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!










with the Textile Treasures


I’ve had the date in my diary for ages.  It took a bit of effort to pin eight busy women down and find a time when we could all get together but somehow, Pat sorted us all out, booked the hotel and made the arrangements for our shindig.  We met last evening and shared the news over dinner, so that today we could focus on the task in hand and not spend the day gossiping!




First step, make three rings from three pieces of willow.  Actually, those pieces are called “rods” or “whips” and I ought to have acquired the correct terminology, because we were working with our friend and colleague Norah, who is an expert in such things.  We were at the Ardington School of Crafts, owned and run by another friend and colleague, so felt very much at home the whole time we were there.




One thing we loved was how well everything in the school had been thought through, even down to the shelves under the table for stashing bags and stuff.




We were all absolute beginners and didn’t expect to achieve a great deal, but as the morning wore on, we became more confident in selecting the right kind of willow and using the bodkin to create a space through which to push the rods.  Norah was on hand though, to reassure and to explain.  We couldn’t really go wrong!




Her help was definitely needed at this next stage because it was going to be crucial to the successful outcome of the project. The angle of those two rings was going to form the characteristic shape.  Can you see what it is yet?




I’d never really seen a chicken as a “U” shape before, but tying the two ends together and bringing up that front piece at the right angle created the neck and the tail and immediately, i could see where we were going with this.




In the meantime, on the other side of the room, a couple of piglets were taking shape!




By lunchtime, we’d filled in the framework of our hens and our piglets with “scribbling”, or weaving thin rods of willow in and out at random, creating a solid shape and hopefully, building a structure which will withstand the weather.  We left our masterpieces in the workshop and went for a sit down and a yummy sandwich lunch, but all the time, couldn’t wait to return to our work.




Further 1:1 tuition needed, for creating beaks and trotters.




Do they have to be the same size?




There were other appendages to create, too.




During the next couple of hours, we created colourful tail feathers, wrapped a few rods of thin willow to create a head and placed a piece carefully, to create an eye.  Fixing the legs securely wasn’t easy; balancing the body  with that heavy tail was impossible, but somehow we persuaded our creations to stand against the wall and considered Norah’s suggestion of placing a heavy stone inside once we were home.  We stood back and admired our handiwork before setting our creations free in the garden.




Five fat hens and two piglets posed on the gravel for their moment of fame!


Easter Sunday




After a few gloriously sunny Spring days here, sad to say it’s rather chilly and overcast, but at least we can bring a little sunshine inside!  Bettine’s coming for lunch today and so the three of us will sit down to a traditional Easter Sunday lunch.




Being in London last week means that we have a few superior Easter eggs to enjoy.




But of course, we simply can’t resist the old favourites too.


Happy Easter!


Over the border today




I’m feeling a bit like a pinball, bouncing around from one side of the country to another but simply can’t resist it when an invitation arrives, offering me a chance of a day spent amongst like minded friends.  So, this morning, as the gas fitter Alex drove from Newport to complete the fitting of our new boiler, I did a kind of exchange visit and spent the day there, judging the staging and interpretation of Gwent Federation’s entries for the Royal Welsh Rose Bowl competition. 

Now, I’m looking forward to a few quieter days at home!


A spot of shopping




First thing Sunday morning, we were off.  My hero had a little garage clearance to do, in preparation for the arrival of a new central heating boiler first thing Monday morning.  I had an altogether different assignation, however and caught the 0930 from Colchester to Liverpool Street, so we said our fond farewells at the station.




I have never seen London so full of people!  A sunny Sunday before Easter, with the London Marathon attracting a number of visitors as well, the train was absolutely stuffed and though I had boarded the train early enough to have a seat, by the time we reached Chelmsford, I was hemmed right into my corner with handbag, rucksack and all – hardly room to breathe.  There was a collective sigh when a good number of folks got out at Stratford, where the Olympic stadium and the red Orbit tower looked pretty interesting, too.




I took my bags to my hotel at Paddington and then went back into town to one or two of my usual haunts:  this one was a priority, but this and this took me a little further and whilst up at that end, I made my way across to here.  Their green wall looked wonderful in the sunshine, too – what an eye catcher!


City wembley


All the time, I was keeping an eye on my phone, because somewhere, in that crowd at Wembley were my cousins, there to cheer on Hull City in the FA Cup semi final.  A Facebook update from Chris brought a tear to my eye; just like me, she’d been thinking of my Mum, my Aunt and my Uncle, all long time City fans who simply would never have believed that they’d be here, playing in the Cup.  Later, walking along Marylebone Road on my way to meet Mary, Edward and Amy for dinner at Orrery, I passed a bunch of fans and we shared a “yesss!” – what an afternoon they’d had.




Of course, I wasn’t there for the football, nor for the marathon.  I wasn’t even there for the World Irish Dancing Championships, though the little pony-tailed girls with fake tanned legs (which didn’t match their pale white faces, bless them) brought a smile to everyone waiting at the bus stop, because clearly, they just couldn’t stop dancing!  I needed a fortifying breakfast though, because I was here for some serious shopping.  Pat and I were going to share the fun with Jane, who was looking for a few key pieces for her wardrobe.




