Sunday, 31 January 2016

Family Folklore

Hello, thank you for calling in.  I hope you are all keeping safe, warm and dry enough - especially those of you affected by the extraordinary storms we are having on both sides of the Atlantic.  I am well aware that although the endless rain is getting me down, I have a great deal to be thankful for.
First of all, THANK YOU for your very kind comments on my last post, my own tribute to Alan Rickman - and Rosie, I am very jealous!    Even The Mathematician rang me to let me know that she understood why I had written it, although for her he will always be Severus Snape. 
This was supposed to be my January family history post but I'm afraid other things got in the way so as an alternative, I offer you a piece of what my cousin calls "family folklore" which I heard for the first time today.  We have been to Cardiff Bay to surprise my father by joining him for his birthday lunch and as fifteen of us sat around a table, relaxed and chatting, my mother told us this story.  She was born in London during the Second World War and grew up there.  Occasional visits to the theatre in the West End were part of that growing up (tickets were much cheaper then) and her parents liked to take their daughters to the Savoy Theatre to see the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company perform the works of Gilbert and Sullivan.  One evening, when she was about fourteen years old, they went to see The Gondoliers and the interval went on for rather longer than was usual.  Sitting at the back of the stalls, Ma and her sister became aware that a buzz of excitement was spreading through the theatre: a special guest was in the house.  They waited and eventually, a door opened at the front of the auditorium, beside the stage, and in walked...Winston Churchill AND Field Marshal Montgomery!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Now then, gentle reader, remember that this was only about eleven years after the end of the war and these men were national heroes.  The audience rose to its feet and applauded them before reluctantly settling down for the second half of the performance. 
Fancy that, my mother seeing Winston Churchill and Monty in the flesh!  And fancy her not having told us this story before!!  Winston Churchill, Hello!!!  I am almost giddy with excitement at learning that my Ma was in the same room as our great twentieth century leader.  (Mind you, Aunty Pat going to school with Marc Bolan is pretty good...)  I just had to share the story with you lovely lot.
  See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Edit: my mother rang me after she read this.  Apparently, I got the date wrong - this incident didn't happen in 1956, as I had thought, but in the winter of 1958/9, almost fourteen years after the end of the war.  All other details have the maternal seal of approval. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


Hello, thank you for calling in.  Winter is here at last, cold, cold days and nights, frosty mornings, my vest is firmly tucked in and we have put a big blanket on the bed.  If only I could find my hot water bottle...

For those of us of a certain age, the last ten days have stirred up all sorts of memories and emotions with the deaths of three very talented and creative sixty-something men; David Bowie and Glen Frey are two of them.  Last Thursday lunchtime, The Mathematician rang me: she had just heard that Alan Rickman had died.  "I knew you would want to know,"  she said, "because I know how much you liked him."  She wanted to be the one who told me...

In the summer of 1985 my mother was studying English and read a book called Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.  I had never heard of it, but Ma suggested that I might like to read it because she thought I would enjoy it, so I took it with me on holiday: a week in a camper van with my boyfriend, travelling from Yorkshire home to Buckinghamshire.  She was right, I did enjoy the book.  I enjoyed the holiday, too.  We travelled in the afternoons, exploring our new surroundings the following day before moving on to the next place.  One afternoon we arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon and went to find out what was on at the theatre that evening: The Royal Shakespeare Company were performing in an adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at The Other Place!  Playing the leads were Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman.  Obviously, we bought tickets.  I had heard of Alan Rickman because he appeared on the BBC in 1982 playing the utterly odious Obadiah Slope in The Barchester Chronicles.  He had the most beautiful and memorable voice.

The Other Place was a studio-type theatre with only fours rows of seating, so the audience was very close to the drama.  Our seats were in the second row and I could have reached out and touched the actors at times, they were so close.  I didn't know that the play was only a couple of weeks into its run, that it would eventually move to London and then to Broadway, with that original cast, or that it would win awards.  I did know that it was outstanding, one of those completely absorbing theatre experiences which carry your mind and your soul and burn themselves into the memory, and I have always felt that I am lucky to be one of the few who saw it at the beginning.  Lindsay Duncan famously said, "A lot of people left the theatre wanting to have sex, and most of them wanted to have it with Alan Rickman," and I couldn't possibly comment (I was twenty!), but his performance as the predatory and villainous Vicomte de Valmont was electrifying and sexy and from that night on I have carried a torch for him.   

