Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Clearing the Camera!

At the risk of being terribly British and talking about the weather ....... what a scorcher of a Bank Holiday weekend we had! All was going fantastically well, until we woke up one morning and no water came out of the taps! It turned out that there had been a problem at a water treatment works and the water had to be cut off whilst it was dealt with. As it was an emergency, we had no warning and so no opportunity to fill kettles etc. Luckily, huge tankers began touring the area to supply us with the necessary, but given that it was a really hot day, they ran out rather quickly. I don't normally have much to do with bottled water, but a trip to the supermarket was called for and, naturally, by the time we arrived home with 8 huge bottles the supply was back on, so they're now cluttering up my larder! 

Anyway, I suddenly realised that my camera was getting rather full, so here is a quick run through what we've been up to for the last few weeks. In no particular order ...........

More decorating. This time E's bedroom. She used to have a cabin bed that she had been complaining about for a while (too near to the ceiling so she couldn't sit up now that she's bigger, and too creaky!). So we took it down, I painted her room and shampooed the carpet, and tomorrow her new bed is being delivered. As she's at uni, she doesn't know about any of this so, hopefully, it will come as a nice surprise at the end of term.
 Ducklings in the garden:
 A drive through Burnham Beeches for lunch with a friend......
 ...... and then a walk through the woods to find Bluebells:
 Sock knitting with my yarn bought in Antwerp:
 A purse making workshop at a nearby farm. It's now my 'parking meter purse' - all £ coins go in here for when I'm visiting E in Bristol.
 L came home for the weekend and we went for a walk and a picnic up Beacon Hill. Here's the view of Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey) from the top:
 Loving L's charity shop Converse trainers! 

 There were cowslips galore:

 On the way home, we drove by Sandham Memorial Chapel and decided to pay a visit. This is Stanley Spencer's 'Holy Box', containing his famous war paintings. He worked as a medical orderly in Bristol and Salonika and his paintings show the everyday routines of the soldiers. No photography was allowed inside the chapel, but it is well worth a visit. Whilst we were there a man was reading war poetry aloud. Both my girls studied WWI poetry for AS English Literature, so many were familiar to us. Even so, Rupert Brookes' 'The Soldier' had me sitting there trying hard not to cry.
 A trip to our local theatre in the evening:

 To see this. There were only 3 cast members playing all the parts, and they were brilliant.
 L has a kayak that she bought when living by the river in Oxford. Now that she lives in London, 'Nitwit', as it is affectionately known, lives in our shed. She had an outing on the Bank Holiday - L and R did most of the paddling, but I did have a little go. Well, there are only 2 paddles and my role was chief picnic bringer!
 

Floral goodness from the garden. These were my Tulips from Amsterdam. We bought a mixed bag of bulbs and initially I thought that they were all red.....
....... but then:
 
The Wisteria is flowering. It smells beautiful, and as I type the scent is wafting through the open window.
A few years ago we bought a Magnolia tree for the garden. Sadly, every time it made some attempt at growing/flowering the deer ate it! Over the winter, R added a barricade of netting and look!
There is just the one flower mind you, but it's a start and I'm thrilled!

Hostas before the slugs!
...... and it's blossom time! Blossom against a blue sky is one of my favourite sights. That and yellow Rape against a stormy sky, but sadly I don't have a picture of that!
Finally, my finished 'Dotted Rays Shawl' by Stephen West. I really loved this pattern; there was just enough detail to keep me interested, but also lots of garter stitch making it ideal TV knitting:
Well, that's my camera clear. I think that it's cooled down a bit now, so I'm off to do a bit of weeding. Enjoy the sunny weather while it lasts. I tapped the barometer today and it swung towards rain, so I have my fingers crossed for a good old thunderstorm this evening. Another of my favourite things! Enjoy the rest of your week.
Toodle pip for now. xx


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The 'Tapestry', the Mosaic and the Greenhouse

