone which proved handy because I’d forgotten the yardage’s by the time we got there! I also wanted to look out for a skein of something suitable for one of their other simple shawls, the Spun Gold Shawl which I’d purchased a while back but hadn’t come across any arty skeins since. I also had a hankering for something that reminded me of jeans and something speckled, I found both of those features in the skein I bought from Beehive Yarns and I’m just hoping it’ll look ok for the mcal. Although there was a lot of sock yarn and mini skeins to choose from I also found what I was looking for from the same seller with the four minis I needed too. It was an unusually quick and decisive purchase for me, not least because it was so busy and yarn was selling very fast indeed!

The golden mustard skein is by Phileas Yarns and although it’s an obvious choice for the Spun Gold Shawl I love the colour and will enjoy working with it. I’ve wound all my purchases into cakes. The mystery cal yarn is ready and waiting in that lovely little project bag I found at the festival, made with various indigo dyed, batik, cotton print etc patches and lined with calico which makes it sit nicely without flopping. It’s an ideal size for a shawl project.

I did buy some inexpensive merino tops so that I can try spinning with something a little more processed. I’ve been advised to pre draft it which I will do my best with but I’m still feeling like a complete novice so I’ll be amazed if I manage to turn them into yarn.

The day before and the day after the festival were nice dry days and typically the actual day was pretty wet. It wasn’t heavy rain though so we didn’t mind too much. It was so humid and the building, which was an old textiles mill didn’t seem to have enough windows to let air flow through so I found myself wondering about those poor young mill girls who would have worked long hours for little pay in hot and noisy conditions. You can see the size of the pane that actually opens in one of the photo’s I took. The lighting was all a bit Victorian in places too, not ideal for the traders who were of course all selling products whose colours needed to be shown off properly.

We worked our way through the narrow spaces where the stallholders were set up and by midday or so we had found the travelling gin bar. It was early but boy did we ever need refreshments after doing battle in those confined spaces! I’m not sure whether to be proud or shy about the fact that we were the gin van’s first customers. E wasn’t wrong when she told the chap not to worry because we were going back in and when they saw her glass of cool bubbling prosecco and my colourful pimms they’d be out like a shot! We got stopped by a gaggle of husbands who were most animated when they realised there was a bar! To be honest I’m a cheap date these days so everything seemed much more fun on our second round!

M is hopeful that his latest case will wrap up by the end of this week. With that in mind and before the next assignment starts we have booked a few days away. It’s somewhere we’ve been before but the beauty in that is that we don’t feel we have to rush around sightseeing and wasting time trying to find where to buy food or eat out. M enjoys reading so hopefully he will be able to switch off and enjoy the views, while I’m hoping the weather will be warm enough to sit outside and crochet. Naturally an agreement about the journey and the number of times he is allowed to complain about other drivers (zero) needs to be in place before we set off!

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Family

I’ve come to realise that the nature versus nurture debate is a never ending one. I think about it often since I had my two children. I read brief Instagram posts by people who struggle to balance the challenge of bringing up small children along with everything else in their lives and I want to say (but I don’t) that you can only do your best and that’s usually more than enough. Sometimes your best involves just taking all the good stuff from your own childhood and passing it on. I’ve been one of the lucky ones, I have lots of good stuff to pass on. I’m also lucky in that the kids have excellent role models in their grandparents and their great grandparent.

Having said all that though they have some traits that they get from within. I have no idea why but when I got to a certain age I decided that cuddles were for small children and did my best to wriggle free of most of them thereafter. There are only a handful of people I feel less awkward with on this matter these days but my children, I’m glad to say, cuddle their relatives for hellos and goodbyes quite willingly.

Sometimes my lack of giving out cuddles lands me in trouble, though just lately I don’t think all the cuddles in China could ease M’s recent moodiness. A lot of men have work related stress but he swears he hasn’t. It’s tempting to blame his cocktail of diabetes medication but when a lot of the moods occur in the car I think it’s unlikely to be related to glucose levels. After a particularly challenging week he had a light bulb moment and admitted he’d been at fault. I quietly listened, as I seem to do a lot in recent years and felt extremely hopeful that it would mean things would be back on an even keel. Duh, wrong! It lasted until the next morning and then he found something new to be grumpy about. I mentioned the light bulb moment but that didn’t go down well. I don’t know where I’m finding the strength from but I use wise advice at times like this. I can’t change this behaviour but I can change the way I handle it, so I carry on as if everything is perfectly ok and this really works but sometimes I just want to climb a mountain and shout from the top.

Which brings me to gardening and the power of family time. In amongst these random moods we’ve had some really successful days. E has been home for half term because she’s in the middle of a school placement block. We had to finally get around to replacing our extremely temperamental printer so that she could print reams of paperwork off for uni. Both M and J also use our home printer daily so everyone is on cloud nine now that we don’t have to spend hours waiting for the printer to be in the mood for printing. I even printed out a crochet pattern just because I could!

Over the bank holiday weekend we decided to tackle the worst of the gardening jobs and plough the petrol mower through four foot high cow parsley. It spluttered and protested but it made it. Many dog toys were uncovered and windfall branches provided Harvey with entertainment all day long. Riley stole a squeaky dolphin that had fallen out of the shed whilst extracting the lawn mower and although at first he wasn’t at all sure about the squeak he trotted around with it for hours.

At the side of our property we have a small stream, known up here as a beck. It has a high sided bank on both our side and our neighbours. Theirs is neatly mown with a flymo that is lowered down by its cable and is probably as immaculate as any flat lawn you’d ever see. Ours is a wild flower bank of buttercups, cow parsley, nettles, brambles, campion and the odd dandelion. Needless to say this isn’t an intentional design feature. With much moaning and groaning M donned his waders and fired up the ridiculously big and heavy strimmer and made a cautious start on the job of hacking it all down. I stood nearby with his requested glass of iced water (honestly!) and when he seemed to have it under control I went round the back to tend to other jobs. Obviously there’s no point in shouting for help when you’re married to someone who is profoundly deaf so when I returned I discovered M soaked from head to toe and sitting on the caravan step looking both sorry for himself and slightly cheesed off. Stating the obvious he said, ‘I slipped and fell in.’ I managed to look suitably sympathetic and kept a straight face when I later asked J if he would have a go instead. I take back everything I said about J not being motivated to help without food bribes… after establishing that we did not have a welders face mask for him to wear he agreed to use sunglasses to stop anything flying in to his eyes and he got well and truly stuck in. E even filmed him on her phone with the caption, filming this in case he falls in and I can get £250. Sisterly love eh?

With both the bank strimmed and the cow parsley mown we finished the day with sausages cooked on our simple bucket bbq and a game of oversized foam ball tennis on the ‘lawn’. It felt pretty good just to have that quality family time with phones out of the way for most of the day.

We’ve since followed it up with a trip down to the garden centre, a big splurge on a new watering can, gardening gloves, bedding plants and some of those spreading type alpine plants. M loves his bedding plants but I chose the alpines for our tubs because they spread fantastically, suffocating any weeds that were thinking of growing and are pretty low maintenance. They even flower. Win win. Our random collection of pots are now positively RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Well almost.

