Category Archives: Outdoors

So That Was Mine. How Was Yours?

So that’s over for another year.

And look! I’m just a few stitches off completing both sleeves of Glitter Glam. Then there’s just the collar and the assembly to do.

Anyway, Christmas happened. A rotund and elderly chap dressed in red broke into our house via the chimney. But instead of stealing stuff, he left little chocolatey gifts around the place, hidden inside old socks. All normal rules of not-accepting-sweets-from-strangers were off as the twinnage tore the foil wrapping from approximately one billion chocolate coins. Then they left the foil pieces all over the floor so there was a festive jangling noise as anyone walked around.

By order of the twinnage, I wasn’t allowed to light the fire on Christmas Eve, in case it burned Santa’s bottom.

The boys recited carols in their sweet six-year-old voices, but only when they thought that nobody was listening. I’m treasuring the memory, because soon enough they’ll be disaffected teenagers rapping about how ghastly everything is. Except I don’t think the word ghastly features very much in rap songs. Anyway, it’s important to sing traditional family carols such as – just off the top of my head – Once In Royal David’s City:-

Once in royal David’s city

When the Wi-Fi went all wrong,

Folk were forced to gather round and

Join together for this song.

Phones and iPads set aside;

Kids, their parents did abide.

I could continue. Believe me, I really could continue. But anyway.

It was frosty, too.

As is traditional, the Stoic Spouse cooked so much Christmas fare that I’m beginning to suspect him of trying to murder us slowly by hardening our arteries. It would be the perfect crime. Nice nosh, though.

Ridgeway Oxfordshire

We walked a small stretch of the Ridgeway, the ancient routeway that cuts through the Oxfordshire landscape.

And then it was Boxing Day, and some sociopath posted an ‘Only 364 days until Christmas’ meme on Facebook.

T’was rather pretty, out and about.

We went to watch the mummers in the centre of a nearby market town. I use the word ‘see’ loosely because there were about a squillion tall people in front of us. Here’s a photo I took by climbing up a bus shelter:-

mummers wantage

Mummers

In case you’re not familiar with this very British, been-around-since-the-eighteenth-century tradition (mumming, I mean, not climbing bus shelters), take a look here. The best part is a long and topical poem about the year’s events. Needless to say, there was plentiful satirical reference to Brexit, Trump, and the above-average number of talented famous folk who’ve been summoned to the great Green Room in the sky this year.

I managed a run, though, just as the sun was going down.

Of course, at this time of year it’s important to enjoy traditional family games such as ‘Who can figure out why the dishwasher has suddenly stopped working on Christmas Day?’ and ‘Well somebody is going to have to do all this washing up from a three-course meal for eight.’ Also, ‘Look, I’ve been up since dawn cooking so I don’t see why I should wash up,’ and ‘Well I was up at 4am looking after a poorly child’. As well as ‘Well maybe if you hadn’t given him so much chocolate yesterday, he wouldn’t have been sick’. And that old chestnut, ‘Oh, so it’s my fault, is it? Well if you feel like that, we may as well get divorced,’ and finally, a fun round of ‘Fine. See you in court. But you’re still doing the washing up.’

I’m exaggerating, but the dishwasher really did stop working, so in a quaint show of festive togetherness, we all gathered round the iPad to watch videos about how to fix it. And I did the washing up, because between you and me, washing up for an hour is the very best way of getting warm in this freezing house.

Meanwhile, we tried to stay one step ahead of the twinnage’s sceptical questions about the existence (or not) of Father Christmas. Some of these questions were easy to field. ‘Whaddya mean, Why does he come in through the chimney and not the door? You know how hard it is to open our front door, given that the wood swells at the slightest hint of heat/cold/wet/dry. Frankly, even I’m tempted to come in via the chimney.’ Sometimes, the twinnage are more sneaky. ‘Does anyone live at the North Pole?’ Twin One asked with apparent innocence, yesterday. ‘Of course not!’ I replied, and launched into a lengthy explanation about climate and the lack of land mass at the North Pole, silently congratulating myself on how well my sons will do in their future geography lessons. ‘BUT YOU SAID THAT FATHER CHRISTMAS LIVED THERE!’ yelled Twin Two, and I realized too late that I’d been ambushed. Again. Should’ve spotted that one coming a mile off.

