Thursday, 28 May 2009

Five things that made me smile today

There are quite a few blogs where the writers talk about what inspires them, what makes them glad to be alive, what they are thankful for, so sorry if you've heard it all before. Even I succumbed and did one some time ago. But I make no apologies for doing another in the same vein, I think it does us good to relish the good things in life.

This is a pretty cream-coloured wire heart, bought last year to put Christmas cards on, and once the cards came off, it was too pretty to be stuffed into a cupboard with the box of vintage baubles, the fairy lights and sad fairy. So I decided to use it in my work room, to display all the postcards sent to me by friends on holiday, or just cards to say HELLO! Trouble is, when Christmas comes around - just over 200 days to go! - I won't want to relinquish it, so guess we'll need another one! I like to look at the cards, not to look at the places they depict, as you can see, many of them don't show places at all, but to remember the lovely friends who sent them - I know at least one of you will recognise a card (or two) you have sent. Does it please you to know it's kept on show I wonder?
This is my sewing thingummy box... thingummies being those things you want, but can't quite find the name for.. the quick-unpick for undoing stitches, and the cotton threader so necessary for those of us with poorer eyesight than when we first began sewing, as well as the plastic templates for patchwork, bias binding, tape measure and so on. It has a striped inside, and I just love it.

Don't love the feet, but love the slippers. I am a fan of the ballerina type as opposed to kitten heals with maribou fur trim, the slip on mules which more often than not slip off at inopportune moments (climbing the stairs as a rule), the slippers masquerading as rabbits or some such silliness, and the old lady tartan, furry lined type. These are palest pink (getting paler because I keep shoving them in an old pillowcase and giving them a wash in the machine when they get a bit grubby, I so can't bear to throw them out!) and softest suede-y type fabric, with lovely felt flowers as you can see. There's not much to smile about when it comes to feet - and that's not just mine but anybody's - but when they have pretty slippers on, it's a different matter.

I can't resist Norfolk Handmade soaps. They lather well, have fabulous, natural scent and don't cause me any skin problems. I suppose the latter should be the most important reason for buying them really, but it's the scent that does it first and foremost for me. Here is a traditional Norfolk Lavender, gorgeous Rose, Jasmine, and Geranium and Rose Petal. I love anything rose-y, so that is my most favourite, at the moment. I also love them because they have those bits in, which are brilliant for exfoliating without pain. I recall using a soap in the seventies and eighties, which came in an orangey wrapper I think, had a fab smell and lots of rough oatie sort of bits in it. For the life of me, I can't recall what it was but I loved it and was sad when I couldn't get it any more... bought it from Boots if memory serves me right.

Ah well, this small package of wools came this morning, Patons Smoothie as used by Vanessa who thought very highly of it over on her blog - do you mind if I knit? - and so I bought some for crocheting with, squares to make a comforter for a friend, or maybe myself, not sure yet. But opening a package of wool always makes me smile, even though I know what's in it. Opening a parcel of books has the same effect, and any time now I am hoping to get the first parcel of books from the RNA for reviewing for this year's award. I just love getting parcels I don't know I am going to receive as well...
All these things make me smile, so what has made you smile today? Doesn't have to be five things, but I hope at least one.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Just a little gardening blog

Wasn't it a gorgeous Bank Holiday weekend, weather-wise? It was for us here in Norfolk, not that we two saw much of it. We were spending six hours a day working on the emptying, redecorating, rebuilding of my workroom.. worked so hard that my darling husband has gone back to work for a rest! But it was well worth the effort. Gone are the haphazard bookcases, different colours of wood, different sizes, books split when they should be in groups and so looking for a specific one took longer than necessary. Now they are all in tall bookcases, my craft materials which were scattered about in drawers and cupboards are now in shorter bookcases, and instead of sitting facing a wall, with the window slightly behind me to my right, and working on a too-small desk, I now sit facing out into the room, with the window on my right still, but to the front so I can watch the world and it's aunt go by, and work on a much larger worktable, resting on trestle legs with shelves, so handy for all those useful things, like pen holders, jotters, stationery etc.

