I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Whilst I’ve been gone


You might be forgiven for thinking I’d gone to sleep. 

I did.  A few times, in fact.  But in between I’ve simply been doing so many things, there was no time to blog.

Can you believe it?




The Cheltenham Literature Festival was fun as ever, especially when shared with friends.  It’s surprising how long after each hour-long talk we continued to discuss, evaluate, explain, compare what we’d listened to (you’d not think I worked in education, would you? Winking smile

Kind friends who invited us all to share their table for a late lunch kept the conversation going even longer, too.  Brave things.



But then, we all spent the evening at the opera, watching Macbeth live from the Met in Cheltenham with Anna Netrebko playing the leading lady.  Some of us were quite pleased about that – about half the party, I’d say Winking smile




Having said goodbye to weekend friends, I buzzed off for a few days to spend time with a few more.  Yes, it’s that time of the year again and I had another group of craft judges to play with.




My knitting gets such close inspection it’s a wonder I ever feel like doing any more.  I reassure them all that we don’t try to slip anything past them and all of those mistakes in the pattern result from sheer incompetence.  Mine.




But of course, there are always lovely things to share and to inspire and that set us all off googling again.  I wonder how many of us intend to start (or have already started!) a Hitchhiker scarf having seen Marion’s lovely example?

(there are 42 points on it, in case you are wondering)




Though the days are long, they fly by and in no time at all, it was time to have the group photograph taken and say ‘bye to the class of 2014.  As always, it’s a real delight to get to know these clever women better and hopefully, we’ll meet up at some show sooner rather than later.




I could always enter my pig. 




On Thursday, a dozen of us from Avening WI spent the day with Norah Kennedy, local willow worker and wonderful teacher.  The chatter flowed as the willow was woven and worked into hens and piglets and by the end of the day, a fine assembly was on parade in the car park.




My pig is the plump one on the end and is definitely not of the racing variety!




So when have I had time to sew?  Not at all, really.  Those are not my hands in control, but Marianne’s!  Spending time with the Gadebergs was exactly the best way to round off a busy, craft-filled week and opened up the next challenge in the sewing machine project.  The BSR.  Having not even got it out of the box, I am now fired up and ready to put it through its paces and get myself sewing again.

Not this week though.  I have three days of judging to look forward to when over a hundred and fifty treasures await the attention of myself and two colleagues as we try to find a winner amongst them.   At the end of the week, we’re off to Carmarthen, where I have work to do and the rest of the family will be rediscovering old haunts in Pembrokeshire, where my Hero spent some of his formative years.

But on Thursday, I might take the day off Winking smile


All in the detail


I’m involved in a couple of things right now which, on the face of it seem fairly straightforward but closer consideration reveals rather more than was immediately apparent.  In some cases, that means more work.

Oh well.

In others it opens up new challenges, new opportunities and a whole lot more fun!




I was hoping to create a bit of quick “bobbin lace” on my Bernina the other day.  When we were out judging a few months ago, one of my colleagues came across a beautiful lace bookmark which we all admired.  It was so perfect, each thread carefully managed to a well balanced tension and not a single join in sight.  Certainly made by an excellent lacemaker – or?  Only on the way home did the thought strike us that it possibly wasn’t bobbin lace at all, but some well managed machine embroidery worked on soluble fabric. 




With the 2014 Craft Judges training in my diary next week, I thought I’d create a sample to take along, to raise awareness of such things and to give them an idea of what’s possible.  Of course, I wouldn’t dream of trying to fool them into thinking it was real bobbin lace Winking smile

(If I was, I wouldn’t have blogged about it, would I?!)




Actually, this would fool no-one, because having pinned it out and sprayed with water to dissolve the “fabric”, the threads don’t resemble bobbin lace in any way.  I need to learn how to discriminate when buying off-the-peg commercial machine embroidery designs to find one which looks a bit more authentic when stitched out.

It’s all in the detail.




I suspect the participants in the new WI/Kingston University collaboration will agree with that as they begin quite an exciting project.  I was there at the briefing day on Monday to learn more and to identify how I can play a useful role – how lucky is that?  The project is intended to promote the sharing of traditional and contemporary craft skills and is most certainly something which “floats my boat” (spoken in the best Hull accent, of course!)  The idea is that each fashion student will work with two WI members to create an outfit which celebrates the rich history the WI in its centenary year.  The students bring a wealth of creative talent, innovation and modern craft techniques and the WI members were selected for their outstanding technical skills in a wide variety of traditional handcrafts. 




Put all of that creative energy and enthusiasm into one room and you can imagine how wonderful it was to stand back and watch!  Students and members had brought along pieces of their work and having been assigned partners, spent the day getting to know one another and exploring the potential of collaborative working.




There was a lot of “ooh” and a fair bit of “aaah” as the heirlooms got another airing and portfolios were opened up.




Hopefully, over the next few months there will be progress to report, but for now, it was enough to sit and observe as people who had arrived as strangers discovered they had rather a lot in common.




There were some rather nifty details in the clothes many of them were wearing too.




Not quite the same elegant touches to observe in Cheltenham last evening, sadly, when (we estimated 1500) festival goers and Radio 4 fans found their seats in a huge marquee for the event entitled “Just a Minute”.  We thought we were going to a recording of the show, or at least a genuine game but we were mistaken.  Instead, Nicholas Parsons introduced three women (the first all-female panel, we were told) Pam Ayres, Shappi Khorsandi and Jenny Eclair rather than the usual combination of four regular participants (we were hoping for Paul Merton)  After a short and rather more polite game there followed a discussion and book promotion which shouldn’t really have come as a surprise but which was not quite what we were expecting.


