Friday, April 21, 2017


The weather on our recent trip to Cumbria was not of the best: overcast and chilly, although rarely actually raining.

However, we managed some of our favourite walks.  This one starts near to the chapel at Wythop and winds round the base of Sale Fell, past the old stones of the ruined Wythop chapel in the woodlands, a favourite place to stop for lunch.

The path rises steeply to begin with, but soon levels out.

Now that the forestry people have cleared some of the dense coverage, there are spectacular views over Bassenthwaite.

Another day we lunched at the Pheasant and then walked up through Dodd woods to try to catch a glimpse of the ospreys from the vantage point across the valley from the nest.  This was not to be, but we did see this little fellow.  He looks bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but a closer look reveals that he has a bad case of mange on his back.  Let's hope it is not itchy.

A couple of birdy pictures; birdsong was very much in evidence.

A stone-chat displaying in the coastal scrubland.

And a yellow-hammer, catching the low evening sun.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spring cruise

This Saturday, to London, to celebrate the thirtieth wedding anniversary of two of my oldest and dearest friends.

This took the form of an afternoon cruising on the Regents Canal, past moored barges and some seriously swanky gin palaces.

It was a bright, sunny April day.  Among the guests were a number of Australians, easy to spot because almost every one was wearing a woolly hat.  This was unexpected, but our friends explained that to the Australians it was actually winter.

At one point we traversed the zoo.  Here we have an enclosure of painted dogs, a species at risk of extinction in the wild.  We are fans of "The Secret Life of the Zoo", which featured a very small pack of these same dogs recently.  Watching them savage each other to establish a clear hierarchy of dominance even among the four of them was very instructive.

Meanwhile, on the barge, we caught up with long-lost friends, scanning each other's faces to recognise the familiar under the ravages of time.

The boat passed through Little Venice before turning and travelling to Camden Lock.  This involved passing through several dark and narrow tunnels.

On the way back, we were in one of these for some time, the barge making slower and slower progress.  Once out in the open, the steersman opened a hatch and used a boat-hook to prise layers of debris - bin-liners and discarded tights - off the propeller.  We made faster time after that.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Feathering the nest...

To Cumbria, for an early Easter break and a little further progress on the refurbishment of our front room.

It was a time of baby lambs, huge banks of gorse in bloom and lovely evening light before sunset.

We took with us a tiled hearth, constructed by my husband, and bought a small electric stove to stand on it.  We ordered carpet and waited for it to be fitted.  And we located a "new" gate-leg table to replace the frankly ancient one we inherited from my mother. 

This is a real find: a solid oak table with a lovely golden sheen to it.  We spotted it in the front window of an organisation run by Age UK called "Men in Sheds".  The notion of this is that they take in items for repair or updating, and it provides an activity for the older male.  I was amused to see a poster in the window advertising a "Women in Sheds" group, which is apparently well-attended.  West Cumbria has an unsophisticated line on gender diversity.

Our table has yet to be refinished - we did take some steel wool to a couple of minor cigarette burns on the surface, and there are some pale water marks.  But this was a bargain at £35.

Later, we made a trip to the Honister slate quarry, to pick over their spoil heap.  This has the notice "Fill ya boot - £20".  We were looking for some polished off-cuts for my husband to use in the fire surround he is planning for our front room.  We did not fill our boot, partly because some of these pieces must weigh a ton.

While there, I watched as a workman demonstrated riving slate with a chisel.

Notice how a crack has appeared.

And then the slate splits.

He was wearing steel toe-capped boots, probably wisely.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy Christmas

Last Christmas we were surprised to receive a voucher for an "Experience" from my elder sister and her family.  We normally enjoy a hamper of smoked fish and meats which they have sent us for many years.  So this "Experience" came out of the blue.

The Shard

We checked the weather forecast anxiously: we were booked to enjoy lunch on a Thames cruise followed by the View from the Shard.  High winds, or worse, fog, would have spoiled the day.

Tower of London

We travelled in to Tower Bridge, where we met my younger sister and her husband who had been given the same voucher.  It was overcast, but not worse than you might expect in March.

London Eye

We embarked on the lunch cruise, down the river past all the redeveloped warehouses and wharves, then back up through Tower Bridge and up-river as far as Westminster.

All the while we were being served a  really delicious lunch of chicken breast, dauphinoise potatoes and plenty of fresh vegetables.