So whilst we were busy indoors, outside was getting on, burgeoning into life in all that lovely warm sunshine. Here is the pond, home to damselflies, an occasional newt, about twelve frogs of varying sizes at present, and twelve small fish... there were more, but you all know about the heron! The irises are lovely, three plants, purple, white and lemony yellow, plus there are waterlilies as you can see, as well as oxygenating plants, and a few other marginals out of shot. It's a lovely place to sit beside on a summery day, in the shade of the birch, with the fountain playing, and just lovely when the water is still, a reflecting pool.
This is part of the 'wild bit' of the garden, right down the far end. Out of sight, to the left of the shot, is a log pile wherein we hope lives the hedgehog, but we have let the foxgloves do their own thing, I just love them wild like this. We also have a rosemary at the back, and a couple of tall grasses, and to the right, out of shot, is a whole load of honeysuckle climbing over shrubs and fence. Behind me, as I took the photo, is the small fruit cage, with rhubarb and two different varieties of gooseberry. Sometime later there will be blackberry and raspberry bushes too. I have wild strawberries nearer the house, which have done ever so well this year, lots of little tiny berries appeared now... so gorgeous, so fleeting.

I love this iris - hidden to the left hand side is a white aquilegia, one of those accidents which looks just right. I know it has a fancy name, it was shown loads of times on the Chelsea programmes, but it escapes me. There are actually three clumps here, we meant to split them, but never got around to it. The greyish blob you can see is a stone cat, for this is where our Rosie is buried. Above this, in the laburnum tree, is the honeysuckle goldfinch's nest, now abandoned and crumbling. There are lots of babies in the garden.. blackbirds, starlings, chaffinch, wren, but no goldfinch that we have seen. Sadly no baby ring-collared doves, and thankfully, no squabs (baby pigeons).
This is a lovely jumbly mix of aquilegia, iris, not only the delicate blue ones on the left, but also some deepest purple ones as well. The majestic tall poppies, flowering better than ever before, and soon to be moved to the cottagey bit below. There are also, in the photo above but not clearly seen, nigella, allium, lemon balm, wild strawberries, heuchera - a pale green one which produces spikes of tiny bright magenta flowers, and a dark green with purplel undersides to the leaves, which produces spikes of tiny pale pink flowers - and a couple of pots of lemon thyme and pineapple sage.

This is the cottagey bit.. there is a six by four feet empty space behind, wherein I shall plant the poppy, and some lupins, and other taller cottagey plants. At the front you can probably see cranesbill, as well as the heuchera with purple leaves, and then there are penstemon, sambucus nigra, lavender in a large pot, nigella, iris, snapdragons, curry plant, and red valerian.
Several weeks ago I planted four tomato seeds in a pot, and nine purple sprouting broccoli in a pot, put them on the conservatory windowsill, where they all germinated within a couple of weeks. They have now been potted on into peat pots and in the absence of a cold frame, I just sit them outdoors from early morning until about seven in the evening, then bring them in. I also planted a mint cutting using a baked bean tin, as well as sowing some basil seeds in another baked bean tin, sitting these on one of the kitchen window sills, and the mint has taken and the basil germinated. Seeds planted in the super duper raised bed haven't done anything yet, but we had torrential rain this week and the temperatures have dropped, so they are probably biding their time.
We will have a cold frame, soon, for nothing. Where my husband works they ship in electronic components from Poland. They come in their own boxes, but then all the boxes are packed into wooden crates, not flimsy old hardboard, but REAL WOOD. They come to pieces, the upright corner posts have slots in them for the horizontal pieces to fit in, and they measure about a metre by just under a metre. And are perfect for the edge of normal sized raised beds, the horizontal pieces of wood being about 12 inches high. So we have two new normal sized raised beds. My husband is also in the process of building a lovely compost bin out of some of these crates as well, of course, having the slots and so on makes them really ideal for this purpose. And when this is finished, he will build a cold frame, and we'll just get a piece of corrugated plastic for a lid.
And this is the gardening journal I made to record all these gardening goings on, in. I covered it with some fancy card, stickers, used a bit of garden twine and a plastic plant label with OUR GARDEN written downwards on it, and stickers too. I also used a plant label as a page marker, you can just see it at the top. I think it looks quite good!
So that's my little gardening blog. Hope you all had a lovely long weekend.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

That's another fine mess I've got myself into!

