Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stir up Sunday

Now is a good time to start preparations for the Christmas feast, while the rain slatters down on the windows and the spirits sink.  Now, and not at the end of August, which is still summer in my book, but was when the first items appeared in the shops here.

I made my cake some weeks ago and have opened it up to feed it dark rum.  Rum always featured heavily in West Cumbrian Christmases... rum custard, rum butter ... and rum to feed the cake. Long traditions going back to when Whitehaven was a major port. 

This, another of my sampler collection.  I found this square of white lawn with its haunting inscription in  a box at  a local boot fair here in Essex.  I paid all of thirty pence for it.  What can be made of the fact that the fine lettering of the verse is followed by a coarser hand for the name and date?  Was it finished by someone else to memorialise the death of the original stitcher?  Or was it undated and the date is there just to suggest age it doesn't have?  The tiny stitches of the verse certainly look authentically old.  I just love these fragmentary pieces with their unknown histories.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


A box of apples, Fiestas.  Some twenty years ago, we were given a fan-trained apple, a retirement gift  for which my father-in -law had no wall space.  We then established espalier pears and felt that cordons would complete the set - we have a very narrow garden with plenty of brick wall to cover.

What we did not grasp was that some apples are too vigorous for cordons and that, as the years pass, they will grow in their own way.  Thus, our neighbour reported that a good crop of Fiests was ripening on their side of our wall, from the top growth of our tree.  This week she brought round the last ones to fall, a surprising late bounty.

Another pair of navy mittens, this time in an acrylic/wool mix, bought in Wigton, where I had gone hoping to identify some of the places in Melvin Bragg's "A Son of War".  And a very depressed little place it is, especially in drizzle.  I cheered myself up with a trip to Caldbeck, lunch at the Priest's Mill and a tour of the Wool Clip shop. 
Last week, my birthday brought a bounty of a different kind.  My family like to find mail order suppliers of delicious things to send us.  We have had a parcel of venison before now, and one year my husband was in raptures over a hamper of baked goods delivered by the local WI Market.  Smoked fish from Loch Fyne is always welcome.  This year my sister sent a box of breakfast items from  We started in on the sausage and black pudding and have enjoyed bacon sandwiches through the week.  The porridge oats may be destined for flapjack..  But the most surprising thing was the insulation in the box, sent by next day delivery, not the post.  It is made of wool, looks like Herdwick,  scoured and processed into a flat layer and encased in food-grade plastic.  They suggest some further uses for this, such as seat pads.  We'll see.

Finally, a sampler from my small collection.  in this case, from Norway, the work of one Kari Svenkerad, part of a group I picked up by chance in a junkshop in Nysbyen some years ago.  Probably these are the evidence of a school curriculum preparing girls for a life of make do and mend, and not in a good way.  This one has such clean graphic lines it is like a piece of drawing, but they are different ways of darning cloth.  Whoever Kari was, she was a great needlewoman.