With crochet time being snatched here and there the only logical thing to make next was another string of crochet flags for bunting, this time for my three year old niece. I can’t tell you how much I hate pink but I’ve got to admit that this bunting looks suitably cheerful. Some of the flags were made whilst sitting in extremely slow moving traffic in Leeds last Friday. Let’s just say that I was sitting there as miserable as sin whilst M was doing his usual illogical rants and then I suddenly remembered I had a small pouch with the pink yarn and a hook. It made listening to the same old rubbish quite bearable. I may even have imagined flamingoes and bubblegum.

There is a reason for Harvey being wrapped up in several charity shop crochet blankets and that is because every game of tennis, badminton or cricket we have ever played in the back garden involves the ball being knocked into the stream at some stage. Harvey is a fielder’s dream, it doesn’t matter how much hedge he has to push through or how boggy some parts are he will get that ball no matter what! He’s guaranteed to turn completely black with sludge though and on this occasion that meant a shower even after a play in the cleaner part. He won’t settle down and dry off unless he’s nice and warm hence the blankets. He slept like a baby for hours.

The beach bag was a pattern testing exercise for Marta who is @mrsdaftspaniel on Instagram. I love star stitch, there’s something so satisfying about drawing the yarn through seven loops on the hook! I used black cotton purchased in Madrid alongside Sublime Luxury Tweed found in a charity shop in Buxton last year. There were three balls of the latter for £1.50, it has some gorgeous flecks of colour throughout including blue. I don’t think that shows up well in the photo’s. I guess you could add nice bamboo handles or leather straps but I decided to go with the pattern suggestion in the end on the basis that it can be rolled up and taken along as an extra bag for shopping (now that we are all getting the hang of eliminating plastic bags!)

Today I am packing for a couple of nights away. Riley is just inches away from my suitcase. He’d pack himself if he could, he knows what this means. He will have full time company whilst I’m gone so I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do. It’s those puppy dog eyes. Harvey is just wondering who will take over the important job of walking them and can he take Riley’s dolphin along? I guess we will be squeezing in a quick walk along the riverbank shortly then!

Shawls

Despite feeling as though I hardly sit down to crochet just lately I do seem to be getting a few projects finished. More accurately though, I probably start two projects for every one that I complete. For example, I’ve just finished the Fern Shawl and started the Arrows Down Shawl as well as another Gin O’Clock Cardigan.

I came across the free Fern Shawl pattern (by Jan Power) whilst trying to find something suitable for one or two balls of Louisa Harding Pittura yarn. This was the yarn I picked up in Jersey after deliberating over colours for a while. It’s four ply and has a suggested hook size of 3.75mm. I worked this Shawl with a 4mm as per the pattern and it works out absolutely spot on for just one 100g ball with just a few metres left over. Blocking made a huge difference. I did my best with pins but ideally for the long side edge I could have done with blocking wires.

The Shawl was intended for Mother’s Day but when I missed that deadline I put it to one side for a while, only picking it up again because the weather turned warm and it seemed a better idea to work with something fine. I’m glad I did because it looks absolutely perfect on Mum and she can pull off scarf, shawl type things all year round. The colours really suit her.

I treated myself to the Scheepjes whirl in Blueberry Bambam when we first discovered our cool local yarn store. I say cool because there are definitely several types of yarn store. I’ve been in plenty where the main stock is aimed at women wanting to make baby items only. It’s such a shame because there’s so much more to be made with yarn! We used to have a yarn shop that was probably the other end of this spectrum and only stocked the most expensive stuff. Sarah at Number Four has something for everyone and keeps up with the latest trends. It’s absolute heaven in there after relying on mail order or visits to other cities for so long.

The Arrows Down Shawl is by Atty and available on LoveCrochet.com. It caught my eye because it is wonderfully geometric, without flowers or frills! I thought it might be a bit of a challenge too but it is actually quite easy once you get going. It does require a bit of concentration, I’ve frogged half a row when I’ve missed a treble but I could probably have left it and got away with it. There have been quite a few slubby cotton fluffy bits that I’ve had to just trim off as neatly as possible and work into the stitches. I had heard about this but even on this fine gauge it isn’t too much of a problem. I’m hoping the scarf will go well with jeans, it ends with a navy colour. I’m in no hurry with this one. The journey will be a leisurely one!

We had a gloriously sunny start to the week and I took the opportunity to start Harvey off with phase one of the sheering sessions. He will sit or lie down patiently in the kitchen on a big towel for quite a good length of time but his brain doesn’t quite work the same for a towel on the decking in the garden. He was somewhat distracted by pigeons, Riley casually strolling by with a large stick in his mouth (little devil) and neighbourly noises. Once or twice I managed to grab him mid escape and encourage him to sit a while longer. He’s lop sided with his hair cut for now but I’ll even it up on our next sunny day.

The day after Harvey’s hair cut and Riley’s mini trim just so that he didn’t feel left out, I was sitting in our sunlounge with a morning coffee when a little sparrow hopped down onto the deck and started gathering dog hair. I wish I’d had my phone nearby but I knew that if I moved he would fly away so I could only watch and marvel at how much he could carry in one little beak. Imagine a tiny Harvey fur lined bird nest somewhere, probably not too far away in one of our big trees or unruly hedges.

J is due to start driving lessons very soon. He was actually old enough at the end of last December but he’s laid back and chilled and didn’t apply for his provisional licence straight away. When he finally did mention driving lessons and M made some calls for him we found all the decent ones were booked up. M could quite easily teach him to drive but just hasn’t got the time and we haven’t got a suitable small car. My jeep is getting on in age now but it has a powerful engine so it’s not an ideal vehicle to learn to drive in. Although E leaves her car here when she’s at uni she’s made it clear she hasn’t purchased it so that her little brother can learn to drive in it and I can’t say I blame her really, besides he’s extremely tall and the car in question is extremely small.

This driving thing comes under the banner of things I really never thought would roll round and b****y terrifies me. I keep saying daft things like, well it wasn’t so dangerous when I was your age and therefore you need to be much more vigilant about other drivers. I feel this is true because I was able to drive from Sussex to Cornwall the day after I passed my test and no one thought anything of it.

M had a birthday this week. It came right in the middle of an intense court case. He’s been travelling a lot and is pretty tired and in need of a holiday. I donned my rarely worn apron and put together a special salad which involved pasta and pesto sauce and various other amazing concoctions using random salad ingredients. OK so it wasn’t Nigella but it’s been tricky trying to cater for kids who are hungry at 5 and a husband who arrives home at random times according to the whim of a judge, particularly as M is the head chef in this household. Last week I managed to burn sweet potato fries. I may have slightly over cooked a few other things too. All I can say is, man this oven cooks so much faster than suggested times (and perhaps I need to stop doing twenty other things while I’m cooking too). There was birthday cake too but I know my limitations and that came from good old M&S.

Since E had an unexpected pocket of time in which to study without lectures she came home again and we’ve been out and about every single day. It starts with a ‘shall we pop out for coffee’ and ends with a few other little visits. On the one hand it’s been nice to get out and on the other, just interacting with people in shops with E beside me just serves to remind me how many times they ask a question and I’m completely unaware they’ve even spoken. Pretty much every time E will say, do you have a loyalty card, do you want a bag, did you find everything you wanted today? (oh please!)

