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!

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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!

Men

All these business trips with M away are doing me the world of good in some respects. My car is out of action while M faffs around trying to fit fuel filters by himself (he will end up taking it to the garage or ‘phoning a friend’ eventually). I borrowed E’s little car and it does surprise me that despite driving it at the same speed as I would my larger jeep, a lot of drivers seem to see ‘small’ and think ‘slow’ and try and overtake in the most dangerous and inappropriate places. Something to do with ego’s is all I can assume this is to do with. Anyway I hurtled down the bypass and did a weekly shop in our new M&S. Ordinary stuff for most people but quite an event for me to do on my own these days. Having sussed it out with M once or twice quite early on a Monday morning I was sure it was going to be very quiet, alas it was not. Nonetheless I gathered easy to cook meals for J and I for a week including considerably healthier choices than when M is in charge of the trolley. I even treated myself to a takeout coffee for the journey back. Such a shame E’s car is not suitable for muddy dogs because there’s a choice of two lovely country parks on the way home.

I will be so pleased to have my car in working order again. I’ve missed our nature reserve walks even though it’s hugely boggy there at the moment. The village walks just haven’t been the same. Harvey has been a pain in the side quite literally with his pulling, I’ve never been able to train him to walk nicely on a lead and I’ve been able to train all my dogs to some degree. I think it been three showers with them both this week. Two occasions where Riley rolled in something nasty and the rest just because the sink just wouldn’t have coped with that much mud. I swear if we win the lottery my first priority will be a dog shower, a blow dry booth and a kennel maid! The dogs would love it! They already hold each paw up in turn for the shower jet nozzle!

I’m usually very pleased with the whole iPad and iPhone set up. It’s nothing flashy, my iPad is quite old and my phone has been handed down from m to e and then to me but is perfectly ok for my needs. Just lately though the phone has stopped communicating with the iPad and I can’t work out why. It’s baffling because sometimes it will send photos via photo stream and sometimes it decides to only send a few. There are ways round this but it’s time consuming. I usually find that updates solve problems but currently that’s not happening. I found this last photo of our flight home from Jersey on my phone that hadn’t been sent to my iPad. You can see how beautiful the place is, the plastic sheeting is to do with their famous potatoes apparently. M will be going back on his own next time but for his third trip I will join him again. On that occasion we are hoping to have a whole extra day just to explore. It won’t be for a little while so I’m hoping some spring like weather will happen too!

I finished my diamonds and bobbles jumper late one night and tried it on straight away. I ended up adding five more rows to the bottom and also some of the back loop dc rows to match the sleeve cuffs. It’s no longer a boxy sweater but I like my jumpers much longer so I liked the fact that was so easy to adjust. The wool was a bad choice in some ways because it’s a little dense but I took the risk of chucking it in the washing machine in the wool cycle knowing that the blanket I made with the same yarn didn’t shrink or felt. I already had 900g of this yarn in my stash and cannot remember for the life of me what I bought it for, I’m using up lots of stash these days and giving lots away too. Anyway, the jumper survived and is already softer after just one wash. I love 3/4 sleeves on sweaters because I can’t have sleeves getting in the way of crocheting! As well as the extra length I also omitted the neck rows which would have made the neck fit more closely. I like boat necks and feel a bit suffocated with round necks so it was perfect without that detail for me.

After a late night online chat with E she chose the colour ‘oak’ from the range of Wendy aran yarn. I’m not sure how many students get emails with wool warehouse links in them asking them to choose a colour for a sweater. I think it’ll look great on her. One striking feature she has and one which plenty of people stopped me to comment on when she was a baby, is her very dark brown eyes. Mine are brown but hers are a much deeper brown. She also has naturally dark brown almost black hair with auburn highlights and after years of experimenting with dye I have finally got her to appreciate her natural colour and convinced her that it’s what people pay good money to achieve from a box of dye! When J was small, and again it was the golden age of people approaching you to comment on your child, he had ash blonde hair and those dark chocolate coloured eyes again. People kept telling me that it was unusual and that with blonde hair he should have blue eyes. Helpful eh?