This was before Die Hard, before Truly, Madly, Deeply (I wept buckets at that one), before Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, before Sense and Sensibility, before Love Actually and, of course, more than fifteen years before he played Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films.

On Saturday evening I brought out my stack of theatre programmes and searched through them hungrily for something which I knew wasn't there.  Usually this is an activity which I linger over as happy memories resurface - the performances, the venues, the people I went with, the occasions we were celebrating - but not this time, this time I was a bit desperate.  I knew that there was no programme for that evening at The Other Place (and I can't remember why) but I wanted to find something tangible, something solid which I could hold in my hand and which would prove that I was really there that unforgettable evening.  Alas...

So I can only show you this, culled from the internet - 


I cannot tell you how many emotions I have felt whilst writing this, but I do believe that evoking emotional response is the reason we need art to help us better understand the world.

I hope that Alan Rickman is resting in peace, knowing that his brilliant performances made us weep and laugh and cringe and fume and cower and gasp and sigh and brought us to a better understanding of human nature, and that some of us will remember him Always.

Alan Rickman
21st February 1946 - 14th January 2016

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday, 15 January 2016

Five on Friday

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  Today I am joining in with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday.  The last time I joined in was on 21st November and I mentioned the snow which had fallen the night before; funnily enough, it snowed here again last night for the first time since that night, and again this morning we have had a bit of blue sky.  The snow has almost all gone now, but it is still cold, about 3 degrees Celsius, and apparently we are due more "wintry showers".
In that post I showed you five pieces of unfinished knitting so this week I thought you might like to see the Works which are No Longer In Progress!
1.  Muffatees
The tails are sewn in and they fit, erm, like gloves, actually!  They are fabulously warm and leave my fingers free for typing, writing, more knitting, making tea, fiddling about in my purse to find change for the bus and all sorts of other tasks.  I LOVE their tweediness and have some more of this wool so am contemplating making a matching cowl or even a hat. 
2.  The Mystery

These socks are my first attempt at stranded colourwork and the huge number of ends to be sewn in meant that they languished in my bag unfinished for two years.  However, they are now resident on The Teacher's feet and I feel quite proud of my achievement - but not proud enough to want to do it again!
3.  Baubles

Taking down the Christmas decorations always leaves me feeling a bit forlorn so I wanted something colourful to put up in their place and I think this will be it: I have sewn some scruffy, unloved baubles into these jolly, knitted jackets.  Now all I need to do is join them together to make a garland and hang them up. 
4.  Santa's Jumper
Santa's jumper was finished, hung on a tiny coathanger made from a green chenille stick (in case you are wondering what that is, when I was young we called them pipecleaners!) and hung on the Christmas tree.
Now, if you read my earlier post, you will have noticed that one of my WIPs is missing: the gift bag.  I did finish it, honestly, I did, but I forgot to photograph it before I filled it with a matching pair of socks and gave it to my sister.  Blogger fail!  So instead, I offer you another WIP: you know how I said that I didn't want to do any stranded colourwork again?  Well, I'm afraid that wasn't strictly true...I didn't want to do it but I have two daughters and having knitted socks with delightful little prancing reindeer on for The Teacher, I felt that I ought to knit a pair for The Mathematician as well, although I did adapt the pattern to make the job much easier than the first time, so here is Number 5...

Thank you for indulging me and allowing me to share these five with you.  Thank you to Amy for hosting Five on Friday and if you have time, why not hop over here and see who else is joining in this week?
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Monday, 11 January 2016

Blists Hill Victorian Town

Hello, thank you for calling in.  I am Quite Excited: do you remember that last time you were here, I told you that I couldn't remember the last rain-free day?  Well, last Friday, 8th January, was a rain-free day!!!!!!!  At last.  Admittedly, I couldn't make the most of it because I spent most of the day at work, but at least I got there and home again with dry feet and I could see sunshine through the window.  Yippee! 
It didn't last: on Saturday I had to run a lot of errands and I got absolutely soaked, but on Sunday morning the sun shone and we decided to go out for the afternoon.  It was cold, but I have a warm coat, gloves, a scarf and woollen socks and I'm not afraid to don them, so suitably attired, off we set, the Best Beloved and I.  We had a voucher to redeem.  We were not much more than ten minutes away from home when the sun went in...but we didn't care, it was dry, we were wrapped up cosily and we were outdoors in the Fresh Air.  Boy, did it feel good.
Ironbridge Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, apparently the second most popular IN THE WORLD in 2013 (I am still trying to comprehend that) and there are ten museums in the valley.  Blists HilI Victorian Town is an open-air museum which recreates a small town set in 1900, the last year of Queen Victoria's reign. 