I know that when she goes back to uni today I will be returning to my hermitic ways. My only ventures out of the house will most definitely be in the direction of the single track country lane that takes us through two small hamlets and comes out in the middle of nowhere and not even many of the locals here seem to use it much despite the footpaths being on the ordnance survey maps, and despite it being a nature lover’s paradise actually. There’s nothing like sharing the joy of two bouncy dogs leaping out of the boot and charging down to the water on a hot day. I’ve never owned a Springer that doesn’t charge miles ahead but always keeps coming back to check you’re still there, these two are no exception. Harvey goes the furthest, completely out of sight for most of the time. Riley always seems to have one eye permanently on me and comes back more frequently with a ‘god isn’t this wonderful and I’m so glad you’re still here’ kind of expression on his face.

In fact I’ve just taken a break and been out with them. It was cool but sunny and absolutely deserted except for one friendly farmer in a truck who did his best to avoid a dizzy dog who has no car sense whatsoever. Harvey was doing laps in the river at the time, looking intently for a pebble I threw in. They are now very grumpy with each other for no apparent reason so it’ll be one on the deck in his bed in the sun and one in the kitchen in the sunny patch while they both dry off and cool off. There’s also a sunny patch with my name on so it’s a toss up between laundry, food shopping, housework or crochet. Tricky one!

Cobwebs

I’ve started to write this post three times, each time not quite finishing and then losing the momentum and starting again. If a day goes by my writing is suddenly out of date. I wouldn’t say my life is fascinating right now but we seem to be keeping busy and that’s always a good thing.

Breaking news: I have at long last painted the hall radiator and the wall behind it. It’s a tad darker than I expected, more of a slate grey, but I like it. The general idea was to hide the mud when the dogs rush through after our long muddy walks that end with a river swim. They would usually be sent round the side of the house to the back door but it’s a danger zone for me at the moment with adult blackbirds flying up the side path at great speed to and from their nest. I’ve never been fond of birds so I’m staying well away. I do have an occasional peek from the safety of the back door and I think there’s at least three fledglings who seem quite strong now and reluctant to leave their home comforts and daily meals from Dad.

I should mention here that whilst I can crochet for long periods at a time I cannot paint for very long at all. Sounds like a convenient excuse doesn’t it? Well it isn’t, it’s a massive pain in the neck and arms. There is so much that needs a fresh coat of paint here not to mention chairs that are desperate for paint, a big cupboard and a chest of drawers. The rest of the hall below the dado rail will have to be done as and when my arms allow, gradually over the next few weeks and after that I can start the skirting boards. How exciting.

I haven’t blogged since my impromptu visit to Leeds which simply came about one Friday when M had a brief job there and I went along for a quick browse in the city. E was disappointed we were twenty minutes away but couldn’t see her because she was stuck in lectures all day so M suggested I stay over. I figured that I only needed pants and a toothbrush so I ran it by E who was over the moon with the idea. While she was finishing lectures I dashed to M&S for underwear and Boots for a toothbrush. I love spontaneous!

E has been living in halls this year and due to students slightly nocturnal hours I managed to come and go without seeing any of her flat mates. In fact on Saturday morning we were up and getting ready by nine and she said it would be ok if I wanted to make coffee in the kitchen because everyone would be asleep for hours yet. Student life eh? I ended up doing a bit of washing up and wiping surfaces down whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. I really wanted to mop the floor and clean the ovens too but there’s a limit to what I can tackle without protective gloves!

Leeds has quite a lot to offer, we visited vintage shops and the art gallery, ate in small trendy cafes, drank probably far too much coffee, browsed the charity shops in Headingley and the highlight of our weekend was taking a short bus ride out to Chapel Allerton where Baa Ram Ewe has a shop. The shop and staff were lovely and the wool was scrumptious. I treated E to their book for absolute beginner knitters which had plenty of simple patterns with a timeless appeal. We bought some yarn for a couple of the projects too. She made the wristwarmers which had the challenge of saving stitches and a thumbhole. She’s learning fast.

I love the vintage shops in Leeds, the choice is huge and even being the wrong side of forty five I always seem to find something I can get away with. It’s usually chunky cardigans but this time I found a vintage camera bag amongst the women’s handbags. Since I just don’t do feminine handbags I knew this would suit me as a project bag that would also hold essentials like purse, keys and phone. I’ve been using it a lot and it’s ideal for a small crochet project such as a shawl, socks or a hat. It may well come with me on one of my long treks down to the lake with the dogs where they have a bench. I tried to crochet there last year because it’s a beautiful spot, there’s never anyone there and the dogs can potentially run around or swim and have a good time. Unfortunately Riley thought that me sitting down was a good time to sit in my lap. Picture an extremely wet, far too big for a lap dog, Springer drenching me in stinky lake water and me holding my yarn, hook and ball well above my head to keep it dry. I’ve learnt that there is no limit to this dog’s clinginess but I still love him to bits.

He’s looking slightly subdued in that first picture at the top there. I think that was taken last Monday when it absolutely hammered down with rain all day long. He didn’t really mind our slow start to the day. A big mug of coffee, music to drown out anything that sounds remotely stormy because he gets quite worried about windy weather and even more distressed when it thunders. I had a relaxing hour with crochet and crochet magazines, it’s a great way to start the day before I tackle the usual household stuff.

More often though I always save my crochet time for evenings. Last week I started another gin o’clock cardigan but this time for myself. I bought the yarn in Leeds and it’s an inexpensive denim yarn with a little bit of merino which makes it incredibly soft. It’s such a quick make with a 9mm hook and probably takes only four or five evenings. I added a little detail in yellow to break up all that denim yarn and whilst it’s not everyone’s taste I really love those pocket edgings. The cardigan got a proper outing in Cambridge yesterday while M was at a meeting. It was sunny but with a cool breeze so the cardigan was perfect.

I usually find myself in Cambridge out of season and much the same as Oxford in the summer it was packed with tourists pointing cameras and phone cameras at everything. Hence I only snapped a couple of quieter spots including this amazing wisteria. As lovely as it is to have a change of scene I’m always happier away from big crowds and all that commercialism.

Along with the hall painting I have also had a spring clean in our conservatory. It’s that time of year when spiders seem to do their worst. The sunny weather is perfect for opening all the blinds and windows and quite literally blowing the cobwebs away. I feel a bit like that with decluttering at the moment. Bags are being filled behind the scenes and the dining room, which is wall to wall books needs a massive sort out. With M umpiring every weekend now until the end of cricket season I will have plenty of time to myself to tackle such things.

My yarn stash does at least feel decluttered and a bit organised since the long awaited shelf was put up. M fussed over the fact that the wood had curled slightly in the year it spent standing up next to those wool cages (hardly surprising). I’m just overjoyed it is finally up and in use, it’s surprising how much difference one shelf can make! The woven baskets are a little more full since this photo was taken, ahem, but I’ve also completed at least one of the wips from one of them too. I’ll share that one next time.

I treated myself to a Scheepjes Whirl when I discovered our fantastic local yarn store (on Instagram; numberfour_fortheloveofwool). I’ve been wanting to try those for a while and since there’s a big cotton content the season seems right for it. I did also buy one of the Scheepjes shawl patterns but then decided I wanted something a tad more challenging. I ended up choosing the Arrows Down pattern by Atty. You can have a peek at that on my Instagram account but I will post some pics here next time too. It’s really not that challenging but it does take some concentration and I haven’t a clue how to block it when it’s done!

