Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Loft clearance

My husband and I are hoarders.  What's more, we both come from generations of hoarders.  Saving every paper bag and piece of string that enters the house?  Entire larders full of empty jam jars?  Cutting buttons off worn-out shirts?  Storing ancient woollen clothes with the idea that you could make a mat?  We have both been there.

So when we decided that this was the time to tackle the loft, on the grounds that advancing age and back trouble may soon overtake our ability to manhandle boxes down a ladder, it was always going to be hard.

When we moved here over twenty years ago we were merging two houses, so some boxes went straight into store and have bided their time undisturbed. Tidying rooms in the main house had often led to an additional box going up into store.  Teaching,  in the days before computers, generated huge quantities of worksheets.  Similarly, at one time people wrote letters, often over periods of years.  And there were boxes from both my mother's and my aunt's house clearances.

Our previous system had been to rely on the cardboard box and the black bin-liner.  Over these went a sheet of heavy duty plastic and on to this sifted down the dust of ages from the rafters.  All this made the job an endurance test physically, as we tried to sift out what, if anything, was to be kept.
All the worksheets could go; likewise the documentation from the 80s on innovative training schemes, no question.  But the correspondence?  Just to open any of those letters was to be taken back to an earlier time, more pungently than those curious photographs where the men all have hair and lots of it.  Thirty years, forty, fell away.  So they remain in store.

One of my mother's collections was of knitting patterns.  The earliest, this example from "Farm, Field and Fireside", dated 1914.  My goodness, eyesight must have been better in those days: the print is tiny.  The format is a curious one; queries posted one issue are picked up and answered in the next,  So, we have Stockings for soldiers.

Recently a colleague brought in her five-week old baby to visit, dressed in denim jeans and a brown smock top, virtually identical to the outfit that she was wearing herself.  Once, toddlers wore special outfits.
Teenagers were well catered for with "gay" accessories and sporting outfits.

Age appropriate clothing went on throughout life; people knew who they were in those days, although the model probably isn't much over forty.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Heat waves

It certainly is hot here today.  The weathermen keep referencing 2006, of which I have no recollection at all.  1976, however, was memorable for a number of reasons.  We visited Blenheim Palace and the water in the lakes was so low that fish were dying.  Everywhere was parched and yellow.

In 2003, the weather was scorching just at this time.  Sadly, a colleague with a long-term health issue went home for the holidays and died overnight - on the first night of the school holidays. She was someone who really enjoyed life and it seemed a terrible irony that she worked to the last day, but did not get even oneday of holiday.

 We all gathered for her funeral on a very hot day, so hot that someone wore a strapless black dress to the ceremony.  I had already gone north and made a special trip back south for the funeral.  We had booked a cottage in the Duddon valley and we spent the day after my return sitting on the banks of the Duddon with our feet in the water, reading the Sunday papers.  The number of days in a lifetime when it would be possible to do that is very small, so we will always remember it.

It was also in 2003 that I bought two whole packs of Rowan yarn in Oxfam, with the Rowan magazine: Kidsilk Haze in burnt orange and Cork in a pale grey.  Someone must have made an expensive mistake.  I have been waiting for the right project for the Cork these ten years.

In this hot weather, I have been knitting a cabled strip for a new throw.  The narrow width means that it is easily portable and does not add to the heat of the knitter.  With one strip complete I have begun this spindle shape, using the grey Cork.  I am trying for a more random effect, using neutral tones, but not trying to balance all the patterns.  This goes against the grain, but I am trying to convince myself that random is good.


Friday, July 05, 2013

Fields of Gold 2

While away, I had plenty of time to knit on my Star Leaves shawl.  Non-lace-knitters were impressed by my ability to chat while knitting row after row of apparently complex lace.  Of course, most of the pattern rows consisted of two or three simple elements repeated many times, with the stitches already on the needle making it clear what was to happen next, with no need for the chart.  It was a different story when I started the first rows of this shawl, but the final rows were simply long.

Once off the needles, the shawl still looked less than impressive.

However, a little bath and some gentle blocking produced this.

Here it is being worn by the sofa in our livingroom.

And a truer representation of the lovely colours.

I bought this at Easter from the Wool Clip at Caldbeck.  It is a blend of silk and Bluefaced Leicester.  When I saw the skein, I just had to have it, although I usually choose blues and purples.   For under twenty pounds, this was a very satisfying knit and produced a lovely shawl.

In Cumbria, we tackled a walk we have been looking at for some time: up the ridge including Ladyside Pike and along the top of Hopegill Head.  A long steady climb brought the summit into view.  We sat and ate our sandwiches.  There did appear to be a path at the base of the cliff that gave access to Hopegill Head, but how did it cross the face?  Wainwright described it as "excellent", so we gave it a go.  As we scrambled up near-vertical slabs of rock, we wondered what his version of "terrifying" would be.  However, hearts pounding, we managed it.  We did notice that most of the other walkers were using different routes along the top.

Views of Ladyside Pike with Hopegill Head behind.  Note the steep cliffs to the left of Hopegill.
View back down from Ladyside Pike.

View from the ridge path just below Whiteside.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Fields of Gold

We have been away.  First a week in my ancestral valley: Kentmere, which was once in Westmorland and is now Cumbria.  My great great grandparents farmed at Kentmere Hall, presumably as tenants, and are buried in the churchyard in the valley.  Our walks took us past the farmstead with its distinctive peel tower, now a ruin.

All through the valley, buttercups sprinkled the hay-meadows with gold.  Our romantic theories on the reasons for this were scotched by my older sister, a farmer herself, who confirmed that it was the year of the buttercup, which prefers land without nitrates.   Heavy rains last year will have washed these out of the soil.


We were with a walking party, several of them much fitter than we are.  We stayed at this wonderful property, Pout Howe, from which the views of the high tops which make up the Kentmere Round were astounding. 

This quaint set of outbuildings was once the earth closet and wash house for the property. 

We chose to walk only half of the famous round, since we had covered the Ill Bell section last summer, from Troutbeck.  So we ascended to Kentmere Pike and then came down the Nan Bield Pass.  This was a walk involving some rock scrambling and certainly offered dramatic views of Haweswater and Small Water, the tarn.  We were surprised to see a woman walking the top section wearing open-toed sandals, and another carrying a lapdog in a papoose.