No, white jeans didn’t feature, but we had a great time pulling out jackets and dresses, searching for the elusive red cardigan and giving as expert advice as we could about accessorising and so on.




The pity is, we found the perfect jacket almost as soon as we began.  Very much “on trend” with the biker styling and semi fitted shape, it seemed an ideal startling point on which to build a capsule wardrobe. (See, in less than five minutes, Pat and I had become expert personal shoppers, with all the lingo, too)  But…(you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) as we took it to the tills, we discovered a large gaping seam at the back. The fabric was of such loose weave that the seam hadn’t held up through (I assume) repeated tryings on.  Returning to the rack of jackets to find another one, we discovered that every jacket on the stand had the same problem and one of them had a hole large enough to put a hand through.  No way was that going to be a good purchase, however stylish.  We moved right along and though we didn’t find anything quite as edgy and spirited, we made sure Jane didn’t go home with nothing to wear!




Shopping is exhausting though, and when three like minded women are together, of course there are other distractions.  This simple but effective installation in Anthropologie (of course) caught our eye, even though by that time, we were flagging a little.

As we went our separate ways in the late afternoon, we agreed to do it again – as soon as the trend for orange has passed, though I think that will continue at least until Hull City win the FA Cup, don’t you?


Where next?




Anyway, Thursday in Ledbury, Friday in Southend. Well, of course!

Actually, I had a little work to do just outside Chelmsford on Friday, so we chose to spend the weekend exploring a part of the country with which neither of us is at all familiar. Undecided about our plans until the very last minute, it seemed a good idea to begin with fish and chips on the seafront at Southend.




Or would “estuary-front” be more accurate? Regardless of that, a few hardy souls were there on the beach with their families, making the most of the intermittent sunshine.




Anyway, having completed my responsibilities and enjoyed a short and breezy walk along the prom, the world was our oyster as we made our way along the coast towards our bed for the night in Wivenhoe, just outside Colchester.




We’d had a difficult time finding somewhere to stay around here and hoped for somewhere just a little special, because Saturday was our 34th wedding anniversary. My hero booked a couple of nights at the Wivenhoe House which was fine – though I’d have swapped a few of those cushions for a couple of larger, softer pillows!




On Saturday morning we set out to explore the coast, starting at Brightlingsea.  Though the name was familiar, neither of us knew anything about this historical port and it required a quick google on a phone to answer one or two of our questions.




There weren’t many folks around on this breezy Saturday morning though and having jumped out of the car and decided not to invest in a couple of hours parking, we moved right along, towards Clacton.




Here, a collection of brand new pastel painted beach huts stood on the empty seafront and a couple of workmen were putting the finishing touches to a few more, a little further along the prom. 




I spent a while wondering what a teddy boy was doing promoting a Wartime Singalong before realising that it was simply because the newer poster didn’t quite cover the one underneath it.  Looking at the placement however, I wonder if it was deliberate?




It’s all fun in Clacton, though.




In contrast, nearby Frinton was somewhat more subdued.  I only knew of Frinton from reading articles like this one so was expecting a rather more genteel town than its neighbours. 




It does have a lovely open, grassy parkland overlooking the sea, totally uncluttered and devoid of all the usual seaside paraphernalia, though, and a rather good bookshop too.  We admired the work of Nigel Pepper who captures this coastline beautifully in his photographs which were displayed in the gallery there.




Feeling a bit peckish now, we made our way from the coast and drove towards Dedham.  We remembered, we’d been here before but in the late afternoon, on our way back from somewhere else.  This time, we intended to take a closer look.  First, though, tea and sandwiches (yummy!) in the Essex Rose Tearoom which was buzzing.




Next to catch our eye was Sherman’s Hall,  where the graffiti on those brickwork pillars was worth a closer look.




It reminded me of the scratched and carved initials in the chapel pews of Edward’s old Cambridge college, Peterhouse – leaving one’s mark behind is an age old habit.




Anyway, we had one last visit on our agenda – Castle House, the home of Alfred Munnings and now a gallery of his collected works.  Arriving just as it opened, we had the place almost to ourselves, save for a few enthusiastic (and rather distracting) volunteer guides.  I’d come across Munnings when I read Summer in February last year and though I wasn’t impressed with the man, his attitude and opinions, I was interested to see his work close up.  We weren’t disappointed, either and particularly enjoyed seeing his paintings of warm, summer days spent in hammocks, canoes or around the garden table with friends in the sunshine.




By this time, it was late afternoon and we were ready to return to Wivenhoe and settle down with the papers for an hour or two before dinner.  We reflected on that day 34 years ago, when my class of 8 year old girls all came to throw confetti and see Miss Boyd marry her fiancé.  Of course, they’ll all be in their 40s now, which is so very strange, since even after all these years, we haven’t changed a bit.

Well, not that much!