The Wendy aran has 25% wool in it which makes it a lot softer than my grey yarn. It’s going to drape so much better and I’m already wondering what colour to choose for a third version of this jumper so that I can have a nice soft one too. I may well end up being able to make that one without having to refer to the pattern!

In between lots of rows of trebles for the jumper I made a pair of mittens in chunky merino and mohair from John Lewis. It has a similar feel to Rowan’s Cocoon. I tried quite a few other yarns as you’ll know if you follow me on Instagram. I used the same stitch as for the honeycomb hat pattern I published on my old blog. It’s a side to side construction which meant that I could start out with the exact length I wanted. For this I had to message E again and ask her to photograph her hand against an A4 sheet since she didn’t have a ruler to hand. The wonders of modern technology! Between the red bobble hat and these mittens I think I have solved all her getting chilled to the bone problems. She’s spending half term in Sussex with my parents so it’s probably a few degrees warmer down there at least.

Sussex is on the cards for me soon too. I can’t wait. It’s always special to spend time with my Grandad and I also get to walk a different dog in a different place. Archie is a cocker spaniel and a big old furry fluff ball. The best part about walking him on the beach is…. no M U D! Oh happy days! I know there will be a crap coming home afterwards kind of feeling when I leave the place where I was born and come away from the coast and the Downs to somewhere flat. I just need to work on how to avoid that feeling. Quite possibly a big DIY project might be just the thing. The dining room needs a new coat of paint! That will involve moving a trillion books. Busy is good.

Half term is now upon is and I am feeling the balance of male to female is off-kilter in this household. Since M got back I have heard the word football mentioned more than a few times. The father/son short sentence communication is once more in action. One will say a city followed by a number, then the other will nod or grunt and then say another city and a number. Sometimes interspersed with the odd naughty word. I believe this is called discussing the football scores. Not only that but music has been turned up a fraction louder (I am clearly the most feared disciplinarian despite the fact that he could get away with far more decibels with just me at home) and in the living room the tv has started to mysteriously switch over to How It’s Made at random moments. I will survive. I have coffee, crochet and dogs. Not necessarily in that order. (Gin too but only when things get really manly round here!)

Jersey

With two days notice we packed and flew out to Jersey at the beginning of this week. I can’t say too much about the work reasons but I can say that it’s not very often that M is offered work in such a nice location. Expenses were such that we only needed to pay for my flight which was a remarkably cheap £75 so it made sense for me to come along and have a mini break albeit by myself for most of the time.

I don’t know why I’ve never hopped on a boat or plane and visited any of the Channel Islands before. Jersey is part of the British Isles but it is not part of the United Kingdom. It is only nine miles wide by five miles and has a population of about a hundred thousand. According to our chatty taxi driver there are more cars on the island than people and yet the fastest you can drive anywhere on the island is 40mph. They have their own currency but it is compatible with British Pounds. We were told to take anything we received in change to a bank to exchange back to British notes on our last day because UK shops can be ‘funny’ about them. In fact we didn’t need to because we only ended up with a small amount of Jersey cash and we might be returning in a month or two.

We were a bit spoilt with a lovely hotel right on the bay overlooking the harbour in St. Helier. I couldn’t take my eyes off the changing sky, the way the castle lit up, boats coming and going, the tide going in and out. If you look carefully at the top picture you’ll notice a red lcd display to the left. There were two figures, one in meters and one most likely in fathoms, it went from 0.0 to over 8 metres at high tide. At low tide there is a narrow path across the wet sand to the castle. Even in quite severe wet and windy weather there were one or two brave locals walking out that way with dogs. It’s such a beautiful spot I think I’d probably do the same on a daily basis if I lived there with Harvey and Riley.

In the same photograph you can see there are one or two tiny figures on the harbour wall. We walked along to the end on our final morning and then took the lower path where the arches are on our way back so that M could take a closer look at the boats. Typically it was a bright and sunny morning on that day with only hours to go until our flight.