Why is nothing ever as simple as you think/hope/expect? Why did I decide it would be a good idea to sort out my workroom, get rid of the mismatched and getting-tatty bookcases, replace the too-small desk with a proper worktable fit for laptop/cutting out/sewing and buy a cupboard with a glass fronted door for my made-up crafts? Can anyone tell me the answer?
To begin with it was so simple. I would remove the six hundred books from the afore-mentioned bookcases, stack them on the floor, make up the new bookcases - well, my other half was going to do this, he blanches when he sees me advancing with screwdriver or hammer in hand! - and put back the books, in a more logical order since the bookcases would all be the same size and it would be easier. The other four hundred books are safely sitting on built-in shelves in one of the fireplace alcoves and had no need to be moved. That was the plan.
The desk would be dismantled, top and drawer unit being reused elsewhere, open shelving to be discarded or used in the loft. Floating shelves to be removed off the walls, holes filled, dab of paint to cover and since they were having bookcases that were being used for craft materials in front, nobody would see the patched holes.
In the other alcove a built in low cupboard and two shelves above were to be removed, again holes filled and painted. And this is where The Master Plan fell apart. The walls were painted this rich deep pinky red, called LULU, long after the cupboard and shelves had been built you see, and so when they were removed, there in all its glory was the original colour of pale blue, as this was youngest son's room decades ago. But I wasn't too fazed, simply get another tin of paint, slap it on, problem solved.
Ah, why is nothing ever as simple as you think? The paint isn't made any more of course... none to be found anywhere, not even the manufacturers could help. No paint currently on the market, ie in vogue, matches, or is anything like really. And so we came to the stark realisation that the room would have to be totally repainted, so BANG went the idea of seeing this sorted over the coming long Bank Holiday weekend. At this rate I shall be climbing over boxes and piles of books for the next week at least. Still, I thought with all these paints on the market, I should be able to find one fairly close to this colour that I love, and which I managed to find a retro lampshade to match perfectly, last year. I hadn't been looking for one, but you know how it is.. you see something and then realise it's just the thing you have been wanting/looking for, so you get it, bring it home and it's perfect. Try as I might I probably wouldn't have been able to find one that matched so perfectly. Now I love it so much I don't want to part with it. Which sort of made the paint-hunt even trickier.
Why is life never as simple as you think? There are loads and hundreds of pinky shades, reddy-pink shades, none of them right at all, not because they don't match the lampshade, they just weren't right. So I came to the conclusion that I would have to change the colour of the room TOTALLY.
Now that is an easy decision to reach, not so to accomplish because of course, there are zillions of paint colours... which to choose? I eliminated most colour ranges on the grounds that we either had a room in that colour - blues/greens/purples/pinks/reds/browns - or because I simply didn't like them - yellows/oranges/magnolias/whites - or because they would clash with the carpet and curtains, and of course, the beloved lampshade. I was left with very few as you can imagine, so decided I might have to be a bit more relaxed about my choice.
Another problem is that the colours on the paint charts differ from the colours on the websites... and neither may be an accurate version of the REAL colour, ie that in the tin. How often have you bought a tin on the basis of a colour chart, got it home, prised the lid off with a knife or screwdriver, only to be faced with a colour you weren't expecting, and you let out a small shriek of shock/horror or groan of disappointment? Well, if you are anything like me, that'll be several times then!
In the end, I have settled for a feature wall - the fireplace wall - and three pale walls, with fingers crossed that the latter is nearer the colour in the chart than on the website. The feature wall colour is picked up in the lampshade, though not the main colour, and all will go with carpet and curtains. It will be a complete change to this womblike existence in the deep pinky red room, but I am looking forward to a more grown-up looking space, with well-organised craft shelves, book shelves, stationery cupboard.
But before that can happen, I now have to take all the books off the shelves in the alcove so that we can paint the wall behind it.... I know it will take two coats of the paler shade to cover this strong colour on the walls at present.... and I know this will take care of this weekend, the rest of this week, and probably most of next week as well. On top of which all my seeds have germinated and need repotting and all the poppy seeds I haphazardly chucked in a pot of old soil, sorry two pots, have germinated... I now have hundreds of black oriental poppies and the fabulous thick and frilly red poppy that appeared in the front garden last year, from which I took seeds - the black poppy seeds came from a friend in Scotland. I never expected them to take, but as my gardening occasional emailer James says, they are tough old things and will grow anywhere. (He's at Chelsea this week, a rare treat to see him on telly on Monday night, and even nicer to see Nigel Havers last night... sorry James!)
Still, can't sit around here blethering all day, need to get on and move these books. Have a great long weekend, whatever you are doing.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Silver threads among the gold.