On a final knitting note, I received this rather splendid-looking book. I can’t wait to try it out.

So that was my Christmas. How was yours?

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It’s Winter: Bring Yarn

There’s still time to enter the awesome yarn/pattern giveaway, right here and here! (For your bonus Facebook entry, don’t forget to ‘like’ the ‘Yarn’s overall Facebook page, not just the post about this contest.)

Wa-hey, it’s December!

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I remember my teacher at primary school telling our class that we Brits are all obsessed with talking about the weather. So it’s my patriotic duty to say right now, Man, it’s COLD! In fact, the mercury has shrunk so shiveringly low in the glass that it’s practically impossible for folk to pass each other in our lane without one of them saying, “A bit chilly, isn’t it?” and the other responding with an exaggerated shiver to imply the profound wisdom and truth of this insight. Also, it’s impossible to go out without encountering the delicious smell of woodsmoke, even at 9am.

winter berries frost

Proper cold does at least mean pretty, though frustratingly, it usually means pretty viewed at 70mph as I hurry along the motorway to work, thus forbidden by both the law and the urge to remain alive from stopping to take pictures. Sorry.

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Still, I walked back from the school run yesterday with a friend, and even our short stroll yielded some prettiness as we crunched across the frosty grass.

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I just wish we could have some SNOW! (The long-range forecast is for cold but dry, so snow is unlikely. Again.)

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Meanwhile on a knittier note, I’m proceeding with that project… or rather Mother Twisted (my mum) is. Do you remember the lavender I made for the garden portion from some Stylecraft Batik?

make lavender crochet garden embroidery

Well she’s made some, too! Thank you Mum.

lavender

…So I’m off to plant it in the crochet garden. More pictures to follow!

Stay warm, people. 🙂

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Weekending, With Added Yarn

Well it’s been a hunkering-down-for-winter sort of weekend. Saturday was Bonfire Night, of course*:-

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(*For the benefit of non-UK readers, this is when we commemorate the attempt in 1605 by an enterprising but treasonous chap called Guy Fawkes and several of his bezzies to blow up the Houses Of Parliament using barrel-loads of gunpowder. The plot was foiled, and poor Guy Fawkes got a proper telling-off (and executed). We mark this occasion annually by lighting fireworks and by setting fire to stuff, including effigies of Fawkes himself, although given that he lived in those dark ages that pre-dated Facebook, most of us aren’t quite certain what he looked like. He is generally assumed to have sported some impressive millinery: don’t pretend that you wouldn’t want a hat like this:-)
Nice hat. Shame about the attempt to bring down the government.

Nice hat. Shame about the attempt to bring down the government.

We took the twinnage to the village fireworks display, wearing all of our knitwear at once. (Let me tell you that the ‘Thermal‘ jumper is very warm, what with all that air-trapping waffle stitch that took eleventy million hours to knit.)

Wow! Fireworks! Some of them look almost floral in these shots, a bit like Dan Bennett’s fabulously stylized flora paintings that I’ve mentioned before.

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The weekend continued with the twinnage helping the Stoic Spouse make the Christmas cake, whilst I scurried off to Oxford for a haircut. (It’s been nearly two years since the last one: I am deeply un-fond of haircuts, so I was slightly sulking at this colossal waste of time.) What on earth could I do to pass the time on the bus to Oxford? Oh hang on, I know:-

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I arrived stupidly early, so went for a wander around Christ Church Meadow, cos there’s nothing like a spot of hypothermia to kick-start your weekend. All was pretty, as is its wont:-

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I made a friend:-

dux

These days I don’t go into the centre of Oxford much, but the place feels like a kind of lodestone because so much of my adult life has happened there: studying, working, more studying, parties, relationships, first flat, meeting the Stoic Spouse. There isn’t a street or a pub or a view that doesn’t have some kind of memory attached. In autumn especially, it’s easy to feel nostalgic for student days, which is a bit stupid because I don’t especially want to go back to being a cash-strapped socially-awkward 18-year-old with terrible dress-sense, who wouldn’t say boo to a goose. (I still wouldn’t say boo to a goose: geese are mean. But these days, I would say boo to a person.) So on this occasion, after being relieved of most of my hair, I wasn’t too regretful to leave Oxford and head back to my 43-year-old life in the village.