I didn’t take very many photos at all despite covering what seemed like very square inch of St Helier itself. The weather was pretty awful on the first day and due to get worse in the second. I tucked my phone deep into my pocket and largely forgot to take it out for photographs. I visited the indoor market and swung by some of the museums but mainly I had coffee here and there and watched the world go by. There was a noticeable French look about some of the residents which makes sense when you think it’s only 14 miles from France and about 100 miles from mainland Britain.

There’s a lot of history to the island and I watched a great film the night before we flew. It was on Netflix and called Another Mother’s Son. It gave a taste of what life was like under German Occupation during the Second World War. I walked past a hotel called Pomme D’Or which was used as the German Naval HQ during that time. It faces a square which is now called Liberation Square.

We managed to fit in one small, quick excursion when M had a few hours one afternoon. We caught a bus and enjoyed the scenery on the way to St Aubins Bay which we could see from our hotel. I love the way that in Madrid you can go anywhere on a bus or metro for €1.50 and in Jersey you can take any single trip for £2.00. It makes life so much easier. We live just six or seven miles from our nearest main town and it costs an arm and a leg to get there by bus. In St Aubins Bay there are some lovely smart looking seafood restaurants and a place called The Harbour Gallery which is wedged in between what would probably have all been fishermen’s cottages at one point. It’s very higgeldy piggeldy inside with lots of beams and stone walls and a mixture of craft supplies, art gallery, small yarn store and cafe. There’s also workshop space for art. M overheard a Mum having a chat about home schooling and bringing her daughters there for art lessons. What might have been a very quiet trade in the winter seemed to be a thriving little multi purpose venue.

Obviously I’d have been happy to have returned from our trip without any yarn at all but M quite literally shoved me into the yarn area and said, buy something! I didn’t put up much of a fight after spotting some Italian yarns that are harder to find on UK websites let alone in stores. I bought just a single ball of sock yarn since I have now discovered my ‘go to’ crochet sock pattern. I bought two hanks of a merino and bamboo mix yarn in shades that remind of the coast for a possible wrap or shawl. Finally I bought a fun super chunky Italian ball that came with two wooden buttons and that will definitely be a cowl. Quite a modest selection I thought. They have a knit and natter type get together on a Tuesday evening there. Given the size of the island it’s probably the only one too!

I think we ate seafood of some kind for every meal, apart from breakfast of course, though salmon was available. I haven’t always been the biggest seafood eater but these days I like to try new things so we had quite a variety for one week. Seared scallops were probably my favourite.

I took my new forest green project bag for this trip. I took the yarn and pattern for the second sock pictured above but didn’t get round to even starting it. As a last minute thought I threw in a chunky ball of pure wool and that ended up being crocheted into a warm hat on our one night stay in London before flying. My previous favourite hat was looking worse for wear so I thought, no problem, I’ll make a new one. I made a pattern up as I went and added a few popcorn bobbles for interest. It was ideal for the weather conditions. I also packed some pure wool aran and downloaded the pattern I had in mind for that onto my iPad. That was the project I was most in the mood for when we actually got to Jersey. I had two very rainy afternoons in the hotel room with that wonderful view (after I’d made use of the lovely pool and steam room!) and with our own Krupps coffee machine and fresh Jersey milk in the mini fridge I managed to stay awake long enough to get this hat finished by the last day.

Naturally as soon as E saw a photo of the finished hat, she wondered if I might post it to her! I’m always glad to have made something she likes and she does deep red so much better than I do! Besides it gives me chance to be the boring neutrals nerd I’ve always been and make another in oatmeal! The pattern is on the website Yarnspirations. This might be an overlooked gem of a site. Everything I’ve made with their patterns has worked out very well. This red hat for instance is just a classic cable twist design but sometimes the best things are the simplest. I will be adding it to my list of reliable go to patterns. It has worked up so lovely and thick using a soft merino aran weight yarn and yet it has a lot of give due to the post trebles which means it fits like a glove. I’ll be honest and admit that I only twigged that I’d never made a proper cable twist hat in crochet when I saw an old woman wearing one in the classic aran off white shade. Hers was knitted but that’s beside the point, what struck me was how smartly dressed she was and how classic it looked despite being just a woolly hat and incongruous with her tailored suit. You’ve heard of the expression, ‘you should get out more’, well this is what happens when I do get out more! I sit in a coffee shop and spot great hand knitted items!