You can't see them clearly, but there are some silvery threads in here amongst the red... does that mean I have to grow up? Nah... that can wait until I am OLD(er).

But underneath that hair is a memory box, and it's strange how memories someone else is making can bring back some of your own. Katie, for instance, was telling me about an outing to Oban, and this took me back to being 13 and on holiday there with my parents. We stayed at a small hotel, outside the town centre, that was all blue tartan carpets I remember, and had the most awful scrambled eggs. I now know this is how you are meant to eat them, runny, but I wasn't used to them and hated it. Now I still have my eggs overcooked in most people's eyes, but it's how I like them. I remember too, looking in a shop window at jewellery with natural stones in them, red and green and although I didn't know the name, I thought them so grown up and pretty. I wanted to have one, but as usual didn't say so.. such a good girl was I, never one to whinge and say I WANT ONE in a loud voice that carries for miles... I am sure we've all heard them in the supermarket and the ensuing screams from mother and child when said request is denied. I never did that..if asked I would say what I wanted, but never thought to ask unprompted.
Anyway, years later I went out with a Chippendale-esque drummer, leader of a small group which consisted of drums, guitar, piano and female singer, who played Carpenter-type music at a posh eaterie several nights a week. He was originally from Oban, though now living in this small Lancashire seaside town, and when he went home to visit his grandparents, he went into that same shop, without my telling him anything about it, and bought me one of the lovely heavy silver bracelets with red and green stones, that I had admired years before. I still have it, somewhere.
And speaking of music, my day was started on a good note... BOYZONE were on the GMTV sofa. And... it was raining outside. This may not seem much like something to celebrate really, but I love rain, and have never outgrown splashing in puddles, to my other half's embarrassment no doubt, at times! But to sit in the conservatory with a window open, hear the rain dripping off the eaves onto the terrace, splashing into the pond, where the fish happily play 'miss the splashes', was a lovely accompaniment to my breakfast.. along with the sight of Boyzone of course.
My day will end on a high as well, as we are replacing the old printer with one of these all singing, all dancing pieces of kit that scans, photocopies and does everything bar make you a cuppa it seems to me. I shall not be sorry to consign the old one to what will be my other half's own little den - he gets the old kit and the smaller room as he rarely uses the computer at home and I need so much space for all my crafts, and books. It reminds me of the old adage about dogs and cats, you know the one.... dogs come when you call them and cats ask you to leave a message and they'll get back to you? Well, this old printer hiccups, groans, bits move about making clunky noises, things slide back and forth, and eventually a piece of paper will be taken in, sniffed at like an old dog sniffing a lamp post - and that reminds me of an old dowager I was interviewing once who had this awfully old smelly dog who tried to have it away with first my leg, then the basket I had on the floor, before giving up and going back to its favourite hump which was an old, and rather smelly cushion - and finally... VOILA, it prints. Or not, as is sometimes the case.
I shall be so happy to print off letters to friends in an instant for one thing... my letters tend to be long you see, and take forever on this old printer. But that's another thing... I miss letters. I know technology is fine and the way to go and so on, but don't you think there is something wonderful about opening a letter and sitting down with a cup of tea to read it? I love getting long letters, and have a few friends from the seventies and eighties who won't use computers, or don't even have one, and so still handwrite reams. Sometimes I reciprocate with a handwritten letter, carefully choosing pretty paper and a favourite fountain pen, often with coloured ink... more often than not, lazy old besom that I am, I use the computer. I still decorate the paper with stamping and stickers, but the computer is the best way these days, for my hands to keep up with my brain as the thoughts and comments and answers to questions in the letters spill out, tumbling one after another. But these days the postie rarely brings letters... back in the 80's though it was a different matter altogether, as I had about two dozen, or more, penfriends, all over the world and so most days brought a letter from one or other of them, from home or abroad. I miss that.
Do you see how words lead you from one thing to another.. so that what began as a blog about hair ended up with humping old dogs and slow printers and a dearth of handwritten letters.
I have mentioned I am doing creative journaling, and one journal I have begun using a website called where each week there is one word to inspire you, either in words, prose, pictures, anything you like. This one word is the starting point.... just one word each week, on a Thursday, strangely enough! This week's is PETALS, and I have decorated the page in the journal with flowery stickers, dried rose petals from some pot pourri, and written lots that came to mind when I thought of the word PETALS. The week before it was FAMILY, so of course this has pictures of family on the page. It's an interesting exercise in creative writing, if nothing else.
As is a blog, dear readers... thank you for reading. Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A poor effort, but 'tis all mine own!