By the time I got home to the brewery, it was mightily chilly, so we were glad to see the log-man arrive to deliver this lot. The twinnage helped me to stack it:-

Happiness is a well-stocked log-store.

Happiness is a well-stocked log-store.

…Which naturally led on to this:-

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…and more knitting, of course, but you’d probably already guessed that.

Not a bad weekend, in all. How was yours?

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Autumning

Round here, nature is at last doing autumn properly, instead of lazily slinging a cloudful of water our way and calling it a season.

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Suddenly, it’s cold. Whatever time of day or evening you venture out, you can smell the wood-smoke from people’s log fires, and see ambitiously-stacked spider sanctuaries log-piles leaning against the walls of thatched cottages. In the evening, I pour a glass of red wine and sit down beside our own fire. Then, – more often than not – I immediately shriek and jump up again because I’ve accidentally sat on a spiky bit of Lego. (Thanks, twinnage.) Naturally, there is knitting involved in this part of the day, too. It’s good to relax after a hard time down the psychology mines*. Here’s tonight’s effort:-

log fire wine knitting hygge

That sock yarn? A review cometh…

Suddenly this past week or two, we’re surrounded by gorgeous fiery leafy colours, and the twinnage are asking important questions about the life cycle of trees. Well, one of them is: the one who has appointed himself Official Acquirer Of Twinnage Knowledge. His brother listens, quietly.

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The boys are also asking anxious questions about Whether At Last It Will Snow This Winter, as they are still of an age where they think that their mum knows stuff and can answer these things.

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I try to provide an answer that won’t eventually lead to that terrible accusation, “But Mummy, you said…”, whilst not entirely crushing hope (theirs or mine), and also hinting at how as a species, our reckless misuse of resources is making the climate turn a tiny bit wobblesome and changeable, thus rendering it impossible to reliably promise snow to six-year-olds if you’re anywhere south of the Arctic Circle. They frown, puzzled, and appear to mentally file my answer away under ‘Mummy’s weird rants about stuff’. (It’s a big file.)

Oh well.

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I hope we do have snow this winter. And some pretty frost. You can remind me of that in a few months’ time when I’m grumbling about the veneer of ice on the inside of my bedroom window. (I used to think that I must have imagined memories of ice on the inside of the windows as a child, but then the winter after we moved here to the brewery, it happened.)

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Anyway, mustn’t grumble. At least autumn gives you an excuse to wear all of your hand-knits at once.

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∗ Job-related phrase sneakily stolen from the wit of Narf, cos I’m a plagiaristic thief.

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Thank You

This post is mostly a ‘thank you’ to all of you who sponsored, encouraged, or at the very least grudgingly tolerated me as I prepared to run the Oxford Half Marathon in aid of the Nasio Trust. The big race was yesterday. Nine thousand of us lined up in the centre of Oxford under a beautiful blue sky, to await the starting klaxon. Guess what: I didn’t win. (But my friend Chris did come 15th out of the 9000, which just boggles the brain: he’s fast.) Still, I ran all 13.1 miles (21km), for which I got a nice heavy finisher’s medal:-

Oxford Half Marathon

But I’m getting ahead of myself: let’s go back to the beginning. Most of my running posts on here have been about various disasters, and it was starting to look as though yesterday would be no exception. Some tough stuff has been happening in the last week or so: my grandmother died suddenly, one of my sons was rushed to hospital in an ambulance in the middle of the night with breathing difficulties (he’s fine now) and – on a vastly more trivial note but still incompatible with running – I just have not been able to shake off the stubborn cough/cold that I developed about a million years ago. Also sleeping through the alarm on the day of the race wasn’t a great start. But somehow, we got ourselves organized-ish, and arrived in Oxford under a brilliant blue, but very chilly, sky.

The old limestone buildings in the heart of Oxford were positively glowing in the autumn sunshine. I’d planned to take lots of photos on the day to show you, but in the end that didn’t happen, what with running an’ all. I did, however, manage to snatch a shot of my feet. Just in case you don’t know what feet look like.