Hello again. I hope that everyone had a wonderful Easter break even if, like here, the weather left much to be desired. L and E have both gone back now, so once again the house seems unnaturally quiet. I have to keep reminding myself that in a week's time I will be used to it again, otherwise I could easily fall into a slough of despond.
There have been a few highlights over the past couple of weeks: I took advantage of the one sunny day and sowed all my seeds in the greenhouse. I did a one day mosaic course in Oxford, and R, E and I took a trip to Reading Museum to see their copy of the Bayeux Tapestry.
The trip was E's idea. She is currently studying the Norman Conquest as one of her uni options and has to write an essay on the tapestry. Many years ago, R, L (then aged 2) and I were lucky enough to see the original during a holiday in France. I confess that I can't remember much about it - probably owing to the fact that I was looking after a 2 year old and my attention was elsewhere! I heard on the radio that the original is coming to the UK in the near future, so I'm sure that we will be paying it a visit. Until then, however, the Reading version was a good substitute.
According to E, most books/articles on the Bayeux tapestry begin with the same fact: that it isn't in fact a tapestry, it's an embroidery. The original was made by English embroiderers in Kent in the late 11th century, and the Reading copy was made over the course of a year (1885-6) by members of the Leek Embroidery Society in Staffordshire. The 35 members, thinking that England should have its own copy, worked from photographs. They used wool dyed to match the original 8 colours and each 'signed' their own section once complete.
The tapestry was also mentioned recently in the first episode of the BBC's  'Cunk on Britain'  - very amusing, especially the bit about Hill Filth!
Anyway, here are a few photos:
Turold was the medieval equivalent of a graffiti artist, adding an image of himself and his name to the tapestry. Now that requires more dedication that a can of spray paint!


There was actually a talk on the tapestry on the day we visited, but by that time we were desperate for some lunch and, given that we had our own little Bayeux expert with us to guide us round, we decided to give it a miss. Wagamama was very nice!

The mosaic course was my the second workshop chosen to replace my cancelled birthday painting course. It was held in the artist's home - a beautiful house with stunning views in Oxford. The studio was in fact a sun room, and after setting off from home in fog, the mists cleared halfway up the A34 and it was glorious sitting there in the sunshine, peacefully cutting tiles. The teacher, C, and other people attending were a joy, and lunch was yummy. She had even made a vegan fruit cake!

 C's home was filled with beautiful examples of her work:

More tiles and bits of broken crockery etc than you could shake a stick at!
Most people attending were there for 2 days. I was just doing the one, so was a little limited as to what I could achieve in that time. I had initially wanted to do a chicken but it was deemed too ambitious for 1 day (maybe next time!), so I settled on a dragonfly. Here it is before grouting:
...... and after:
 
We had been encouraged to take in any special bits that we wanted to include. The only piece I took, was the little bit at the end of the tail. My girls found it whilst digging in the veggie patch many years ago, and it had been sitting in a bowl with other bits of 'treasure' ever since. I added pieces of a broken cup to complete the body. Looking at it objectively, the body should be longer and the head smaller, but I'm pleased with it and we can always just call it folk art!

Other happies:
Meeting an old school friend, Z, in London for a catch up. Z was running a little late and suggested that we meet in the Renaissance Hotel at St. Pancras. Had I known that that's where we would end up, I would have dressed somewhat smarter! Arriving first, I sat in the cafe in the atrium and was immediately attended by a waiter. Having said that I was waiting for someone, he thought it best to refer my attention to the sign which said that there was a minimum spend of £14 per person. Obviously, in my jeans and trainers I looked too tramp-like to be able to afford the prices! When Z arrived, we moved to the other cafe in the hotel (no minimum spend!) and ordered lunch. It was delicious and the staff couldn't have been nicer or more helpful - vegan choices were slim on the ground, so they actually made me my own roasted tomato and basil soup. 
Making the most of a sunny day:
My sowed seeds. Trying to use up some 'about to expire' Tesco vouchers, I bought a subscription to the Kitchen Garden magazine. Each edition comes with 3 free packets of seeds, so I am branching out in the veggies I am trying to grow this year. Aubergine anyone?
My Easter Sunday cast on - Stephen West's Dotted Rays Shawl in Malabrigo's  Piedras colourway:
A quick pair of fingerless mitts. At Christmas I made some gloves for L's  boyfriend, J. He loves the colour purple and, as my hands are much smaller than his, there was just enough yarn left over for a pair for me. They even match my leggings!
Well. that's it for now. There is more sunny weather forecast for this week, so as today is a little overcast I'm just off into town to get a few errands done. Then tomorrow, it's garden here I come!
Whatever you have planned this week, have fun.