I hope we get the opportunity to return to Jersey. It looked beautiful in terrible weather so I’d welcome the chance to walk along the miles of promenade in good weather! For now though it’s back to reality. Lots of laundry, dog walking, dog bathing, dog trimming, dogs under my feet, dogs being rather clingy because I’ve been away… you get the gist.

Shorn

I do feel slightly guilty when I ‘shear’ Harvey like a sheep. We used to take him to a professional dog groomer and he looked amazing with a proper spaniel cut. It seemed to be a complete waste of money because he will never be a showy looking type and I wouldn’t want him to be. He loves his life plunging into boggy ditches and swimming in weedy lakes. He’s happiest weaving through hedges rather than running alongside them. In fact I could be describing my childhood because I’ve done all of those things in my time. A teacher once berated me for having messy plaits and said I looked like I had been through a hedge backwards. I was very proud to announce that I had indeed been through a hedge backwards. Maybe there is some truth in owners looking like their dogs but thankfully I don’t have messy plaits anymore!

I did my best to just snip a few thistles out of Harvey’s ears but they were too messed up so after the snipping came the shears. I’m sure he’s much happier now because it can’t have been comfortable lying on thistly ears. After quite a long session on the grooming table I let Harvey go and get acquainted with his new look and started to clear up the hair. Riley tried to hop up onto the waist height bench so I felt obliged to give him a quick ear and paw trim too just so that he didn’t feel left out. I’m always telling M to treat them like dogs and not children. Oops. Paws are important though, spaniels grow so much hair between their pads that they tend to look like spiders on roller skates on tiled and wooden floors when the hair gets too long.

I may have moaned about the weather in my last post but what a difference this week… I’d almost forgotten what sunshine looked like. I threw open windows and had a mini spring clean. Our walks were pleasurable once more. Then it rained.

M was supposed to be away for two nights on business this week but assignments came in that called for three more nights away from home. I’m a bit 50/50 on the subject. On the one hand I like being able to revive my nocturnal habits. My mind is actually clearer late at night, I do all my best thinking then, whereas M is a morning person. On the other hand it has felt like a long week without his witty banter, not to mention us popping out for coffee and crosswords.

I hate admitting that it’s sometimes tricky to leave the house on my own other than to drive to my remote dog walking place. This week I was forced to and I’m glad I was. My small victory on Monday, which involved taking E’s reliable little car to buy some provisions actually led to a second outing to buy a proper coffee. Twice in one week! This year is looking good. We’ll gloss over the fact that I told the young lad at the till ‘no thank you’ when he asked me if I had a loyalty card whilst actually passing him the loyalty card. I assumed he would be asking me if I wanted a bag first. Silly me. It wasn’t until he gave me a strange look and I thought on the way home, mmh, that last word sounded more like card than bag. Bother.

So there’s a little bit of startitis around this week. I’m enjoying the relaxing make that is the Diamonds and Bobbles jumper. I think I mentioned that the yarn needs a couple of wool cycle washes to soften up, that means it’s not the nicest stuff to work with. I craved something softer so I picked up my booklet of crochet sock patterns. It starts with a basic pattern for both toe up and cuff down. I’ve already made a few pairs of my own ‘make it up as you go along’ trainer socks using the toe up method so I tried the cuff down pattern. Since this photo I’ve made good progress and I’m at the toe part. My conclusion is that I like the cuff down method very much, it gives a good fit. I hadn’t expected to like it at all. I’ve used a random variegated dk from my stash. I’ve no idea what it is but it is very soft. My cunning plan was to use variegated to hide any slight mistakes I made. I think I have, no, I know I have worked all the rounds after the heel with the wrong side facing but it doesn’t seem to matter that much using the extended dc stitch. I’ve used a 4mm hook rather than the suggested 3.5mm because I really hate wearing socks and want these to be loose, like bed socks. Now that I know how easy this pattern works up I can quite happily pack the booklet, a ball of bright and cheerful variegated dk and hook and have the perfect travel project. Bright and cheerful yarn simply because I intend never to make myself a pair of socks after this pair but know someone (E) who loves socks!