I have been looking at the blogs I follow, and the thought came to me that by comparison, mine are poor efforts really. There is Calico Kate this week with her wonderfully descriptive way of writing, which I am sure lots of us could do if we actually sat and thought carefully, about things like the noise the washing makes on the line when there is a strong breeze blowing. But instead we tend not to mention it. The minutae of people's lives interests many of us, which is why we follow the likes of Calico Kate, and Maddie Grigg, Vanessa too, as well as all your other favourites. They write about the everyday things, but somehow make them interesting, or perhaps more interesting than they would seem if they happened to us. Some of them add beautiful photos, of crafts, their surroundings, family and pets, which certainly add to the blogs. Mine own efforts seem paltry to me now, and I am left wondering should I discontinue this blog and just carry on with my 'Tales from...' blog?
I am sure my life is so mundane as to not be of any interest to anyone. I don't have exciting things like blowing down greenhouses to write about.... day trips either with or without huge dog.... I don't go anywhere much, though there may be some excitement at the weekend with a book sale in aid of charity to go to, if I can be bothered to get out of bed early enough on Sunday! The world from my window isn't worthy of note... though last Friday there was a farmers market for the first time in the car park of the lovely old social club just across the road and down a bit. However, it hadn't been advertised in the local papers, hardly anyone knew it was there until they passed by and saw about half a dozen stalls. It doesn't seem, by all accounts, as if it did very well, and may have been a feeble and useless waste of time and effort. There have been rumours that the social club might be closing, so maybe they are looking at ways to increase income and thus prove it's viability? If it goes, then some builder will come along and shove at least half a dozen small starter homes on the site, and I am sure the people living closest to it would rather suffer the occasional loud 'music' (for want of a better word for the cacophony of noise) from the disco, and cars leaving the car park at closing time, than the more constant noise from housing.
I can't talk about what I'm growing, because despite the lovely raised bed I still haven't sown seeds! Well, I do have a few pots, of tomato seeds, purple sprouting broccoli, and some rather special poppies, but that's about all. Oh, and a potato in a compost bag!! The grand plans have so far remained on paper and in my head only. But my excuse is that we were told there was to be heavy rain and strong winds this week, the temperatures have certainly dropped so the soil isn't very warm, and I thought, naively perhaps, that the rain would nicely moisten the soil, then we'd have some sun at the beginning of next week, which would heat it up and then it would be ideal for the seeds. Nice theory, shame about the practice - again!
However, come next week I shall be too busy to do any gardening as I have this workroom to dismantle, hundreds and hundreds of books to take off decrepit shelving, fitted cupboards to rip out, repainting and filling (not in that order of course) to do, before the new furniture can be installed over the long Bank Holiday weekend. Ikea assure me it will be delivered next Friday.. they better not let me down!
So my life is very mundane and normal and ordinary, and frankly boring probably, to those not closely involved in it. Are you remotely interested in the fact I have two new drugs added to my daily list of eight others since my transplant clinic check up last week? No, why should you be? Yet others manage to talk about their daily lives and I can't wait to read it.

Well, books are always a good fall back..... here are some of the books I have read, or have on the go. THE MAGICIAN'S DAUGHTER is written by a friend of mind, and is all about her life and some of the spooky, magical, and often weird things that have happened to her as a 'reluctant psychic' as she puts it.
I love Alexander McCall Smith's books, though only the ones set in Scotland, and this is the latest, The Incredible Lightness of Scones'. Now how could you resist at least picking up a book with a title like that? I have no time for his African detective series at all, having to slow down to pronounce the names properly slows me down which I hate, and I am not a fan of reading detective fiction.. though give me an episode of LEWIS or MIDSOMER MURDERS, and I'm a happy bunny. Erm.. .maybe that has something to do with the lovely Kevin Whately, Laurence Fox and John Nettles? Well, a little bit, but not a lot.