Toodle pip for now. x

Monday, 2 April 2018

Antwerp

When R bought me a trip to Antwerp for my birthday in December, I confess to having been a little bemused. I have a long list of places that I would like to visit that R is aware of -  Antwerp being conspicuous by its absence. It's not that I actively didn't want to go there, just that I hadn't really thought about it. That was a big mistake, as it's actually a little gem. 
He had booked it for the end of March thinking that it would be lovely and spring-like and we could lunch outside, or drink a coffee or a beer. Then, the weekend before, the mini Beast from the East happened and we began to wonder if our timing would be off. As it turned out, we were really lucky. Apart from a shower as we walked to the station early on Saturday, the 3 days were dry and sunny and we were able to eat outside ....... albeit wearing coats and hats!
Our only problem was that lots of the museums either didn't open until April, or that they weren't open on the days that we were there. Consequently, we had seen everything that we could in the first 2 days and so decided to split our journey home by spending our last day in Brussels. 

Anyway, here are a few photos of our stay:
My first trip on the Eurostar - it was quick, smooth, and I'd like to go on it again - maybe to Bruges or Lille next time.
A late breakfast and a little knitting:
Antwerp station. This was absolutely gorgeous. Built in 1905, there is lots of gilded ornamentation, polished marble and glass. It gives a great first impression of the city.
The outside of the station and. incidentally, the view from our hotel:
Our hotel! 
China town:
My Pils!
R's Westmalle Double. He really liked this and has bought some since we came home:
Our guide book informed us that one of the things to do in Antwerp is to take a selfie sitting in the giant hand. It was very popular, however, and difficult to get a photo without other people in it!
Just like Amsterdam, there were lots of trams. It seemed smaller though, so we were happy to walk everywhere:
Blue skies and Cathedral towers:
The Grote Markt or main square is one of the highlights. It has an unusual dog leg shape and is home to a fountain depicting Brabo, a legendary Roman soldier who freed Antwerp from the giant Atigoon. He then threw his severed hand (hand-werpen) into the river.
The outside of the Museum Vleeshaus. This 'Meat House' was built in 1501 as the guildhouse of the butchers and a meat market. It is now a music museum but, sadly, was closed until April!
Sunset by the River Scheldt:
Ruben's House. Shortly after marrying, the artist bought this house where he then lived and worked until his death. After centuries of neglect, the house was rescued by the City in 1937 and has been refurbished to look how it might have done in Rubens' day.

I loved the tiles around the fireplaces:

..... and the short bed. People used to sleep in a semi-sitting position, supposedly to aid digestion and the circulation:


The man himself:
Busking in style!
The Cathedral pulpit. Elaborately carved in oak and depicting birds, trees, angels and saints:
Glorious windows:
....... and on to Brussels' Cathedral:
Smurfs!
More wonderful architecture in the main square:

The Manneken Pis. I'd actually been to Brussels before as a child and vaguely recalled that I'd found this beloved tourist spot, that appears on all the souvenirs, slightly underwhelming. It's really small, almost like someone had a spare garden ornament, and the clothing and mortar board didn't really help. You've got to hand it to them though, all that wonderful architecture and this is what they decide to run with. Still, it shows a sense of humour and I suppose that it's easier to mould in chocolate and corkscrew form!
A band suddenly appeared in the main square. Everyone followed behind clapping along. I'm not sure if it was celebrating something, but it was all very jolly:
One of the museums. There was a Pompeii exhibition showing, but as we were pushed for time and have been to Pompeii, we decided to give it a miss. We did have lunch in a small restaurant overlooking it .......... sitting outside!
Parakeets in the park:
One last beer and free nibbles before catching the train home:
Well, that's it for our trip in Antwerp. I loved every minute and would heartily recommend it for a short break. Just make sure that you wear good walking shoes - even though I wore my sturdy boots my feet have only just recovered!
Toodle Pip for now. x