When I finally get chance to sit down and crochet by late afternoon I stop drinking coffee and make a mug of tea. We’ve accumulated a whole range of sample tea bags and popped them into an old tea caddy. I’m steadily working my way through them. This week I thought I’d give peppermint tea another try. Ugh ugh ugh. It’s absolutely disgusting! Bravo to anyone who drinks this on a regular basis! I love mint, even better if it’s in the middle of a bar of Fry’s chocolate, but I cannot drink peppermint tea without gagging.

The downside to M’s job and the many miles he clocks up driving between assignments is that when he does finally get home he doesn’t really want to go far again, which is totally understandable. I have been known to complain about being stuck here (both in the house and in Lincolnshire) so I tend to want to go out and explore. The two don’t go hand in hand but we do often find a compromise. It’s also nice that M now has the travel bug once again and he seems to relish the hard work if he has some short breaks to look forward to. It’s me that brings him back down to earth sometimes and we meet somewhere between the ridiculous and the reality of what is possible for a short break.

I don’t think we have ever timed a short break to coincide with Valentine’s Day but we have often discussed two romantic cities as possibilities one day. The trouble is neither of us want to visit somewhere we’ve already been to. So that’s Paris and Venice out of the equation for now. M has been to Paris and I have been to Venice. He is beginning to come round to my idea of visiting Norway or Denmark. I am sure we will go somewhere this year and that’s the exciting thing, it’ll be totally unplanned and very last minute dot com.

Anyone who says men can’t change might need to look at M for living proof. Ten years ago he wouldn’t have dreamt of booking flights or ferries and accommodation with only days to go before departure. He would have broken out in a cold sweat and told me I was absolutely mad. Now he’s a dab hand at spontaneity. Sure, he will still stand over his suitcase and insist on telling me everything he has packed just in case he has forgotten anything. This is the point at which I tell him that it is probably best to leave a few pairs of socks at home and that he really doesn’t need both body spray and deodorant, just the latter will do. I also mention the ozone layer and suggest a roll on but after ten years he still doesn’t think they work. So maybe not all things can be changed!

Stormy

I’ve been hobbling along again. If it isn’t my knee injury from a year ago it’s my foot which I broke years ago now but still seems to flare up painfully in that same spot. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, old breaks are supposed to be affected by cold weather but that might just be a myth. My feet never feel cold so I’m puzzled and annoyed with it! The dogs can run in the fields at the end of our garden but I much prefer to give them a good long walk. My old jeep is showing a selection of three red warning lights and typically this has happened while M is away, so I’ve not been venturing further than the village hall car park, then taking the dogs down an old farm track and to fields beyond. It was so cold, wet and windy today there were fewer dog walkers about which was just as well with my strange half walk half limp! Honestly, approaching fifty fills me with dread.

We’ve had a couple of stormy nights here. With M away I’ve had to ask J for confirmation that it’s just the wind and rain noise that’s unsettling Riley. I switch off at night time and quite frankly a brass band could pass by and I’d sleep on. Somehow Riley managed to perch on my back at nearly two in the morning and I briefly dreamt of being buried alive. Luckily I woke up.