Fullscreen capture 08102014 130655


Of course, had we but looked at the detail in the programme, we’d have known what to expect.






We always admire the woodstacks when we travel in Switzerland and Germany.  I’d go as far as to say, my Hero has serious woodstore envy when we see neatly arranged supplies like this one, seen from a train last year.




As of yesterday, however, we have our own woodstore and though it’s not quite in the same league as those Swiss wonders, I think he’s stacked it pretty neatly, don’t you?




It fits in beautifully and we are very pleased with our choice – locally made, delivered and constructed in situ. 




That, of course, is the wood for the winter after next – there’s at least one year’s supply stored dry in the garage, because as our friend Jürgen always says, wood warms you several times over – in our case, stacking it outside, moving it and stacking it once again in the garage, bringing it upstairs in the large basket and then finally, burning on the woodburner.


Fullscreen capture 03102014 165715


So, as you can see, we are ready for the weekend, when we are advised, temperatures will plummet.  Maybe it will be stove-lighting time?


New favourite place


The fun continues here with a day meeting up for coffee and lunch and of course, a gossip!




We decided to meet at somewhere new; a place which came highly recommended.




Quite a good place too, because we could pick up one or two good things to bring home whilst we were there.




A good place to remember when we’re looking for small gifts of all kinds too.




Was it a swanky new coffee shop? 

No, it was the new(ish) motorway services near Gloucester!!  A brilliant cafe and farm shop which just happens to be on the northbound M5.

Oh, and whilst there, we took a photo for our contribution to the #iamWI  project – google that tag and see if you can find us.  There are only a few thousand other pics there Winking smile


Loving Liverpool


Our feet haven’t touched the ground since we got back from Switzerland.  We’ve enjoyed a houseful of friends who have come and gone and had a number of fun and thoughtful conversations around tables at home and elsewhere.  We’ve welcomed more friends and put on our party clothes, staying out till the wee small hours celebrating our friend’s birthday and then piling into the car the following morning to make our way up the M5 and M6 to Liverpool.

Now we are home. Just the two of us. It seems awfully quiet.




We must learn to consult the tide tables before we go to Crosby next time, however.  Once again, the tide was right up when we arrived and all we could see of the figures was a head and shoulders in most cases.




Never mind, we walked further up the beach and saw what we needed to see before returning to the car without a cobweb left in our heads!  A good remedy for a late night previously, that’s for sure.




It was on the way back that we spotted this chap wearing a dress of some kind.  Hmm.




First stop in Liverpool was the Library.  Well, we did have our Los Angeles Public Library Docent with us and of course, it’s always interesting to get a professional view of these things.




The vast new atrium is spectacularly light and airy and was well populated even late on a Sunday afternoon.  Lucky Liverpudlians having such a resource available to them.




Good to see the old hasn’t been completely overlooked though.  The traditional, round library building remains and offers a rather more elegant and peaceful place to read or study.




We enjoyed a small exhibition of wartime ephemera including this ticket.  I am sure we’d have been there, given the chance!




Outside, on the street, we enjoyed a shortish walk around the city centre, appreciating the grand buildings, a quick look inside the Walker Art Gallery before it closed for the day and of course, did our best to explain to Mary and Diana just what we think makes Liverpool such a unique city.




The following morning, we were up with the larks and made our way to The Moose Cafe for breakfast.  Well, though the French Toast wasn’t quite up to our favourite Red Flame Diner standards, the artwork and friendly service made up for all of that and we were well set up for the day!




On such a beautiful morning, the city was looking at its best.  We tried to explain about the Liver Birds but didn’t know until later that those clock faces are the largest in Europe.




We watched the Mersey Ferry arrive and wandered around the Pierhead, discovering a wealth of interesting things to see – memorials to a variety of people, a huge urban landscape both new and old and of course, the inevitable people watching.  In our case, listening as well, because the authentic Liverpudlian accent just had to be heard!




As the ferry came in, of course, we sang.




We sang again in the little Karaoke booth in the Museum of Liverpool, this time at the tops of our voices, with full accompaniment and to the great amusement of other visitors peering through the windows.  The thought passed through my mind that the joke would have been on us had the booth had a secret camera with the footage being shown live in the museum entrance but hey, we were having FUN!




Needless to say, for every small corner or media clip that made us smile, there was another one which made us cry.   As an introduction to the city we couldn’t really have done any better than come here and the various displays and themed exhibitions left us all on an absolute high for the rest of the day.




We stepped briefly inside the Maritime Museum to take a peek at the International Slavery exhibit – look who we found here!  You might recall that we came across Frederick Douglass on several occasions during our road trip earlier this year and here he was yet again, remembered for the part he played in the Underground Railroad.




By now it was mid afternoon and a little footsore, the bright lights of Liverpool One beckoned.  Who could resist the attractions of a large John Lewis and a huge Waterstones bookshop nearby?  Not one of us.

It was weary footsteps then, that took us back to the hotel and which later influenced our choice of restaurant for dinner.  That we could see ASK from the window was all that was needed to convince us that eating Italian was an excellent idea!

And now we are home.  We took Diana to Manchester airport so she could catch her flight to Chicago and on to LA and then waved to her later as her plane took off over Knutsford services where we stopped for a late breakfast.  Mary collected a hire car from John Lennon Airport and is continuing her adventure (without us!) She’ll drive eastwards towards some of our favourite Yorkshire haunts before returning south later in the week.

Me?  I have a new earworm.  Well, of course, there was no question about what to watch on TV last night, was there?