Some of the buildings are copies of Victorian buildings and some are original old buildings which have been taken down, moved here and rebuilt, brick by brick and they include shops, a pub, a bank, a chapel, a post office, a doctor's surgery, businesses and houses.  The museum staff wear Victorian costume and speak knowledgeably about their trades - the printer is one of my favourites and the Best Beloved likes the foreman who operates the steam engine at the mine.  It's a wonderful place to bring children to teach them about life in Victorian times and very popular for school visits. 
The shop on the right is the pharmacy, used in the BBC series Victorian Pharmacy, and the building in the middle is a grocer's shop which reminds me very much of Ginger & Pickles' shop in Beatrix Potter's tale.  Would you like to have a look in the window? -
These shops are not just exhibits; you can buy their goods.  My absolute favourite is the draper's shop, not an original building but newly built six years ago - you might have seen it on the BBC series Edwardian Farm -
I took several photos of that gorgeous window display -
Deliciously girly, isn't it?  The woman who runs it once told that dressmakers and shops like this were crucial to the suffragette movement in the early twentieth century because they were one of the few places women could go to unchaperoned by men, so they would gather there to talk. 
The locksmith was out but his workshop was open so we wandered in -
The decorative plasterer is another of my favourites -  
We arrived just over an hour before closing time and the site was obviously winding down, but it didn't matter because we have been before and we know that we shall go again before long - as well as the buildings, there are paths to be walked in the woods which rise above the site.  This is not a cheap outing: ticket prices are £16.95 for adults and £11.50 for children and although it would be easy to spend a whole day here, that makes for an expensive family outing.  However, I found a voucher deal here and bought two annual passport tickets for £29 - that's cheaper than two single visits and the passport gives us unlimited visits to not just this museum, but also to the other nine museums in Ironbridge Gorge for twelve months.   So I shall have plenty more opportunities to show you around over the next year.
 See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

On The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Hello, thank you for popping in to my little blog space.  Yesterday was the twelfth (and last) day of Christmas and fortunately, my true love did not send me twelve drummers drumming (or lords a-leaping, depending on which version of the song you know) because goodness only knows where I would have put them if he had, and I'm quite sure the neighbours would have complained about the noise.  No, he didn't send me anything at all, which was fine by me because it was time to pack away Christmas.  I usually undertake this task reluctantly because I think the house looks so bleak without its festive jollification, but this year I was glad to do it, glad to wrap it up, pack it away and move forward.  The decorations were taken down and the tree was chopped up and has gone into the recycling bin - 

The Christmas mugs and glasses and the mince pie plates have been taken out of the kitchen dresser and put away - 

Of course, if your decorations include a crib set, it seems an awful shame to pack it away before the three wise men arrive at Epiphany.  In fact, it seems downright mean to expect them to travel all that way only to find that the stable has disappeared up to the loft!  And do you know what?  You can legitimately leave it up for the rest of this month!  Honestly.  If you don't take your Christmas decorations down on Twelfth Night you can quite properly leave them up until Candlemas on 2nd February.  I have friends who do this, they take down their trees on 5th January but leave the cribs out until Candlemas.  

So, I have bid Christmas "Adieu" and am ready for the New Year.  There will be no review of 2015 here, it brought us good things and difficult things and it's too soon for me to think about it with any degree of perspective.  The Mathematician returned to university on Sunday, The Teacher and the Best Beloved returned to work on Monday and I returned to work yesterday.  Onwards and upwards.

I can't remember the last rain-free day.  It's not cold, in fact it's exceptionally mild, but the constantly leaden skies and soggy trouser-bottoms have been dragging me down.  On Monday, this appeared at lunchtime, albeit briefly - 

Blue sky!  I had almost forgotten what it looks like.  I really don't think I saw it once during November or December.  It put a spring in my step and a smile on my face while it lasted.  Onwards and upwards.

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x