Monday, 31 August 2009

Hedgerow Harvest

Mellow fruitfulness

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Zipped pouch

I entertained myself yesterday (after morning coffee by the lake with two lovely friends - well, not that lovely, they wouldn't have cake, so I couldn't either) making a zipped pouch. My earlier attempts had been a bit rushed and I wasn't entirely pleased with them, although I use them as catch-alls in my handbags. This time I got the zipper foot on properly, had the laptop with instructions at my elbow and (I'll have to watch this tendency, it's becoming a habit) followed them to the letter. Strangely, this resulted in a fair amount of success!
I rifled through all my bits-and-bobs till I found what seemed to be pleasing together, very much like a small quilt I made recently, but less fiddle-faddle on it so that it's a bit more practical. Added a few compulsory french knots and a button or two, chopped up a thrifted zip to get it about the right length and decided on a ticking lining.

Et voila! Well, maybe not quite so voila as all that, it took a while, a bit of "grrr" and a modest amount of unpicking, but it's my best effort so far. 'Ain't no stoppin' me nooow!'
Have a lovely weekend, whatever you're doing!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


I'm having one of those tidying up sessions where everything is temporarily (I hope!) more of a mess than when I started. Part of the thinking was to blitz through two filing cabinets in my workroom, to make more space to put things away. Some hope. Anyway, as I flicked through the memorabilia in one drawer and rejected the idea of throwing away my Singapore Schools Athletics Programme (1963) and a collection of Stockholm tourist guides (1969) I came across a rumpled black plastic bag. The faded gold logo on the front gave the game away, but I had forgotten what was inside. Turned out it was several more black plastic carrier bags of varying sizes, an empty baked bean tin, a small box of matches and an unused address book.

If you are of a certain vintage (ahem) you will remember Biba and even if you couldn't visit the shop, you may have had a mail-order catalogue or had the rather fey poster up on your bedroom wall. I think I was only in the Kensington shop a couple of times, perhaps 1970ish, but it made a big impression. Dark, Hollywood decor, clothes hanging on bentwood coat stands, huge plumes of feathers, gold, mulberry, plum colours everywhere. I distinctly remember feeling that I was completely out of my depth and very self-conscious in such glamorous surroundings. No doubt that's why my purchases seem to have extended only to baked beans and matches!

Barbara Hulanicki, the founder of the shop, had some really innovative trading ideas, but, sadly, her business acumen was wanting and Biba had to turn to financial backers to continue - the iconic Biba brand was rather lost in the process. But at the time it clearly made a deep impression on me and I must have realised it was something big, new and special enough to squirrel-away my own souvenirs of the experience. Anyone else got memories of Biba?

Sunday, 23 August 2009

One Minute to Mayhem

No, I'm not referring to cricket celebrations! But I must say I shall really miss the Test match coverage - TestMatchSpecial on the wireless must be The Best Entertainment in The Whole Wide World! My dear husband even bought me a great big black Slazenger cricket scorebook, so that I could follow the matches and keep my own scores. How great is that? Dot balls, wicket maidens and leg byes all neatly recorded in my own book! Woohoo!

No, the mayhem to which I refer is the unexpected and unwarranted intrusion on a genteel cream tea, being taken under sunny English skies in our orchard at the bottom of the garden. Vintage cloth was laid, lovely old family china found in the back of the cupboard, silver spoons polished up and home-made scones piled on lace doily.

So, cricket commentary playing gently in the background, tea was poured, plate piled high with scone and clotted cream when ...... flutterfluttercrashtinkleclatter Hilda Hen appeared from nowhere and landed in the jam. I'm sorry, dear reader, I can't go on but ...

this is by no means her only misdemeanour, so it's a bloomin' good job she laid her first egg yesterday ....