Busy

I’m not sure what happened to March but it’s been and gone and most of April has too. It’s been a blur. I really need to start eating more walnuts and blueberries if I’m to keep my memory in check. It’s a good job I blog. I forget so much.

E came home for the maximum amount of time she could for Easter and beyond. The novelty of living independently has probably worn off a bit. I think she misses the freedom of having her own car, so things like the weekly shop by bus are a bit of a pain in the neck. We took some lovely trips out to small market towns, antique (junk) centres, our local town, our country park and so on. We even managed a couple of picnics, although sitting on a blanket on the edge of a field with a very attentive Springer drooling over our sandwiches was probably not our most successful one.

The biggest surprise of the visit though was both E getting the knitting bug and also finding a fantastic local yarn store that’s been there for a year undiscovered! We’ve had to source beginner patterns that move on from simple shapes to something a bit more challenging, her latest project is a jacket type cardigan in a kimono style. It’s in something similar to moss stitch which I think is a brave choice. I used to get totally lost with that stitch. We made sure she went back to uni with a big basket of wool and a few patterns.

With all the knitting research going on I didn’t think I made very much in crochet just lately but the photos say otherwise. I made Murray the Sea Otter as a thank you gift for a friend who gave me a much needed kick start in the spinning direction. Not only did she manage to secure the donation of a wheel for me, she gave me a one day demo that got me over the fear of starting to use it! I will definitely take some photo’s soon. It’s an exciting new direction to my woolly life right now.

It’s the raw and the rustic that has always really appealed to me. I was trying to explain to M recently where that might have come from and I think it’s a lot to do with the Sussex county shows and fairs I used to visit on School trips. Those trips always brought things alive and two demos stayed with me forever, one was spinning in the raw from a pile of fleece that quite frankly looked like it was fresh off the sheep, and the second was a pole lathe demo. Thankfully, there was no such thing as the internet when I saw the latter otherwise I’d have been tempted to cut a few boughs down in our back garden and try and build one! Yes I was that weird kid whose priorities were not with the junk that you could buy at these events but with the actual crafts.

I was in the middle of making an ‘easy everywhere’ cardigan for E when the opportunity to test the ‘gin o’clock cardi’ came up on Instagram. The former is the oatmeal work in progress above, worked in crochet x stitch and made entirely in one piece with a few seams to sew up afterwards. The latter is the finished olive green garment which I hastily took a photo of before popping it in the post to E. I think she will wear this one quite a bit, it’s granny clusters but in chunky yarn so it has a real cosy factor. I did the short version because E likes her tops to be boxy. She chose the colour which was great because I’m hopeless at making those decisions.

There was a deadline for the testing which I needn’t have worried about at all. I think with three or four clear evenings most crocheters could have this done and dusted. Initially I groaned inwardly about sewing up but it really was quick and painless. It’s a great pattern and well presented. I highly recommend it.

One of the plus points of this garment is actually cost; garments are often a bit of an investment. I can remember my Nan telling me that everyone used to knit because it was so much more cost effective than buying a jumper for instance. These days I think it’s often more of a challenge to achieve that. For the short version in the size we needed and using the suggested yarn brand we had two choices, a cardigan that came in at about £21 or one that came in at just under £14. We went for the Stylecraft Life Chunky which has a bit of wool in it and therefore costs a little bit more but is still a great price for such a wearable result. I can’t decide what colour to choose for mine!

I learnt a new trick this week, one I can’t believe I hadn’t come across before. It was the magic knot. The magic circle was a revelation but the magic knot really does work too. You just simply tie each end of two pieces of yarn onto each other and pull, then snip any ends and voila! There are probably YouTube videos or at least photo how to’s. I learnt from an Instagram photo and I wish I’d used it for E’s scrap granny notions pouch; I could have made a magic ball (so much magic in the crochet world eh?!) and crocheted away without having to keep tying in a new colour. As Owen Wilson says in that sofa ad, ‘mind, blown’.

As usual crochet is keeping me firmly in the land of the happy. Behind the scenes there is plenty of not so happy health stuff. By that I mean things like dentists and routine check ups that you’d rather not have but cannot avoid. I had been avoiding the dentist for a while because I had a whole run of bad luck with post treatment infections. The sort you need two or three courses of antibiotics to sort out. By the time I plucked up the courage to go again I had been unceremoniously dumped off the client list. It proved quite tricky to find another. Eventually we managed to find out that our usual one was moving to a village close by and managed to re register with her which cut out a whole load of stress for me because she’s actually one of the nicest dentists I’ve ever had. Not only that but we no longer have to negotiate city centre traffic. Bonus.

I needed a few fillings and an extraction. My first appointment was for the hygienist and I wasn’t at all concerned or worried that morning. When I got in the chair though she said, do you just want me to take that troublesome one out today? I said yes go for it. I was pretty happy to be taken completely by surprise because it meant not having to totally dread that one for another week or so and be nervous as hell on the day. I would have had good reason to be nervous, it wasn’t nice. It’s taken a week to settle down and of course I’m now only glad to see the back of it. Fillings I can cope with.

M starts an intense court case tomorrow. It will mean weeks of actually cooking meals myself. I loathe cooking with a passion. We stocked up today on easy to cook meals for J and I. He’s fairly easily pleased and always appreciates my efforts. I do often wish I was that sort of Mother who finds herself in the mood for whipping up a cake or biscuits though, he’d appreciate that a lot more. Nearly 6’4, a bottomless stomach and skinny as a rake. Hardly fair!

Today was a bonus free day and we didn’t waste a second of it. Well unless you call waiting nearly two hours for a walk in appointment at our gp surgery a waste of time. M has a terrible habit of mouthing to me, ‘nothing wrong with half of them!’ and frowning at the mothers of howling babies. I just sit quietly and thank my lucky stars I don’t have to go through this very often.

After essential coffee intake I managed to persuade M to get the lawn mower out for the first cut of the season. I always start with… ‘if you could just bring it down from the the garden shed for me’ whilst secretly hoping he will start it up and mow the lawns himself. Today that actually worked, he mowed the 14 by 8 foot crescent at the front of the house! That’ll be me doing the 120 foot back garden tomorrow then!

To be fair he did a great job of putting up a shelf above my wool cupboards. I think I only had to wait one year for that particular job to be done. We’ve also finally got a metal wall mounted postbox. The old one was on a wooden post at the end of the drive and when the post rotted we decided it would be better to have the mail through the front door. This hasn’t been working well with Harvey pouncing on everything that comes through as though it were a rodent that needed to be well and truly killed. Sorting out problems like this make life seem suddenly quite civilised!

After this flurry of activity I’m ready for a quiet week with everyone finally at work/schoool/uni. I have paint for the hall at the ready but apart from that I’m looking forward to restoring our normal dog walking hours and routes. I just need to ignore all reports of cold wet weather with a chance of snow!