My husband has lots of books about Ley Lines and stone circles etc., but they are not something I have ever taken much notice of. Having said that, I love to visit old ruins and stone circles, my favourite being Long Meg in Cumbria, which I visited on a misty day, which added to the feeling of the place. However, of late I have had an interest in ley lines, and wanted to read more about them, and this, although it's over ten years old, is a really well written book for those who are new to the subject, it doesn't try to baffle you with science or high-falutin' language. The various theories for the lines I found interesting, and like to think that rather than having some prosaic reason for their being, it is all mystical and spiritual.
Having watched HELL'S KITCHEN recently, I was intrigued enough by Marco Pierre White to want to read more about him, and so bought his autobiography. There has been much written about him over the years, some of it true and some of it made up to look thrilling and so sell newspapers and magazines. It was ever so of course. Far better to read about his life from the horse's mouth I thought, and so it has proved. I don't know about you, but I prefer reading an autobiography to a biography, though if it is a properly authorised one by the subject, then I may be tempted. Mind you, there is no guarantee that the subject is being 100% truthful is there? Says she, ever the sceptic.
MOLLY FOX'S BIRTHDAY is by an Irish writer called Deirdre Madden, who has written several books though this is the first I have read. Molly Fox is an actress who goes away to New York and then London, lending her house to her closest female friend, who is a playwright and there ostensibly to work on her next play. However, being in the house of her oldest friend takes her mind away from the present day and to shared memories, and so we get to know about Molly and the circle of friends they both inhabit. It's a novel about friendship and 'how the past informs the present'... and it was a really good read.

So what do you think of this selection of wool then? It is just part of a large collection of wools in shades of pinks and oranges, with a bit of acid lemon, sharp turquoise blue. There are ribbony threads, knobbly wools, some wools with gold and silver threads woven through, some furry wools, some silky threads, cool cottons. They are for a throw, the idea being in a book on knitted throws, where you just chuck all the balls of wool in a basket at your feet (a la Kirstie Allsop for those of you who have been watching her rather expensive at times, makeover of a cottage, which by the way, for any of you interested, is available as a holiday let!) and just take out any thread you fancy, or take one without looking. You use it for one row, or two, more if you fancy. You leave a longish thread at the beginning and end of the rows though... you don't have to start rows at the same edge... the idea is that when it's finished all these hanging off threads give it a ready fringed look. Should be colourful, to say the least.
Well that brings me to the end of this, mine own poor effort compared to others more sumptuous in words and pictures. But I enjoyed rabbiting on anyway, and maybe someone else enjoyed it too?

Monday, 11 May 2009

The soundtrack to your life... your very own Desert Island Discs

I read something the other day, a diarist recording her personal Desert Island Discs choices and why, and it made me think what music I would choose... and would I choose it for the memories it evoked, or because I liked it, and the answer was that I would choose for the best possible reason, a combination of the two.

Some of my earliest musical memories are connected with classical music, mainly because my father loved it and his mother sang it professionally, a leading contralto. I saw 'live' music for the first time when I was very young and taken to a recital of Handel's 'MESSIAH' conducted by Sir John Barbarolli, (or BANANALOLLY as I pronouncd it!) and when Nan stood up to sing, I had to stand also and tell everyone it was my Nan!

Iwas in my early teens in the early 60s when the next wave of music made an impression, and the use of the word 'wave' isn't unintentional, since it was the surfin' sound from California, mainly the Beach Boys. I was 15, with a boyfriend who was tall, blonde and tanned, not from surfing (there wasn't a right lot of it about on the Irish Sea) but from working outdoors on a local farm. He used to cycle to meet me from school sometimes, which didn't go down too well with the nuns who asked him to wait around the corner in case it offended parents of other pupils. Radio Caroline North was going strong then, not so well known as it's southern counterpart, which came first, but for us in Lancashire, this was such an exciting time, at last something else instead if FAB208 to listen to under the bedcovers! Also remembered from this era - Dusty Springfield, who I did an impersonation of at a school concert, complete with heavy black eyemakeup and back-combed to within an inch of its life, hair.

When I got to be 16-18 it was Gene Pitney I idolised, and my first boyfriend had a certain look which put me in mind of GP, a rather shy, diffident smile, a bit lopsided it was, cute. (sorry, Fyldecoaster, have I embarrassed you?) Memories of this time, the music aside are thigh length soft suede boots, tartan mini skirts and a purple mini kilt, Biba clothes, Houbigant CHANTILLY perfume, hairy afghan jackets, having a boyfriend with a scooter (not the GP-lookalike) when I fancied the leather-clad rocker down the road, pale lipstick and nail varnish, JACKIE magazine.