Thursday, 20 August 2009

A Scottish Childhood, c1930

"The March Burn's valley floor is wide and flat and cattle grazed in the meadows each side of the stream. Its sides were clothed with woods, mostly of beech and oak. Interspersed with these large hardwoods were plantations of spruce, larch, birch and Scotch fir most of which had been planted in the period immediately following World War 1. Throughout its length and breadth there was an abundance of wild life. There were rabbits everywhere, living in warrens wherever the soil was light and sandy. Red squirrels fed on the plentiful beech mast and acorns. Foxes, weasels, stoats and wild cats hunted their prey through the bracken and rose-bay willow herb which clothed the sides of the valley with colours of tender green and flaming red in summer and died away to a russet-brown in autumn.

In one of the Scotch fir plantations there was a rookery where thousands of birds squawked and squabbled over choosing the best nest sites at the tops of the tall trees. Rooks are cheeky birds and in spring, at nesting time, to enhance their own nests they will steal branches and twigs from a neighbour whose attention has momentarily been distracted. The reaction of the victim of this crime accounted in part for the strident, cawing cacophony that echoed through the woods.

In autumn and winter every morning as soon as it was daylight they would set off in a seemingly endless trail, strung out like racehorses at the end of a long steeplechase with the stragglers and late-risers trying hopelessly to catch up with the leaders. They were off on a foray, searching for food in local farmers’ stubble fields. There they would spend the whole day strutting around with their hands behind their backs leisurely feeding on grubs and worms and insects and gleaning, like Ruth and her mother-in-law, grain left over from the harvest. In the frosty air of late afternoon they would form up in the same endless stream and return to the rookery where they would circle clockwise in a massive flock. Round and round they would go like currants in a huge Christmas pudding being stirred by a wooden spoon. Their chatter was incessant and in the gloaming of a still autumn evening could be heard for long distances. I’m sure they were discussing with their neighbours the rumours and the gossip of the day. When the light began to fade, gradually they would settle down for the night and the raucous noise would slowly decrease and die away until all was silence.

There were plump wood pigeons in the beech trees cooing to each other with their unmistakable rhythm. Coo Coooo Coo-coo, Coo Coooo Coo-Coo. Interminably. When disturbed they took off in a great flurry making a sound like loud applause from an enthusiastic concert-goer until they had gained flying speed and were safely airborne. Sparrow and kestrel hawks patrolled overhead and circled in the convection currents. They found rich pickings of field mice and voles, young rabbits and small birds in the dead grass and among the ferns by day. Owls patrolled the same feeding grounds by night. Plovers performed their lively aerobatics over the marshy ground and curlews joined them wading in the shallow water to share the worms, grubs and other tasty morsels. The lingering, haunting, trilling cry of the curlew or whaup could be heard the length of the valley all summer long. There were white-breasted dippers in the burn genuflecting as they searched for choice morsels beneath the surface of the water and wagtails bobbing on the protruding stones while they fed on larvae and grubs. Starlings came by the flockload and house sparrows twittered on Auchenglen’s roof guttering. When they graced us with their presence during late Spring and the Summer months swallows swooped and soared with streamlined precision in search of airborne insects to feed their young tucked safely away in mud nests up in the eaves. As the light began to fade in the autumn evenings, pipistrel bats fluttered between the buildings as they hoovered up the midges, moths and flies that should have gone to bed sooner. Cock pheasants and partridges, woodcock and snipe could be heard calling to their mates and staking out their territory in the woods and on the moorland above the valley sides. In the still of the night foxes could be heard barking and owls communicating in a series of short and long hoots. As a special treat, if one were really, really lucky, occasionally, just occasionally, one might see a small family of roe deer crossing from one side of the valley to the other."

Just a small extract of a childhood memory, written by my father (now 84) of the natural world around him in the small Scottish valley where he grew up. I thought you might like to share it.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Kusudama flowers

One of my favourite blogs to visit is TDoesWool. I'm no kind of knitter, but the photographs are always subtle and delightful, the posts generous and thought-provoking and my lack of knitting prowess is no handicap to enjoying it. A recent post was about kusudama flowers, linking back to another lovely blog, twoandsix, where there are yet more links to sites which offer the instructions for making these little paper flowers from book pages.