Once off the boat, we had to decide whether to cross by Tower Bridge, or by the plainer London Bridge, which is the one we chose.  Then we were whisked up to floor 68 of the Shard and climbed the stair to the viewing platform on floor 69. 

It is a strangely moving experience to see the city laid out before you like this, its railway routes exposed.  Those curious pockets of historic buildings marooned among all the spanking new developments of the last twenty years.

We climbed three more flights to floor 72 which is open to the elements.  It was quite a windy day and up here it felt like being in a forest, a sensation enhanced by the astroturf underfoot and the fake evergreens along the inner walls.

Tower of London from the Shard

It was a memorable day out, and a great Christmas present.

Friday, March 10, 2017


I've finished this asymmetrical scarf in Drops alpaca. This is Nurmilintu.

It features alternate bands of garter stitch and a simple lace.

I'm very pleased with how blocking has straightened this out and opened up the lace.

Snowdrops in full bloom at Mark's Hall arboretum.

And a heron looking hopeful on the banks of one of the man-made lakes.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Works in progress

First daffodil, almost ready to bloom.
With the weather variable, I am still spending time on my indoor hobbies - the allotment must wait for now.

Around my living-room I seem to have accumulated a number of works in progress, some only at the development stage and others in active progress.  I like to be able to move from one type of handwork to another, not least to rest my thumbs.

So, actively on the needles, is this asymmetrical scarf in Drops Alpaca.  You knit a long tail and then begin bands of simple lace alternating with deep bands of garter stitch.  I'm not sure how big it was meant to be - the designer seems to have just knit until one skein was used up.

At a much earlier stage is Lindisfarne by Lucy Hague.  This is also knitting, but pretty far removed from those garter bands.  The design hinges on 1-7 increases from which all the Celtic cables grow, but also includes some other tricky manoeuvres on dpns.  I won't be knitting an entire throw, but wanted to see how the technique worked.  There is an even more challenging square which I would like to try.

In the bag are two partially worked fingerless mitts in crochet.  I'm basically using up tiny ends of yarn on these, but also trying to develop some new skills, as my crochet is at beginner level.

Finishing the Celtic needlework bag spurred me on to consider some more pieces.  Someone at my knitting group, who likes to make small items for her grand-daughters, commented that my bag looked more like jewellery and that she could see herself making neck-purses.  Well, I just happen to have some small scraps of canvas handy, and I like a challenge...  This is another design from Co Spinhoven's "Charted Celtic Designs."  Then , how about wrist-bands, or cuffs, from the narrow strips?

The last one in plain sight in my living-room looks less promising.  These are scraps of fabric hand-woven by me in two different combinations: plain purple and purple warp with a variegated weft.  I'm thinking that these oddments might be sufficient to construct a small bag on similar lines to the one I have just finished, with the calico lining providing some stability to the hand-woven outer.  This one might just be tidied away instead.   And soon it will be spring...

Friday, February 24, 2017

Finished item

Remember this?

Late last year I began making a little tapestry panel, with a view to replacing my everyday bag.

Some years ago, I paid about seven pounds for this little bag at a craft centre in Maldon.  It had no label but was almost certainly put together in the Far East, perhaps repurposing a piece of existing embroidery.  I remember thinking that it was a lot to pay for an impulse buy, and that I might never actually use it.  In fact, it has been a constant companion, not least because it is made of fabric and tucks very comfortably under my arm, which many small bags won't do.

For the panel, I used a chart from Co Spinhoven's  "Charted Celtic Designs", a wonderful resource.  I had the canvas and the crewel yarn from previous charity shop purchases, although I had to top up the threads when I ran out of some crucial colours.

But then the panel was complete, so assembly of the finished item could begin.  So, two six-inch zips were needed.  I just happened to have some brown poplin fabric and some calico for the lining, but I needed dark brown cord.  By now I have spent way beyond the seven pounds of the original, even though I have many of the items in store already.

I imagine the original was part of a batch for export, and speed would have been of the essence.  Perhaps the maker sat at a sewing machine all day knocking out bag after bag.  Even so I take my hat off to her.  The accuracy of the stitching is admirable.  I examined my bag very carefully to reverse engineer the construction - it has a separate, lined section for credit cards.  Slowly I worked out the sequence needed.

With Storm Doris blowing over, I could put off the construction no longer.  Several hours of pinning, tacking and trimming later, I end up with this finished item. 

I'm very happy with it.  The dark brown poplin may seem like an odd choice, but it is lined throughout so it should be quite hard-wearing.  And it is almost up to the standard of the original.