These feet were not made for walking. Or running.

These feet were not made for walking. Or running. Or anything, really.

Nine thousand competitors is a lot of people, and the centre of Oxford was crowded. (Those thirteenth-century street planners didn’t really consider the needs of twenty-first century race-runners.) But there was such a joyful atmosphere, and there were brass bands playing, and spectators cheering and handing out jelly-babies to passing runners, and everyone seemed so excited. This was my first ever race, and when we crossed the start-line, it felt very, very, odd to be on the inside of the barricades instead of being one of the spectators cheering on a friend. At first, squeezed into narrow streets between the barriers, it was all a bit too crowded, but later in the race there was far more space.

Oxford Half Marathon Nasio Trust

That’s me with the plait and the blue trainers. Photo credit: Selma at https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

Yes it was a race, and I’m sure there was a certain amount of hard-nosed competitiveness up near the front (you’ll have to ask Chris), but back where I was, it was more like a group of folk enjoying a run together rather than a race, and it just felt happy. I was running as part of a small team for the Nasio Trust, led by my friend’s daughter Ella (proud mum post here on my friend’s blog), and we mostly ran together, an orange-clad band of five with matching balloons. Hang on, I’ll just blag a couple more pictures from Ella’s mum so that I can show you them.

Ella, leading from the front. (Me on the right at the back looking knackered!) Photo credit: Selma at https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

Ella, leading from the front. (Me on the right at the back looking knackered!) Photo credit: Selma at https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

It was fun to be racing up and down a city that I know so, so, well. We ran past the college where I did my first degree, and the college where I did my doctorate, and very near my first flat, but my plan to take photos as I went just didn’t happen, because it turns out that 13.1 miles is actually rather a long way, and I was busy concentrating on keeping moving. Had I stopped, I might never have started again.

Anyway, WE DID IT. Two hours and twenty-four minutes (including an eight-minute loo stop) after setting off, we dragged our weary feet over the finish line and boy, were we ready to stop.

Team Nasio. That's me on the left looking like death, and Ella in the middle of everyone else all looking as though they've had a gentle stroll in the park. Photo credit: https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

Team Nasio. That’s me on the left looking like death, and Ella in the middle of everyone else all looking as though they’ve had a gentle stroll in the park. Photo credit: Selma at https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

So THANK YOU for all your support. So far, you’ve contributed £437.50 (including Gift Aid) to this fantastic cause. There is still time to donate! The link is right here, and every penny will help improve the life opportunities of disadvantaged children.

And now, let’s get back to the knitting.

 

RIP Alma Merritt – mother, grandmother, war survivor, knitter, genealogist, historian, and lover of the written word. I thought about you the whole way round the race.

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And Now For Something Completely Different

Ahem.

(By the way, do remember that there’s still time to enter the Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium giveaway.)

I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to do something helpful via this blog, something for charity. The idea hadn’t progressed very far when a plan came along of its own accord and plonked itself in my lap. It’s a ludicrous idea, and the friend who suggested it wisely did so after I’d had a couple of glasses of wine, in which state I can be talked into pretty much any kind of shenanigans. If she’d asked me when I was sober, my response would have been a very firm NO. She’s not stupid, my friend. Two glasses down and having taken leave of my senses, I gave her my word that I would help.

So here’s the thing.

On October 9th 2016 I’m going to run the Oxford Half Marathon in aid of the Nasio Trust. That’s 13.1 miles (21.1km) of pure pain. More about the Nasio Trust in a moment. (It occurred to me to walk the entire route, knitting all the way, but that might take rather a long time. Besides, I knit and walk most days, so where’s the challenge in that? Running it is, then.)

running and knitting in public

The cool thing is that I have pockets in my running tights that are big enough to hold a ball of yarn. Sadly I can’t run and knit. YET.

I’ve never in my adult life run a race before – well, apart form the parents’ sprint at the twinnage’s school sports day, in which it’s fair to say that I didn’t cover myself in glory. I’m not built like a runner either mentally or physically, and if the route passes any yarn shops, I’m doomed. But in the year since I got serious about running, I’ve progressed from a gasping, tracksuit-clad, lump of idleness who hated every second of the experience, to one of those contemptible people you avoid because they wear lurid lycra and stare smugly at their fitness trackers to check how many calories they’ve just burned by jiggling up and down in the queue at the Post Office. I no longer hate every second that I spend running. In fact on a good day, I only hate about two seconds out of every three, with the remainder being merely mildly unpleasant. So that’s progress.