Before having children I would most definitely have just waited for intruders to find me and if I had a nearby heavy object then all the better. Since becoming a mother I tend to go and investigate if I think something isn’t right. So I tiptoed round the house at two in the morning to make sure all was well and managed to accidentally wake J who thought it was absolutely hilarious that Riley had been sitting on my back for however long it took me to wake up and all because of a bit of howling wind and rain. I thought it was mildly amusing too until he did the same the following night and refused to budge from my lap for most of the night. I ended up making hot chocolate and reading a book with him as my book rest.

When we were considering adopting a second Springer I seem to remember that one of the Springer rescue organisations had quite a long list of requirements including previous experience of the breed and also being home for most of the day, more specifically that the dog would not be alone for more than 3 to 4 hours a day. We didn’t find Riley through them in the end but he certainly gets very stressed when he’s left, even with Harvey for company.

Although I am still sorting everything that I come into contact with, the shine has worn off the whole cupboard sorting thing, as I knew it would. If I’m waiting for coffee to brew or toast then I might take a pot of utensils and run through it to make sure that everything in it is absolutely essential. I did the same with M’s recipe box, chucking out leaflets he has picked up but will never cook because they are ridiculously complicated. So there are lots of small ‘improvements’ to our kitchen organisation. When the mood returns I will tackle the two cupboards I haven’t yet sorted.

I really don’t enjoy cooking at all yet with a slightly more organised kitchen I have found it much less of a chore to be in there even if it’s only to make peanut butter on toast! I’m quite good at cheese on toast too and on a really good day I might do scrambled eggs on toast. Before I met M this was my staple diet for myself, for the children I made more of an effort. They still like to remind me how humiliating they found it when I made them carrot sticks and hummus for their packed lunches. It was all healthy stuff!

I’ve really enjoyed making this simple scarf. I’ve spent years seeing crochet as a challenge, constantly trying to pick up tips and new techniques to improve my skill level. At the beginning of January I had an urge just to use really nice yarn in a simple format. I wanted to enjoy the process but without taxing my brain too much, so I’ve been able to watch all the previous series of Call The Midwife on Netflix before the new series starts on Sunday. The scarf is everything I hoped it would be; tactile, soft, pure wool and with a slight vintage look about it. It goes well with my vintage Aran knit cardigan. I haven’t worn it out and about yet and it’s certainly not for dog walking because everything gets spattered with mud!

I feel like I’ve hardly been anywhere lately though I did brave a major city last week when M had a job just outside it and dropped me off for three hours. I stuck to all the bits I knew and started with a large coffee in a quiet cafe. I bought a few things on my list including travel mugs, ink cartridges and a charger. I bought a few things that weren’t on my list; the box of matches with one of my favourite poems printed on it, the merino yarn pictured above and some random bits I thought E might like because she’s so easy to buy for like that. I then ran out of ‘commercial’ shopping steam and headed for an Oxfam bookshop. I couldn’t believe my luck when the green virago spine I homed in on was the Virago Book of Women Travellers. I was already familiar with quite a few of them including Gertrude Bell and Isabella Bird but there are plenty of others featured in the book that I can’t wait to meet! I headed back for the quiet cafe, bought another large coffee and killed the remaining two hours dipping into this great book.

I’m sure I will make another of these scarves as a gift in the future. Rather than just keep a digital record of patterns worth remembering I have finally started a written one. I’ve been meaning to do this for years and still have two moleskin journals full of knitting scribbles and patterns for things I made, mostly for the children. There have been many occasions where it’s been an absolute effort to try and locate the notes for something I made and want to make another, so hopefully this notebook will eventually contain all my ‘go to’ patterns for woolly items of all kinds. Today for instance, on the dog walk, I wore a cowl using a stitch pattern I made up, mittens I made up as I went along years ago but could quite easily make into a proper pattern and a hat that I’ve made several of and still haven’t got it written down anywhere.

With my sore foot resting on a hot water bottle this afternoon I found myself starting a new crochet project without giving too much thought to my resolution of finishing one old wip before starting one new one. I find just watching Netflix on it’s own far too indulgent so I need to be making something at the same time. Before too long I had two animal body parts completed and a third underway. Sneak previews on Instagram coming soon!