Jersey 2

Time seems to be flying lately. We are keeping busy. Lots of tasks have been ticked off the list this week. Finances have been organised, serious stuff discussed over coffee. New lists made, one of which was headed up with ‘get the wood burner fitted before next winter’. To be honest it would only take a slight chill in the air for me to light one. On the same list, along with many things for M to build himself is a proper wood store. We have plenty of timber for such a thing and filling it with logs won’t be a problem either. There are a number of trees that need to be heavily pruned or taken down this year. Two trees show clear evidence of dying and will become unsafe in high winds, others have just got unruly and taken the remaining sunlight from the garden. It was already a wooded feel but we need sunlight in order for grass to grow, albeit rubbish quality. It remains to be seen who wins the battle of ‘pay someone to do it’ (my opinion) or ‘do it ourselves’ (M’s opinion). Once upon a time I’d have tackled anything but on this occasion we need a professional with proper equipment, not someone who takes half a day to get the chainsaw actually working, gets chainsaw oil everywhere, lops off a few baby branches I could have done with a handsaw and calls it a day’s work!

This morning we took the dogs for a check up with our local vet. It wasn’t really a full MOT but he listened to their heart rates, had a bit of a feel underneath and looked at their teeth and gums, they also got weighed. They are both extremely fit and healthy, each of them has lost one tiny tooth but it doesn’t really show and given the amount of sticks they fetch it isn’t surprising. They are both 56 in dog years so they are doing quite well. They’ll be 64 by the end of September, Harvey is already a grumpy old man due to his shoulder injury but I don’t like to think of them getting old, it’s definitely the downside of getting attached to dogs.

Whenever we take the dogs to the vet for any reason we always take them for a nice walk afterwards. Neither of them seem too troubled by the experience and I’m keen for it to stay that way. Today we chose what we thought would be a quiet spot but turned out to be pretty popular since it was a lovely sunny day.

We are off to Jersey again soon, a work trip I am tagging along for. I will have the best part of three days to myself in St. Helier and one day with M. I guess I will have to explore further afield by bus this time, it’s not as much fun on my own I must admit but at least this time I know roughly where everything is. I did ask a friendly shopkeeper what she would do with one day in St. Helier (she had lived there for over forty years) she was a little vague but perhaps that was because the weather was absolutely foul at the time and it was hard to imagine doing anything other than heading for the nearest source of coffee!

At the moment I’ve only packed a ball of sock yarn and my basic crochet sock pattern. I suspect that might change before we head off. I’m minimalist with everything else I pack but I tend to throw in an extra crochet project at the eleventh hour. My liquids pack is not as minimalist this time though, I have added a small bottle of moisturiser. Last time we went I found that all the sea air and strong winds dried my face right out. Ironically M has three times the number of bottles in his liquids bag and still insists on having both a deodorant and a body spray, old dogs and new tricks is all I’m saying on the matter. Not only that but he’s pleased I’m taking a moisturiser this time and says he will need to borrow some if his hands get dry. Honestly, some men are such divas!

I won’t be taking my latest ‘super easy crochet jumper’. The yarn ball is a whopping 400g and too bulky. The jumper should take about 600g so I wouldn’t even have the whole yarn requirement. I’m trying to get as much done as possible before we go but I don’t think I’ll get it finished in time to actually wear on the trip which is a shame because I’ve wanted an oatmeal tweedy jumper for a long time. It’ll go with everything which is actually quite a daft statement since ‘everything’ for me means jeans, jeans and more jeans. Always blue jeans.

I got completely muddled with the pattern when I did the grey version. I thought it was uk terms and required a dc construction throughout. I thought that would be too dense and slow so I used my favourite stitch which is half trebles. Turns out it should have been trebles but it’s all about sizing it as you go anyway so it didn’t matter. For this latest one I wondered if extended half trebles would look any different from trebles so I tried it out and yes I think there’s a subtle difference. Trebles twist the yarn more so you end up with clearly defined stitches. Extended half trebles twist less so create a loose looking treble kind of stitch. This is not technical jargon by the way, just my usual crochet waffle. Either way it was the look and feel that I wanted, a loose fabric but not see through in any way. I’m using a 7mm hook with aran weight yarn so that helps with the drape too. I see these jumpers as experimental and hope to create the perfect combination of yarn weight, hook size and stitch choice for my taste…eventually.

I have yet to decide on a method for the sleeves. I prefer to work in rounds so as not to have any visible joins but I also want the sleeve to taper gradually. This time round I will have to use a marker and work out the maths beforehand. I think I’ll also try working a back loop rib in situ rather than attaching separately. I’ve recently reminded myself how to do that so the entire garment will be done in one piece with no sewing up at all.

M really doesn’t feel the cold like a normal person would do, he will switch to long sleeve shirts in winter but it takes a lot of biting cold wind for him to say, ‘it’s cold’. Consequently he doesn’t own many jumpers and those he has got are tatty after dog walking use. I finally managed to persuade him to at least look at some plain lambswool jumpers yesterday and he had the poor sales woman in stitches. First of all I steered him away from the v neck jumpers and told him, as nice as they are, you don’t play golf and you don’t quite have the slim physique of my Father who does play golf. Well that set him right off, he told the sales woman that he wanted to pick a jumper that would pull of my Dad’s stylish look; tall, trim and distinguished. She just dissolved into fits of laughter but he was not insulted. Oddly enough any lambswool sweater, v or round neck did seem to give M a much more distinguished look and I made the mistake of telling him so. He left the shop wearing it and asked me just to ignore all the wolf whistles. He’s full of confidence that one.

Joking aside, M is recovering well and says he feels pretty much back to normal. He’s still in a bit of discomfort but he has a whole pick and mix of drugs to keep things under control. If I were him I would worry about the sniffer dogs at the airport! We’ve had a good laugh about his medication but also the fact that I’ve been stopped for a random frisk three times now over the last six flights to various places, that doesn’t feel very random to me. This time I’m packing my jeans in my suitcase along with my belt which has two metal rings on it; the type you feed through both and then back through one. One frisker said that it was more metal than an average buckle (thank you Fatface) so it makes more of an impression on the scanner, inevitably I’m asked to take the whole belt off. Well given that I can never hear what they are actually saying in such a noisy environment and with people that don’t know I need to lipread this can be quite stressful and also makes me look a little uncooperative when I ignore what they ask me to do. So the belt is banished and I’ve bought myself some travel trousers! Of course M says it’s not the belt at all, it’s just my face, he says I look nervous. I tell him, yes I am nervous, nervous that my jeans will fall down without a belt!

Cold

We are just home after a bracing walk through half frozen, half slushy fields. I’m not keen on dog coats but I do wonder whether they’d like them for the way home! I buried them in blankets instead but Riley likes to watch the world go by so only Harvey remained under his. It’s hard to tell whether Harvey shivers with cold, fear or excitement. We’ve never really been able to work it out. He shivers in the height of summer when invited to go in the car so it’s either fear of the car or excitement about the walk. He also shivers after a swim so that’s obviously the cold. Riley rarely shivers at all.

M has been home for the best of a week. He’s still got to be quite careful but he has insisted in going back to work, such is the life of a self employed person. We had a slow, mainly indoor week, with just a few short trips to try out a new coffee place that has opened up much closer to us than any of the town or other out of town locations. It’s a shame there are no soft furnishings to absorb a bit of the sound reverberation, it’s a struggle to have a conversation in there, the coffee is good though, and to be honest it is still a bit of a battle to get M to put his phone down for half an hour. I went armed with a few crochet magazines.