Into my twenties, when the perfume tended to be Estee Lauder's YOUTH DEW, or Nina Ricci's L'AIR DU TEMPS, or Revlon's CHARLIE, and the music I most remember from this time was Nillsen's 'WITHOUT YOU'. For me this is a very poignant song, as it was 'our song' for my late husband and I, and each time I hear it now, I am taken back to those few brief years we had together, the laughs we shared, the tears, the joys of our two sons, and then an overwhelming grief. I also remember the music of ELLA FITZGERALD for this my late mother used to sing.. she had a lovely voice, had auditioned for GERALDO back in the late forties, but that was just when she had met my late father and he objected to her having a career of this sort, so she gave it up, but still delighted me with her voice, and at this time, in the early 70's, she was at the happiest she had been in decades. Sadly this was a time when her life was brought to a sudden end, so again, music which has mixed memories for me. The smells associated with her are Boots 4711 cologne and Coty face powder, which I still catch a sniff of in the air, and know she is making a brief visit.

A very dear friend introduced me, in the 80s, to Tamla and Phil Collins, and particularly his music brings back memories of a time when I went a little crazy and carefree, fine if you are single and so on, but not when you are married and with Responsibilities. Lucky for me, my new husband was one of these men who would never try and rein you in, would let you have your freedom secure in the knowledge that wherever you go, you will always come home. That to stop people will only drive them away, and because of his attitude, I never did leave. But at this time my health began to fail also, and one particular film/LP ELECTRIC DREAMS reminds me of my time as a dialysis patient, as this was often being played in our dayroom by another of the patients. Several of them are no longer with us, some younger than me, some older. But the smells associated with this music aren't particularly nice, though one is hot toast spread with Marmite, eaten to bring your salts levels back up during and after dialysis.. or it was in our little dialysis unit anyway, hardly available in NHS units today. Sadly the very dear friend is no longer around either. And I can't hear UPTOWN GIRL by Billy Joel without being transported back to the early 80s, drinking Tia Maria and coke, laughing and joking with a particular male friend who I only discovered later, actually wanted to be more than friends, but who felt he was out of my league, hence the reason for sending me a tape of UPTOWN GIRL.

In the 90s I enjoyed all my favourites from the 80s, along with Bon Jovi as well as Chris Rea (introduced into my life by another dear friend who again, is no longer a part of my life - both of them were male friends, music doesn't seem to have been something I shared with many female friends for some reason.) and Boyzone for the first time.. I am still a fan! As I am of Jason Donovan, and keep your giggles down to a dull roar please!

Then along came IL DIVO, Vittorio Grigolo, spiritual music, natural earth sounds music, New Age stuff, more classical than anything else, music to relax to, music to meditate with. I still listen to Boyzone, and have an occasional sentimental wallow with the CD collection and listen to some of the above favourites from different decades, but I am looking more to be chilled out than anything else these days. Even so, all of these I would have to have on my desert island, music to suit each mood. Though I might just miss out some of the natural sounds, especially ones with whale song.. don't want any uninvited guests landing on my beach do I, looking for a mate or something?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A French Dolly, a large bed and some pleasurable pastimes!

This is Yvette, and the eagle-eyed crafty ones will have noticed that she is a French Knitting Dolly. I had been knitting some drawstring bags and trying to do an i-cord, but found it so laborious and tiresome, took so long to get anywhere.. the phrase 'watching paint dry' came to mind! I then remembered french knitting, and had I had one of those capacious old-fashioned sewing boxes, no doubt in some corner would be lurking an old wooden cotton reel. In my husband's sheds are jars of screws and nails, and I am sure some carpet tacks could be found to create the old-fashioned tool of my childhood. (I wonder what I did with all those endless colourful woolly worms?) However, no wooden reels being to hand I decided to hang the expense and buy a propery French Knitting Dolly, and this is she. I sat and made the woolly
worms again, found it so relaxing I almost nodded off more than once. A fine pastime for listening to the Archers, or Desert Island Discs or cricket on the radio perhaps? I am blessed with a husband who will do anything to make my life easier, and so last weekend he built and painted this raised bed for me. I can no longer kneel due to a burning pain in one knee, nor can I bend over due to problems with lower back and dizziness! A right old crock am I. But I wanted to sow some seeds, especially having taken advantage of a free organic seed offer. I plan to grow carrots, beetroots, salad onions, maybe a courgette, some herbs.... haven't quite decided but as this bed is two feet high, I know that I will be able to reach to weed and prick out and so forth, with ease, which will be a first. Alongside this is a smaller bed, just four feet by two, and not raised to this extent, only about a foot deep, and edged with the same wood as its big neighbour. In here I shall have purple-sprouting broccoli and a bean plant or two on wigwams made from cut-down alder branches. A new compost bin, wooden this time since we have never really got on with the free plastic ones from the council, will be installed and we already have a rainwater collecting system in the same area, so I am all set to sow and grow, pick and eat. I also have large tubs on the terrace, filled with herbs and cut and come again leaves, tumbling tomatoes from a hanging basket as well.

