Friday, February 21, 2014


It being half-term, we had planned a little trip to our cottage in Cumbria, but it was not to be.  We watched as the news featured overturned high-sided vehicles being towed off  the stretch of road we would have to use.  We regrouped, deciding instead to have an extra day in Stratford, then return home. As luck would have it, the weather then took a turn for the better, at least where we were.

We had a wonderful day at Compton Verney, newly reopened after the winter closure.  All across the  lawns, sculpture by Henry Moore and Rodin was on display.  We were told that a falling tree branch had narrowly missed a "Seated Figure", which had had to be moved.

This gallery makes you think.  All those years my mother filled in her football pools, and posted them off, presumably with a postal order.  She showed no interest in other forms of gambling, not even the Grand National, but the pools were a weekly ritual.  What would she have made of Compton Verney, founded by one of the Moores family, presumably with money from those postal orders?  Would she have thought it money well spent?  It's certainly a very civilised place to have lunch.

We usually stay in a very homely Bed and Breakfast, but we thought we would have supper in the very nice Alveston Manor Hotel, at the end of the same road.  I found myself rendered speechless, or as my husband said, sounding like Alan Bennett's mother, by the menu item: Pot of tea for two people: £8.00.  Surely that's not just me?

I plod on with my Celtic throw.  These are strips six and seven, out of nine to do.  How did I reverse the spiral?  Well, it is a charted design, printed on white paper.  If you hold it up to the light, the pattern for the reverse spiral is revealed.  These two will not be side by side in the finished item, so the different dye lot will not matter.

On Tuesday, we were off again, this time to Norwich, to the Sainsbury Centre.  We remembered visiting the gallery many years ago when my husband was doing some teaching at UEA.  This time we caught the end of an exhibition of Masterpieces of East Anglian art.  My goodness, what a broad range of items had been recruited under this heading: a Roman head of Claudius, photographs of Norfolk fishermen, objects by Faberge, the designs for UEA itself....  hmmm. 

But Norwich itself never fails - so many interesting doorways... and tea in the Cathedral Refectory: Pot of tea for two: £1.75.


Saturday, February 08, 2014

The River Wild...

Here in Essex the terrain is fairly flat, but we are also some distance from an actual coast.  Water meadows, however, are a landscape feature here; our village has a willow plantation along the banks of the river.  Famous name cricket bats were made, probably still are, from that willow.

So we should not have been surprised to see the river burst its banks this morning.  We've seen it much higher than this.  One half-term I parked my car in its usual place down the road, just opposite a sign for Lakes Meadow, before going north to visit my mother.  My husband, in our house some few hundred yards away, and several feet higher, saw my car on the local news bulletin.  The flood water had risen and filled the footwells on the car.  Strangely, it started first time and dried out eventually, although there was an awfully swampy smell in there for some time.

 In the middle distance, swans taking a break on the river-bank.

This strange little item is made of a linen yarn bought from the Sudbury silk mill on a cone, so probably a weaving yarn.  Even used double it is very light and has no give.  I'm using it to make a pouch for my MP3 player, which I use to create my own little zone at the gym.  Those who know me in person would be surprised how well I have taken to regular gym visits this year.

 On my first visit I was astonished to see a former colleague on her way out, and even more  to see her name on the chart for the top performers of the previous month in our age-group.  Nothing like a bit of competition to spur one on.  Last month, there I was, in the top five.  But I do find it awfully beneficial, not only in keeping my joints going, but also in inducing a state of calm, so that the rest of the day can be enjoyed.


 Finally, the latest strip for my  cream Celtic Throw.  This attempts to emulate the spirals which appear in Celtic cross carvings.  It's not my invention; I simply looked up Celtic Cable on Ravelry. 

Alongside is the dear little pincushion and pins given to me by one of my great-nieces, who has begun to fall under the spell of the haberdashery store.  In my attic, I have the hand sewing machine used by my own grandmother to earn her living as a travelling dressmaker.  She would strap the machine in its case on the carrier on the back of her bicycle, and off she would go.  This would have been before the First World War.  She was beyond sewing when I knew her, but after she died, my father bought this machine for me from the auction of her effects.
Now, should I give this machine to my great niece, that would be her great-great grandmother's sewing-machine.  Strange to think of it like this.