M and I have got to that stage, where, because of Little E I think, we have gone all slushy about small kids. There’s some seriously cute ones about with little snow suits and bright wellies. M is particularly skilful at chatting to small children and several times a Mother has said, oh, he/she doesn’t usually chat much! When we lived in Oxford I used to take E to various little cafes, particularly those with a kid’s reading corner. I’d get a little bit of time to read a newspaper or chat with a friend and E was always as happy as a pig in clover with a pile of books.

Yesterday, however, was a whole new ball game for me and I must admit I was wincing just waiting for the small girl running around the cafe in her socks to slip or be scalded with hot coffee. There we two narrow escapes where she ran underneath the path of hot drinks being carried to tables and customers had to suddenly stop and raise the mugs. I never want to be that old bag who says to the mother, she nearly got drenched in boiling liquid just now so I sat there uncomfortably and hoping that she’d be ok. Sure, my own children would probably have loved to have run around cafes too but a combination of it being a huge no no in our family (my brother and I were always taught to sit furthest away from already occupied tables let alone run past anyone!) and the safety issue meant that I always carried pencils and papers, books, puzzles, activity books or whatever was handy to keep them amused. I wonder why these big chain coffee places don’t have a small play corner and colouring sheets?

Apart from coffee outings we have watched a film a day on a Netflix. I can’t even remember their titles. We watched a series called le Mante which was French and about a female serial killer who helps solve a copycat killer case. It was not my usual preferred subject matter but it was pretty good. We are watching a Norwegian series too, Borderliner I think it’s called, not quite as good but sometimes you just have to limp through to the end to see what happens. We’ve finished series one of The Code, an Australian series, again, not my usual thing but since M has been recovering I’ve let him get away with choosing what to watch this week!

Today with the house to myself for a while I’ve finally unpacked a few bits from Sussex and some purchases I made in London. Pebbles with holes right the way through them are mainly my treasures from my trip South! I did find this Hornsea pottery mug for 50p though and with mustard creeping in everywhere it fits right in. You can’t beat a good old fashioned seventies mug.

I’ve wound my two new skeins from Loop into cakes and I’ve been browsing for ideas for what to make with them. I’m undecided yet but I’m sure something will come to mind. They both have mainly merino content so I want to take advantage of that softness, I don’t have a favourite every day cowl so that’s a contender.

E and I did a quick visit to Muji on the way back to St Thomas’s Hospital on Sunday. When I was a graphic designer I loved to get completely stocked up with good pens and stationery every time work took me to London. I’ve not been so organised with my crochet notes over the years and I hate to have to work things out from scratch when I’ve done it before but can’t remember how. I’ve bought a graph pad and a lined pad which are fairly thin so that I can keep them in the large denim pouch along with a few pens and take them wherever I go. At home I prefer a nice tin for all my bits and bobs like small scissors, stitch markers, tape measure etc but for travel these aren’t very practical. M and I will be flying to Jersey again soon and I’m streamlining the whole crochet travel kit beforehand!

I’ve written out long hand the basic crochet sock pattern that I’m using at the moment. I plan to add some of the patterns for things that I can cope with making over and over, like certain hats or shawls. Whilst my iPad stores a lot of my patterns it’s also a bit of a pain to cart everywhere so I often leave it behind. I just want a few basic patterns to hand that make good travel projects.

I’ve just finished making a basic top down crochet jumper. I’ve made toddler cardigans using this method but never an adult one. I made some scribbled notes as I went so I will transfer those to my new notebook too. I changed so much of the original pattern it’s now a new pattern I can follow again in the future. It wasn’t a very well thought out project colour-wise. I had some large balls of aran with wool and wanted to use them up. I’m glad I came across the pattern (link on my Instagram post) because the whole jumper was done in one piece with very few ends to deal with. The pattern is for short sleeves and I wanted a winter jumper so I made long ones. I did rip the first sleeve back a bit when the shape wasn’t tapering fast enough. It was my own fault. I should have applied some maths before I started it. I’m not particularly happy with the cuffs and the hem in front and back post trebles, I think next time I might do a back loop rib and attach it afterwards.

It was all finished in time for the mini beast of the east. It certainly was mini, we had a bit of snow on Friday night, some blizzard type weather on Saturday and then a decent amount overnight which put paid to J’s football match on Sunday. M didn’t want to chance slipping over in the village so I took Riley for a walk and M took H up the garden for a game of fetch. Harvey was more than happy with this arrangement because he hates being on a lead. Riley wasn’t keen on snow accumulating on his ears so we stopped to have a shake every now and then. I caught one such shake on my phone camera and it’s on Instagram. Today it’s mainly all gone, leaving behind a boggy mess but I was glad it came at all. I missed the last proper snow fall here while I was dog-sitting Archie and although he was good fun and expert at catching snowballs I’d never really been out with Riley in a decent amount of snow so I was curious. I think it puzzles him a little and he just seems so happy to be warm and dry and snuggled up next to me on the sofa afterwards!

Later I will indulge Riley again and we will be sitting down to watch a film while I work on the sleeves for E’s Diamonds and Bobbles jumper. I should have finished this whilst away looking after Archie but the beach and long walks were to good to pass up. I think he is used to two walks a day whereas here I tend to take H and R out for a good long ramble in the first half of the day. It’s like an off road assault course for them with rivers to jump across or swim in, ploughed fields to run up and down in and with plenty of animal smells to chase after. Getting them both clean and dryish afterwards is a fairly big task on its own so there’s no chance I’d be doing all this twice a day. In the afternoon they take themselves off down the garden and hop into the field for a sniff round. I’m lucky they are both the ‘coming back’ type. Our black Labrador, Jake, was not!

It has definitely been a stressful couple of weeks. Both M and I have had to take stock and talk about tricky things like finances and in particular what would happen if… I’m only glad he was prepared to talk at all. I’ve had to chip away at his head in the sand approach to life in years gone by and make him see that there is another way. E will often say that being an adult sucks. I haven’t the heart to remind her that she’s got plenty more years of having to put up with that!

Here’s the link to the super easy crochet sweater pattern…

https://www.etsy.com/de/shop/Ratschebutsch?ref=pr_shop_more

Eventful

We are certainly cramming in lots of ‘adventure’ this year. Only recently we all managed to get snowed in separately in four different locations. I was in Bexhill with just enough snow to cause a little disruption. E was in Leeds with quite a lot of snow and nearly a week of snow days. J was in Lincoln with nearly a whole week off school too. M was in Jersey with three days of cancelled flights. I felt quite uneasy about it all, but mainly because I was worried that ‘someone’ might leave the dogs outside by mistake. A photo of them drying off with towels over them reassured me that everything was under control.

I’d barely got the house sorted after leaving it in the hands of M and J for a week, then J for a further week and was beginning to look forward to getting back into my own dog walking routine (you can see that Harvey was enjoying it too!) as well as fixing a few DIY jobs that were long overdue. M travelled to London last Monday and ended up having to go to A&E on Tuesday. It was a classic case of thinking it would be an in and out visit, then maybe just an overnight stay just to be safe, then he had a few more tests and so it went on, each time telling me not to come down to London that he’d probably be out the next day. By Friday I started to ignore those messages and booked train tickets for E and myself.