Thirteen miles, though! Man, I feel tired from just driving that distance, let alone running. Yet I’ve been quietly clocking up the miles in training. (Ha! I used the word ‘training’! That almost gives it an aura of dignity!) Last week I ran twelve miles in the midday heat, and although I spent the rest of the day feeling like death, I was still – technically – alive. I’m not good at running and I never will be (remember the times I got lost, or fell out of a tree, or had to survive by foraging for blackberries?) but I can run, and I want to put it to some use. I’ve been trying to view it as a bit like knitting: you just have to keep making small movements, over and over and over again, until you get somewhere. Easy! Knitting is a lot less lung-hurty, though.

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So what’s the Nasio Trust? You probably haven’t heard of it, because it’s a relatively small British charity. It works in very deprived rural parts of Kenya, supporting vulnerable and orphaned children in their own communities (rather than isolating them in orphanages) via healthcare, education, and nutrition. The Trust was set up after one of the founders discovered an abandoned baby in a sugarcane plantation, and took the child in to raise him herself. Today, the charity’s aim is to break the cycle of poverty in these areas by equipping children with the skills and confidence that they’ll need to make their own way in the world. Examples of projects completed by the charity include building a fish farm to increase food self-sufficiency amongst local families, or funding schools and healthcare which would otherwise be unavailable to these children.

Nasio Trust

Nasio Trust website

(Oh, and the friend who asked me to run? Her daughter is heavily involved with doing voluntary work for this charity, so I’ve heard and seen via my friend how much amazing work is going on.)

I was in two minds about whether to post about all this on my blog. I didn’t know whether you’d mind. But then I remembered that knitters and crocheters are a big-hearted bunch, so I’m going to say it here: I would be grateful, honoured, and humbled if you would consider sponsoring me for the Oxford Half Marathon in aid of the Nasio Trust. Any amount, however small, would be received with enormous gratitude, and would directly help to improve the lives of disadvantaged children in Kenya.

If you would like to make a donation, however large or small, the page where you can do so is here.

Thank you.

Now, shall we get back to the knitting?

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Foraging

What’s a girl to do on the hottest day of the year? Well, besides writing up the pattern for a nice warm, fluffy cowl, I celebrated the road-melting heat on Wednesday by putting on the oven to bake courgette cake and beer bread, before going for a 9-mile (that’s 14.5km) run in the blazing midday sunshine.

sock tease

Stupid? Possibly. But the really stupid thing was being so obsessed with drinking lots of water in the hours pre-run that I forgot to eat. “Oops,” I thought, forced to stop as I waited to cross the road but swaying slightly in a way that would have looked like drunknenness had I not been wearing lycra and a steely glare.

T'was hot. PHOTOS FROM A WALK ON ANOTHER DAY, BECAUSE I CAN'T RUN PROPERLY AND SHOOT.

T’was hot. PHOTOS FROM A WALK ON ANOTHER DAY, BECAUSE I CAN’T RUN PROPERLY AND SHOOT.

A plan was required. I needed blood sugar. Fortunately it’s August, so nature is busy producing food faster than other nature can eat it. A feast of blackberries, elderberries, and bullaces was surely just around the corner. Time to forage.

Oxfordshire in August. Unless you're actually TRYING to find some fruit.

Oxfordshire in August. Unless you’re actually TRYING to find some fruit.

But I was wrong. Obviously I was running along at such enormous speed (ahem) that I may have missed a few delicacies, but for the next mile or so I didn’t see a single thing to eat. Not even a beech tree. (You can eat beech leaves if you’re desperate, but I can tell you that they taste revolting.) So I carried on, getting slower and wobblyer as I went.

Beech.

Beech.

I passed a few houses (some of them beautiful thatched cottages, but I don’t think you can eat thatch, especially thatch that lawfully belongs on top of someone else’s home). And then, overhanging a high wall, was the branch of an apple tree, laden with fruit. I wanted one of those apples so much. There may as well have been a serpent offering me the snack and a sign saying ‘Eden welcomes careful drivers’.