Of course books had to feature again. The larger one is all about healing and creative journals. I have always kept a diary, but there is a difference between a diary and a journal... the former records events, and the latter the emotions felt at the time... that's a very simplistic description but conveys the differences between the two I think. Some of the journals created are works of art.. I don't aspire to that level of competency since my arty skills are virtually zilch, but with the aid of stickers, stamps, odds and ends and words of course, I think I can make a reasonable attempt at making a healing journal. I have a few books on the subject, having become interested in the idea of journaling, writing, for spiritual, mental and therefore physical well-being and growth. I was at the hospital this week for my six monthly check up at the transplant clinic, and always suffer dreadfully with anxiety, which manifests itself in unpleasant physical ways as well as mentally. I don't know why this is so, after over 26years of going to clinics of one sort or another regularly, sometimes monthly, you would think I would be accustomed to it. But no... the BP goes off the scale almost (though settles back down a few hours later, at home) and I feel pretty awful. Once it is over with, I almost skip with relief out of the hospital!But whilst waiting for the doctor I tried some writing therapy, writing down who was sitting near me, and how I felt at the time. It helped, took my mind off the wait, which in effect was no more than 15-20 minutes, but felt like hours of course.
The other book is 'The Palace of Strange Girls' written by Sallie Day. It is set in Blackpool, in one week in 1959, the Wakes Week holiday, an annual event when the cotton mills close down for their holidays and the majority of the workers from the Lancashire Mill towns head for the bright lights and gaudiness of Blackpool. Some are heading for foreign climes, travel to the Costa Brava has just become easier to access for all, but the majority stay with what they know. The Palace is one of those attractions on the Promenade, or was... a house of horrors, of weird and wonderful women, and this fascinates young Beth. She is not a healthy girl, has had major heart problems and is watched over like a hawk. With her parents and elder sister, a sulky teenager who wants to leave school but isn't allowed, she has come to Blackpool. Her father Jack is hiding a secret, her Mother Ruth is only with him for the semi she lusts after. Who gets their own way and what happens in the meantime, has happened in the past also, is contained in this lovely novel. I bought it because of the setting. At that time, although I only lived a few miles further up the coast, we never visited Blackpool. My late father, with ideas above his station, thought it too common, for a day out Southport, genteel and quieter, more reserved, was the choice. But once I left school, it was the best place to find work. In the town where I lived, the options were office work with soicitors mainly, shop work, working in Mullards Valve Factory, or in the fish processing plant on the docks. Blackpool offered much more, variety and money in your pocket, so that was where I headed. So Blackpool in the mid-60s holds lots of memories for me.. and someone who often posts a comment here!

Here are the drawstring bags I mentioned. I have no idea what they can be used for to be honest. I have done one is a cheery red, lined with Christmassy fabric of a red background and tiny green trees, made an applique from the fabric in the shape of a tree and sewn to the front, and tied with red glitzy ribbon. These I used the french knitting for, and I suppose they could be used to keep gloves in, stockings, little scented sachets and hung up somewhere, maybe? And then there are the sherbet baby socks, a lime green with yellow heels and toes, made the same way as my jelly bean socks of last year.
So that was my last bank holiday weekend.. I wonder what the next will bring? Most likely making a start on taking my workroom to bits and starting again. It is a clutter of different bookcases, cupboards and so on, and whilst that may look like shabby chic in some surroundings, in mine it just looks messy. So I am going for a more uniform look, getting a new work table, one that I can use the sewing machine on as well as laptop.. new bookcases matching, for my hundreds of novels.... new storage for craft materials and a glass fronted cabinet for the finished articles as well as my oldest, precious books which are a bit fragile. Should keep me busy!