I find London quite overwhelming these days. Small doses are preferable and 48 hours was more than enough. On the plus side we were able to spend time with my lovely little niece. I do struggle to hear small female voices but E filled me in some of the time and it was lovely when she was able to read E’s bedtime story. At some stage E decided we were going to play hide and seek. Quite an interesting concept in an open plan flat with a safety gate to the lower floor. I did wonder how many places she might think of. Silly me for not finding her with her head inside an orange stool with her legs sticking out! J used to do exactly the same sort of thing!

With visiting hours from 2pm and Islington pretty much on the route from where my Brother lives to the hospital I persuaded E that Camden Passage might be of interest other than Loop London! Crafty eh? We had planned for her to leave me there for a while but she ended up coming in. Having seen that the majority of shoppers there at the time were closer to her age than mine (lots of selfies were being taken!) she was quite drawn to one of the simple garter stitch projects. The sample was out but the kit wasn’t in stock so I will treat her to that when they have more. I think knitting would be very therapeutic as an antidote to all her studying.

In all my years of knitting first and now crochet I’ve never really spent silly sums on a hank of yarn but as E said, it’s not every day you come to London. (When I last tried to visit Loop three years ago it was closed). I ended up buying two hanks at what I call silly prices but they are luxurious; the one I’ve photographed is merino with cashmere and the other is a variegated mustard in the same weight. They work quite well together. I will be thinking long and hard before deciding what to make with them! I must admit E is a very good shopping partner. I’m such a boring nerd when I go shopping on my own and always manage to talk myself out of any adventurous purchases. I then travel home kind of wishing I had bought whatever it was.

M was very pleased to see us, we had two long visits over the two days and the long expensive journey was well worth it to see how much he cheered up. It was hard leaving him there and travelling home so fingers crossed he won’t be there for too much longer.

Meanwhile I’m finding that the only thing I can really focus on for any length of time is cupboard sorting! What a turn up for the books! I thought I was done with all of that post Christmas. It’s mainly the food cupboard I’ve turned my attention too because it’s an absolute shambles. If you did through the keyhole you’d deduce that someone who loves to cook lives here but with no home organisational skills. I guess that cupboard has always been more M’s domain. I’ve previously sorted his many herbs and spices but this last week I’ve also thrown out pastes and tins and bottles, often with duplicates.

J and I have been having the kind of meals that I consider to be a proportionate amount of cooking to eating time. Ten minutes cooking to 5 minutes eating is perfect in my world. OK so some things take longer but don’t necessarily need watching too much. I wouldn’t say I’m enjoying being in charge of the kitchen but I’m certainly taking pleasure from having simplified our meals. J has even been quite complimentary about my efforts.

I’ve also been cutting down the major food shopping trips. The weather has been poor, the potholes are diabolical and the possibility of having to go to London at short notice has meant that I’ve been shopping close to home for just a few days at a time. It’s working nicely. With less choice decisions are made much quicker and it’s easier to keep it simple.

Once I receive some more positive news from London I think I will be back with my crochet. I’ve got too many things on the go and need to get some finished.

I was lucky enough to be given an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel by a friend of a friend. I admired it for a few months but didn’t know where to start at all. Whilst in Bexhill I accepted the very kind offer of a crash course in spinning. The wheel we used was slightly different and I was expert at setting it in motion backwards to begin with but soon got the hang of it. Once home I spent two hours trying to remember what went where to set mine up. A YouTube videos alerted me to the fact that I’d forgotten to put the bobbin on the spindle and after that it was just a question of getting the tension adjusted. The joy when it started taking up the spun yarn! It was probably late by then but I still wanted to let someone, anyone, know that I had spun my first yarn on a wheel!

I spun two very dodgy bobbins worth of yarn and then decided in for a penny in for a pound, I might as well try plying them. That seemed to work ok and the end product was indeed usable albeit with lumps and bump, bits of grass and a fair bit of lanolin too. I fashioned a bowl using a 6mm hook to accommodate the varying thicknesses of my yarn and it is extremely sturdy. I’m hoping that my next bowl will demonstrate an improvement in my yarn making journey!

I once thought that it was a branch of my wool addiction that I didn’t need to explore but now of course it’s too late and I’ve got the bug. I’ve dug out all the relevant books I’ve owned for years which just shows that it was always on the cards. One of the books is about natural dying and I’m definitely going to give that a go, perhaps when the weather improves and I can slosh stuff about outside on our old garden table.

I haven’t been keeping up with my photographing lately. I use my phone for ease of use and because it transfers to my iPad much quicker than downloading from a camera. The phone is playing up so I’m hoping it will just hang on until June when M upgrades his and I can have his old one. It’s how we do phones here, I never need or want the latest thing so when I get a hand me down it feels like the latest thing to me! It all takes time to learn new things related to technology. Only recently I discovered that a setting on my iPad was preventing me from adding stories to my Instagram account. Duh! I’m so behind! I’ve since done a couple and they are quite fun so I guess I might be doing more. Life just needs to settle down and go back to normal first!

Coastal

My trip ‘home’ was very much a tale of two halves. The first week was warm and sunny which meant that Archie and I headed for the beach every day. My childhood Cocker Spaniel, Susie, used to walk round anything remotely wet like a puddle. We took her to many coastal spots for long walks and she always managed not to get wet at all. So I was impressed that Archie headed straight for the water and started off with a good old paddle. There was just one occasion that he went in near a breakwater and quite literally bobbed underneath the surface for a second, this is not something you need when you’re dog sitting! I was moving towards him in a nanosecond but then he bobbed up, paddled towards the shore and confidently hit sand once more.

Archie does have one thing in common with Susie though and that is the potential for edible items is never far from his mind. Some of the things he was interested were borderline ‘edible’ including fishy looking things washed up on the shingle. He has a knack for finding the point at which the tide turns and starts receding, therefore locating all the rubbish that gets washed up. He ignored my suggestions that the sand was more interesting and easier to walk on so in the end I had to join him and over the course of that first week we added three tennis balls to our collection.

The promenade fascinates me now in a way that it never did when I lived here. Some mornings we were down there by 8 in the morning (thanks to bright sunshine streaming in and messing up my usual slow starts to the day). Some evenings we were just about using up the last of the daylight. It seemed as though all ages were out at both of these times of day. Babies in prams. Kids on scooters. Older people driving motobility scooters, joggers, dog walkers. I know I’ve said this before but it’s all so darn sociable and accessible and there’s no washing mud off everything with hoses afterwards. Harvey and Riley would miss their daily hose down if we lived here!

I think it was towards the end of the first week that I received a rather distressed message from M. He said that if he didn’t see the funny side he would probably be more cross than he could cope with. So he simply explained that Riley had come back after his morning wee in the field and told him that he was unfortunately taken hostage by a gang of foxes, tied to a tree and sprayed head to toe with fox poo as a punishment for venturing onto their patch. A week later and I am still laughing about it. It is extra funny because that was one morning I didn’t have to deal with it myself. There was no point in the usual ten minute drying off on towels routine so M opened the gate into the kitchen, at which point Riley could easily have made a bid for his bed but instead he walked, with his head down, straight into the bathroom and voluntarily got into the shower cubicle. M said he laughed so much he had tears running down his face. He wasn’t laughing quite so much when the warm water hit the fan let’s say. It tends to increase the strength of the odour somewhat!