Despite the fact that I am generally fairly impatient, I did obey the instructions to wait until the glue was dry (sigh) on each 'petal' and was glad. I made a couple of flowers from some lovely soft old faded paper from a wrecked French novel that I've had for years (tried to read it - lost patience). Another one is a page from the Daily Express Community Song Book of 1926 - the songs are mostly so xenophobic and un-pc that they shouldn't really see the light of day! While the glue was drying (more sighing) I made some stalks for them out of rusty wire, twisted here-and-there to look like tendrils.

If you've got ten minutes to fill, I'm sure you would really enjoy making one of these little flowers - you might want to try using more colourful paper than I did and have a vase-full of blowsy blooms on your work table. Oh go on, have a go!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Lavender-Limbs Kitty

Well, I eventually went back to finish off Kitty after the monotony of turning her skinny arms and legs inside out and stuffing them with lavender buds.
As you can see, she's off on a picnic.And she's remembered her pocket handkerchief ...

She can hang from a hook, so if you pinch her knees as you go by you are followed by a wonderful lavender aroma.

Next one's going to have really chubby arms and legs, let me tell you!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Merry Wives

Oh I've been looking forward to this for ages! Tonight we're going with some friends to one of the productions in the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival - The Merry Wives of Windsor. The festival lasts for a few weeks and the plays are all performed in the university's college gardens. Merry Wives will be in the Fellows' Garden at King's College, usually out-of-bounds to the hoi-polloi! I just love a bit of outdoor Shakespeare, there's something even more magical about the story unfolding as the evening falls.

Though now I think about it, there was the occasion, a July night, when things weren't quite so idyllic. We went to see A Midsummer Night's Dream in our local park - little fairy creatures were lolling in the branches of lantern-lit trees, scattering us with petals as we strolled towards the amphitheatre, full of anticipation and excitement for the evening ahead.
Unfortunately the wind suddenly got up. Just as Oberon was transporting us with,

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine
There sleeps Titania .....
I let out a blood-curdling Lady Macbeth-type scream as the No Smoking sign flew through the air and struck me a fierce blow on the head.

Don't worry, I've checked the weather forecast - the omens are good for a calm evening.

What are you doing this weekend? Enjoy yourselves, whatever it is!

Friday, 7 August 2009

down the garden

Great to be able to walk down the garden this morning without sou'wester and galoshes.

The (torrential) rain yesterday has left everything a bit drippy and puddles have gathered in anything up-turned.

Leaves are shiny.

Not all the strawberries made it back down the garden path .....

Sweetcorn - one day.

Fannie hunting for worms.

Purple-podded beans.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

I felted a mouse

Before you all complain about my grammar, I have felted a mouse! Needle-felted, in fact. I think his nose needs to be a bit more pointy and maybe have a little pink tip on it - we'll see. I was stabbing away at this little critter in bed last night, which is not the ideal place to have long sharp needles, is it? He's not the main event, however, just a little accessory for a more major 'oeuvre' - lavender cat.

That's one of those projects that you begin to wish you'd never started. I wanted long skinny legs on her. I make Christmas angels with the same kind of limbs, in calico, shove a bit of dowel up inside the tube and, whoosh, everything's right way round. This kitty is made from vintage Irish linen, rescued from antimacassars, and the legs and arms were a divvil to turn the right way round. Dowel, knitting needles, nothing doing, so it was millimetre by millimetre with the tweezers. But the patience required for that was nothing compared with what was needed when it came to stuffing them with lavender buds. Who's idea was that, anyway!! So, for the moment, kitty is lolling on my steam-powered Singer until my patience tanks are refilled. Whatever - she smells great!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Carpe diem

The rain is thrashing against the windows, the wind is blowing, the sky is leaden grey - it must be August in UK. So I'm putting up some photos of last month's roses, just to cheer us all up and as a reminder that we did have some warmth and blue skies. I do hope we see some more sunshine before the summer is out.
The calendar is filling up with weekend activities and commitments going into September and October and I'm busy making things for Christmas, so the year seems to be whizzing by.

So, whatever the weather, let's make the most of every day.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

jumping for joy!

Hope you have a joyful weekend!