But. The branch was so very high. And I am so very short. And the wall didn’t look like a climber. And there weren’t any handy sticks available to lob at the apples. Defeated, I moved on.

So tasty. But so high up...

So tasty. But so high up…

I did eventually find some blackberries, but they were right beside the busiest road on my route, and I’d paid far too much attention in childhood to my mother’s warnings about the dangers of polluted roadside fruit. That said, I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so I inhaled so much lead on the walk to school each day that it’s amazing that thieves haven’t stolen my head. All that lead would explain why I’m so heavy, anyway…

Those blackberries looked shrivelled, grim, and dusty. I ate a very few, just enough to ensure a bit more energy and a bit less life expectancy. They were… oddly gritty. But they were fuel at least, and they kept me going for the next couple of miles.

Not the finest. :-(

Not the finest. 🙁

It was quite near the end of my run when I came across a small patch of disused ground, covered in the most exuberant brambles you could imagine. The blackberries were huge. I dived in. The blackberries tasted sweet and gorgeous. But three unfortunate things should be pointed out here:-

Thing the first: Spiky overgrown brambles and lycra running gear are not a winning combination. It seems there’s a reason why marathon routes hardly ever pass through bramble patches.

Hedgerow damsons. Conspicuously absent when I needed them.

Hedgerow damsons. Conspicuously absent when I needed them.

Thing the second: Eight hungry miles into a nine mile run and a bit shaky with low blood sugar, my ‘table’ manners may not have been the best, and blackberry juice does tend to stain rather impressively on both skin and clothes. Fortunately I was wearing a purple top so I should at least score one point for that. My skin isn’t naturally purple, however…

Elderberries! Also missing from my run. :-(

Elderberries! Also missing from my run. 🙁

Thing the third: This was a respectable neighbourhood that I was running/foraging in. The sort of neighbourhood where, just as I stumbled out of the blackberry bushes, swearing loudly at the thorns that were tearing at my lycra, my face red (from the run) and purple (from the blackberries), panting from the exertion of the run, and not entirely steady on my feet, just at that exact moment, an extremely serious-looking and smartly-dressed woman of – at a guess – 80 came round the corner, striding fast despite the fact that she also carried a walking stick. She looked at me. I looked at her.

Clouds: also conspicuously absent whilst I ran.

Clouds: also conspicuously absent whilst I ran.

For a coward like me, there was only one possible thing to do.

I made a run for it.

 

 

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Village Knitting

I love our village.

It’s the type of place where you can sit in the pub with knitting and crocheting friends talking about anything, whilst people play cards at the next table and a dog snoozes near the door. There’s a fair-to-middling chance of bumping into someone you know when you haul your rear out of the sofa and get up to fetch more drinks. Occasionally there’s even a rival knitting group around.

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Look! On the table, between the wine glasses! Gorgeous self-striping yarn in my friend’s jumper-in-progress for her son. There she is on the left, beginning the next section.

People here talk to you because they’ve seen you around. They usually want to know exactly which house you live in, which tends to freak out folk who’ve only just moved here from London and who aren’t yet accustomed to revealing such incredibly personal information to anyone who isn’t their legal spouse. Anyway you get talking, and quite soon you can’t remember a time when you didn’t know these people. That said, you probably should have paid more attention five years ago when they introduced themselves, because this many conversations down the line, it’d be kind of awkward to admit that you can’t actually remember their name.

Most people say hello or at least smile when you pass them in the street, although it’s important to remember to switch off that habit when you venture anywhere more urban, to avoid looking like an oddball country bumpkin. (I call it ‘flight mode’, because all non-essential communications are turned OFF.)

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Look at my friend’s cabling! Is that fabulous or what?

I love going running on the various tracks out into the countryside, and witnessing the seasons played out across the Oxfordshire landscape.

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One day recently, I’d just landed back in the village after a run, and as I turned onto the High Street, out of breath, hurty of lung, sore of foot, and malodorous of lycra, I noticed somebody meddling with a signpost in the distance. What outrage was this?! Some n’er-do-well spoiling our neighbourhood? Surely not!