During that first week Grandad and I were able to get out and about. We had some nice lunches out. We popped over to a nice little town near here and browsed some charity shops. There was even one day when it was warm enough for him to sit and catch some sun on the seafront. Then came The Beast from The East. I must admit I thought it would never happen, we’ve had a few false alarms this year. We both stocked up at the beginning of the week and that proved to be good timing. Thereafter Grandad stayed in the warm and I walked the few miles there and back to have a cuppa and a biscuit or two. The snow hasn’t been deep here but it’s been enough to make paths tricky. Given that the average age here is probably 90 I was surprised that the town centre paths weren’t salted. You’d think shopkeepers would at least want to keep their customers safe. I helped one old woman out of a shop doorway and over an icy patch to safety. I wanted to walk her home but I’m really not that outgoing so I just hoped she didn’t have far to go.

Modern technology was a useful thing for once with daily reports of weather conditions coming in from West Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Jersey. E, J and M respectively. M’s second trip to Jersey was very bad timing with the weather closing in on the evening before he was due to fly home. All flights out were cancelled on Thursday and he’s on a transfer flight today but I’m not holding my breath. Both E and J have much more snow than we have here. School and university lectures were cancelled. Notably E’s priority was a good cup of coffee and J’s was Haribo, both trekked out in the snow for these! I’m a fine one to talk though, my immediate thought was chocolate! The local shop was quickly cleared of milk and bread which wasn’t too much of a problem. If they’d run out of chocolate now that would be a problem!

Crochet is obviously the ideal hobby for a snow day. I’m over the thrill of making snowmen or getting cold and wet with snowball fights, though I did take note of my cousin’s tip and made some snowballs for Archie to catch. He does indeed like this game. I think he liked wrestling with the towel I tried to dry him off with even more.

I whipped up some quick wristwarmers with a tweedy Aran yarn I found in a charity shop. There is usually quite a bit of yarn to be found here thanks to the older generation. Since they were a big success in that they actually fitted nicely for once I’m planning to make these again when I am home and can raid my pure wool stash. I’ve got a hank of Croft by WYS that will be ideal and warmer than this oatmeal yarn. I might make them a tad longer too.

I’ve made good progress with E’s diamonds and bobbles jumper and will bribe her somehow so that I can get a modelled photo when it is finished. Just the sleeves to do now. All of the projects I brought with me were one colour projects. When the sun disappeared for a few days I had the most unusual and rare for me, craving to make something colourful! I just don’t do colour unless it’s a special request from E or something for my niece. I came across the Coachella scarf pattern on LoveCrochet (a simple puff stitch construction) then went out into the Beast to gather up half a dozen odds and ends of DK to get started. I quickly realised that the ends were going to be huge in number and actually joked on instagram that I would be calling them ‘a fringe’. Well I’m further on with it now and the fringe is a definite possibility. I remember seeing someone on a train with a scarf edge of ends just like this and I think I might just get away with it.

I packed a couple of other crochet projects but wasn’t in the mood for them. I find crochet goes like this sometimes. E’s jumper for instance was ideal for accompanying a good Netflix film. Likewise with the puff stitch scarf; no counting required. Both good snowy day projects to get comfy with, alongside a film, coffee and a bar of Green and Blacks. I’ve done so much walking here because it’s been such a lovely change of scene and also because I didn’t have a car. I think my knee might finally be cooperating. The same cannot be said of my foot where I broke a bone right on the edge five years ago. I’m resigned to that being a nasty nagging pain for good now. I plugged music in for some walks and it’s a great way to distract the mind which reminds me to tell you about an amazing thing I witnessed early one morning. The tide was out far enough to expose some rocks and in the middle of a large flat one there was a young girl, about E’s age I guess, singing her heart out. Obviously I couldn’t hear her but the hands and arms were moving in a musically theatrical way and she was dancing on the spot too. When I got a side view I could see she was belting out a power number. What fantastic courage and a thoroughly inspiring spot to practice!

Homeward bound

There are some days I can’t even listen to the lyrics of Sovereign Light Cafe without a big lump forming in my throat. The song takes artistic licence by treating Hastings and Bexhill as one, but the video was certainly filmed in Bexhill. It’s not a sad song it just reminds me, in more ways than one, of the great distance between there and here. We used every bit of the south coast when I was a child. Our childhood dog was the most walked dog on the planet. Unlike H and R she absolutely hated water so we never had any fear that she would get carried away with the tide. When we take Riley to the coast we have to be much more careful, he doesn’t have any sense of fear despite the power of the waves.

This past week E packed her books and caught a train from Leeds To Hastings, quite a long trek. I think she had plans to have a coffee or two at the SLC on Bexhill seafront but there were a succession of days where she described the rain as horizontal, so she kept warm and dry and probably did more studying than she would have if the weather had been more favourable.

Our visits overlap by just a day and then M will travel back with E and leave me down there. I’ll miss my faithful four legged friends but I’m sure Archie will be up for cuddles and long walks too. H and R will be miffed if he starts appearing on my blog but I can’t resist photos of spaniels, they are such happy dogs. Archie isn’t a Springer, he’s a Cocker, but in my opinion he’s ten times more bouncy than H and R, he’s full of beans and loves company.

I’ve packed a generous amount of yarn, two books and my kindle. When I was a child my biggest fear was running out of things to read! This seems amusing now because I certainly wasn’t one of those kids that did nothing but read. I was outside in all weathers, running, cycling, making dens, doing all kinds of sport, so I guess this must have been an evening activity only. We never really did get on with regular trips to the library, our lives had too much else going on. There was no internet, no Amazon, and no kindles. Mum has always worked full time so trips to book shops were rare. I got most of my reading material as gifts and the Puffin Club at school when I was primary school age. I still can’t think of anything worse than running out of yarn or books.

Tomorrow M will pack the car and remark on the amount of luggage I am bringing. He does this despite the fact that I am an expert on travelling light. He’s also good at travelling light but the difference is that he forgets vital things and ends up buying them on holiday, like the year he didn’t pack socks, or the year he took two shirts for two weeks!

There will be some tense moments as my much tested patience begins to wear thin. In the ten years we’ve been married we’ve overcome a lot of differences and laugh about some of those now. Some of the things I used to find highly irritating I actually find quite endearing now, the ability of the human being to adapt is a constant source of amazement to me! However, giving a constant verbal commentary of how dreadful other drivers are is not something I find endearing at all. Not only that but I don’t find the comments to be very accurate either. Furthermore the one giving the commentary often performs the very manoeuvre that he was, just seconds ago, criticising. Insert a few choice swear words here if you are so inclined. I certainly do, usually under my breath, and then threaten to plug my phone into the car stereo and select music that I know he hates.

When the kids were small I found it was hugely successful to outline the behaviour I expected from them before we entered a ‘challenging’ social situation for instance. You can’t expect children to know what is expected from them, you have to tell them. I tried to apply this theory to M but unfortunately it didn’t work. I’ve also tried appealing to his sense of survival by suggesting he might cause a stress related illness if he carried on this way. That didn’t work either. So if you see a rather fed up woman staring out of the passenger window on the A1 singing along to The Greatest Hits of Glen Campbell you’ll know it’s me!