Getting closer, there was a certain familiarity about the miscreant, and also about their bicycle, which was leaning against a nearby fence, its basket adorned with crochet. Hmm, could that be a clue to their motive?

I limped closer. (Have I mentioned the sore foot?)

And then I realized that the brazen daylight misbehaviour I was witnessing was yarn-bombing in progress, and that the perpetrator was my friend and allotment-mate, whom I am forbidden to name here by the terms of the Yarn Bombers’ Charter. Totes soz, but that’s one of her hands on the left in the picture below.

Our village lanes have long been the background to some pretty lovely yarn-bombing, but witnessing the act in progress felt a little like catching Banksy at work. What could I do, but go over and offer to help? (Out of consideration for my friend’s welfare, I did try to stand downwind of her – it had been a tough run.)

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She was sewing beautiful knitted panels around lamp-posts. Each year, her pieces have a theme (buttons, for example), and this year, it’s tassels.

How gorgeous and cheering is her work?! Look at those textures! Look at the colours! She also knits twiddlemuffs for dementia patients at the nearest hospital.

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So we got chatting, whilst she sewed up the knitting, but there was also a tiny problem. It was the day of the Open Gardens in the village, when owners of infinitely grander plots than ours throw open their wrought iron gates for anyone who wishes to come and see. Maybe we should have opened ours, as a sort of deranged, toy-strewn parody. We could call it ‘Future Garden’. Or possibly ‘Past Garden’. It’s still very much a work in progress, but in a year’s time, it’s going to be AMAZING.

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Anyway, as part of this event, there was to be an exhibition of wedding dresses from times past at the church, so the call had gone out for anyone who owned a tailor’s dummy to come and lend it for the day so that the dresses could be displayed. (I’m getting to the point of all this, really I am. Or at least, I’m limping slowly in its general direction – I’ve got this painful foot, you see…)

We happen to own a very basic tailor’s dummy, so I’d already offered it for the exhibition. There was plenty of time to get home from my run, shower, dress in more appropriate clothing, and saunter along to the church, humming a tune, with the dummy under my arm, doing a convincing impression of someone who is calm, dignified, and whose hair isn’t feral.

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Or at least there would have been, had I not spent ages chatting to the village yarnbomber, holding her work in place so that she could sew, and taking photographs. Suddenly it was five minutes before the dummy deadline, and I hadn’t even made it home. Oops. (I knew the Stoic Spouse wouldn’t be worried: when I roll in late, he just says ‘I assumed you got talking to someone’. He’s generally correct.)

There definitely wasn’t going to be time for everything.

All of this is a very lengthy explanation of why, just before 1pm, I sprinted the entire length of the High Street, listing slightly to starboard because of my busted foot, sweating revoltingly, and with a large tailor’s dummy gripped under my arm like I was kidnapping it. Dignity? Meh, dignity’s for wimps.

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And no, there are no photographs. Or at least I don’t think there are. And if there are, could we please meet at the pub to discuss what you would consider to be a reasonable fee for their destruction? Thank you.

The open gardens were splendid by the way, even in the rain.

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And I got to climb the church tower…

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…to see the old church bells…

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…and the view from the top, albeit in the drizzly gloom…

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As I said, I do love this village, yarn-bombing and all. 🙂

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After The Sun, The Rain

See that cloud up there? Yup that’s right, the big hairy∗ grey one. Well as I walked the twinnage to school, it snuck up behind us and dumped a ton of rain on our heads. The twinnage think we should go by car when there’s a downpour; I think we should be fearlessly rugged and outdoorsy and brave all manner of elements to get there on foot. I (mostly) have custody of the keys to the Stinkwagon, so I win. One day soon, it’ll occur to the twinnage how ridiculous I’m being and they’ll mutter, “For goodness sake Mother, it’s the village High Street, not the north face of the Eiger”, but in the meantime, we walk. And now the sun is coming out.

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We’ve had that kind of month so far: when leaving the house, it’s important to wear suncream, waterproofs, flipflops, sunglasses, and a woolly hand-knitted scarf. You may look weird, but you’ll thank me later.

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Still, for colour-lovers like all of us here, the aftermath of each downpour does provide good photo-snapping opportunities. Look!

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How jewel-like are those raindrops?*

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I’ve been trying to carve out a tiny bit of time to concentrate on taking pictures, rather than just snapping shots rapidly and thoughtlessly with small children around my ankles. Let’s just say that it’s a work in progress, the time thing. In particular, I really need to start using the tripod rather than relying on my shaky hands. Tomorrow. I’ll definitely start bothering with the tripod tomorrow

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Last week, I went on a photography walk around Streatley (a nearby village), as part of the Gap Festival, with a friend (sorry, I mean arch enemy). I’m so glad that she suggested it, because it was awesome. And I say that as someone who very rarely falls victim to the temptation to use the word awesome. The event was run by two pros, and I took hardly any shots because I was too busy listening to their amazing advice and wisdom. OK I got a great snap of my friend lying down on a bridge to get the right angle for her photo, but I don’t have the resources to compensate her if she sues me for publishing it, so you’ll just have to imagine the scene. After the event, most of us retired to a local café and one of the course leaders got out his laptop to show us his work and to teach us so. many. things. It’s fair to say that he pretty much knows which way round the camera goes.

I didn’t dare tell them about the telephoto zoom that remained hidden in the depths of my bag.

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The event was inspiring, though, and it prompted me to go home and use my camera more mindfully and to start lusting in vain after a better camera body. I do use most of the different functions on the camera, but I need to start also using time. And thought.

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In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this watery tour of the (few) bits of the garden that I haven’t dug up yet.

Happy knitting and hooking, people.

Exciting book review coming next!!

 

∗ OK, it’s not really hairy.

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Mutants! Mutants Everywhere!

I saw the weirdest thing today (whilst knitting, obviously).

There I was, flicking through a perfectly normal gardening catalogue, thus proving through one simple action that I’ve left my youth behind forever, when I came across the most spooky mutant plant thingy that I’ve ever seen.

The TomTato. And I’m not even joking. Look:-

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How spooksome is that?! You plant this oddball in a pot, and whilst above ground you get a lovely crop of cherry tomatoes, below ground the roots are busy making… potatoes∗. See? Freaky. If they could just somehow graft a live cow onto the side, you’d practically have the makings of a beef hotpot (or possibly a futuristic horror movie) right there in one tub.

Gotta be easier than the vying-for-space that goes on between the potatoes and tomatoes (and other veg) that I’m growing on the patio:-

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Definitely Not Mutants

I didn’t even know that this could be done, but it got my knitting head thinking – what else might be possible? Imagine if, the next time you buy a 50% wool, 50% alpaca ball of yarn, it comes from one animal? May I present… the sheepaca!

the sheepaca

the sheepaca

Actually, it has been tried (properly crossing a sheep and an alpaca, I mean), in order to breed hybrids to guard flocks of sheep. But I assume that the idea didn’t really catch on, because I can’t find a photo. And there’s a llama-alpaca hybrid called a huarizo, which sounds rather blissfully knittable. I think we need a few of those for the lawn.

In my fantasies, I’d turn our whole back garden over to a Good Life – style smallholding, chock-full of veg and fruit and yarn-producing creatures. Meanwhile, the Stoic Spouse dreams of a miniature railway paradise out there. We’re compromising by doing something that’s completely different from either of these, because surely the point of a good and fair marriage is to make certain that both parties are equal in their gloomy disillusionment?

Seriously, though, whilst the Stoic Spouse begins his annual summer campaign of repairing the bits of the house that dropped off over the winter… (any idea what this bit is and where it goes??):-

This dropped off the tower. We have no idea what it does.

This dropped off the tower. We have no idea what it does.

…I’m completely (and very slowly) redesigning the garden. Out will come all the dull overgrown shrubs, and in will come many, many, many bulbs spanning every season, and also a few fruit trees, including cherries to celebrate the cherry-growing heritage of this village. So if my rate of knitting/crochet has been slow of late, then my rate of cursing stubborn tree roots as I dig them out has been rather greater.

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So yeah. That’s about it. Time to get on with some knitting, methinks.

 

∗ Yes, I am indeed aware that tomatoes and potatoes are related, but thank you for checking, nonetheless.

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