Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Grey Skies with a Silver Lining

Hello, thank you for popping in here, it's lovely to see you.  We are now just over halfway through our six weeks of school holiday and I am fed up.  The Mathematician finished her stint on Guernsey last weekend and came home...but only for a week because in the early hours of yesterday morning we deposited her at Birmingham Coach Station so that she could travel to Dover where she met a friend and then set off for The Netherlands, Germany, The Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Italy, all in three weeks, taking in a festival on the way. I admire her sense of adventure but do not envy her.  I didn't even want to do it when I was her age - when I was twenty-one I holidayed in Worcester with my parents and sister over a long weekend!
So, during this week of sorting out laundry, travel arrangements, insurance and shopping we fitted in some family time.  The Mathematician spent Monday catching up with her sister while the Best Beloved and I drove out to Carding Mill Valley in the Long Mynd for the afternoon.  It was busy and I was pleased to see so many families there enjoying the great outdoors, happy children playing in the stream, fishing for tiddlers in the pool with nets and buckets and listening to the National Trust ranger's geology talk with rapt attention.  The Best Beloved and I wandered up the path, through the ford, a little further and into the bird hide where we saw ... three empty feeders and a rather shy robin.  Harrumph!  We came out and I sat by the pool; a very small girl threw pebbles in, one after another, and I watched as the ripples rhythmically worked their way out to the edge.  I felt my mind slowing down.  The Best Beloved wandered about with his camera.  It was good to be out beneath the big sky but it would have been SO much better if that sky had been blue. Instead, it was unremittingly overcast and dull.  There was not a glimmer of sun. 

We asked The Mathematician to keep Wednesday free so that we could take her out for the day.  Our plan was to remind her and her friend, a language student who has spent the last year in French Martinique and Italy, that their home county is lovely too!  Again, we drove to the Long Mynd, this time up to the top, and although we could see where the sun was shining, we just couldn't quite get there.  Above us was that thick veil of grey cloud, AGAIN.

On the way back down we stopped and got out of the car to look at the views and while the girls wandered off together, chatting, the Best Beloved and I saw something rather wonderful: a hen harrier hunting over the heather!  Hunted to the edge of extinction in the UK, only ten chicks have fledged in England this year from three nests (four more nests were unsuccessful), and yet here was a male right in front of us, ghostly grey with black wing tips, rising and swooping, dancing in the air for a good fifteen minutes.  He was the silver lining in the cloud and we were SO glad we had packed our binoculars.

This morning the sky is blue and full of promise.  About time.

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Peacock Socks

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  I hope you have brought your cardigan because it's chilly here, and rather miserable.  I have been turning the lights on in the daytime all week and on Tuesday evening we actually lit the candles in the evening and made hot chocolate, which is unheard of for this time of year, but we needed some comfort.
So as we are cosying up, I thought I'd share some socks with you.  A few months ago I offered to knit some socks for a close friend, a woman with a big heart and cold feet.  She asked me where I buy my Drops Fabel and a week or so later she arrived at my door with two 50g balls of Green/Turquoise Print (677), a very uninspiring name for a glorious yarn because as I was knitting and the pattern appeared it became quite obvious to me that these are, in fact, Peacock Socks. 
All went very well with the first sock.  However, when I came to begin the second I realised that the long pattern repeat meant that I had to wind off an awful lot of yarn from the ball before I could even cast on if I wanted the second to match the first, which I did.  (I know that some people don't mind if they don't match, but I mind very much.  Each to her own.)  In fact, I had to wind off 10g, a fifth of the ball.

This meant that I only had 40g to knit with, so this happened -

Grrr!  I have to tell you that there was, ahem, language.  I was cross.  I retrieved the 10g of yarn which I had wound off, found what I thought was the right place and carried on BUT it wasn't the right place and the toes didn't match.  I really couldn't bear it so I frogged it and tried again.  It's still not right, but it's almost right and as my friend won't be wearing them with peep toe sandals, I decided that they were good enough and that if I tried again, I probably wouldn't match them any better.
So, having finished the socks, I wanted to knit a bag for my friend to keep them in.  I cast on 80 stitches with the unused Drops Fabel and knitted in the round until I ran out of yarn, finishing with four rounds of purl to make an edge, but unfortunately, the bag wasn't big enough so I found some charcoal grey 4ply in my stash, picked up the stitches from the cast on edge and carried on until it was big enough to hold two carefully folded socks.

Peacock!  Dark green, purple, turquoise, lime... I really do LOVE these colours.
I have been asked how long it takes me to knit socks so this time, I kept a tally and I now know that it takes me ... thirteen hours per sock, so twenty-six hours for a pair.  I am not a fast knitter and I make a bit more work for myself by knitting the cuff in double rib, but I prefer them that way.  So, gentle readers, if you are wondering why handknitted socks are expensive, do the arithmetic and work out twenty-six hours at minimum wage and you will find that any handknitted socks you can buy are an absolute bargain!!  (I know a demon knitter who can knit a pair of socks in sixteen hours but even that works out at more than £130.)  Alternatively, find a friend to knit some for you because once you have worn socks which have been knitted to fit your foot, you will find it very hard to go back.
My friend really is delighted with her socks, and with the bag and I have to tell you that because she really is a lovely woman, the bag of yarn she brought me contained not only two balls of Peacock yarn, but another two balls for me to knit some socks for myself.  I have the best friends.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Buildwas Abbey

Hello, thank you for calling in here, it's lovely to see you.  I'm afraid the weather has been fairly dismal for the last fortnight, although it hasn't actually rained today, and apparently, summer has gone.  We haven't even been on holiday yet!  Sigh.  Thank you very much for your comments on my last post, you lot are lovely and shawl number two is nearly finished.

I have some lovely real friends (as well as lovely blogging friends) and last Saturday, I went out with one of them to spend the afternoon at one of my favourite places, Buildwas Abbey, built in the twelfth century and abandoned to decay since Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the sixteenth.  We certainly didn't intend to stay there all afternoon but it's that sort of place, so peaceful and secluded, protected from the rest of the world by tall, leafy trees and shrubs and never busy, so that you feel yourself slowing down and relaxing, worries and tensions melting away until all you are left with is yourself. 
We encountered all sorts of weather while we were there and at one point, peering through the glassless windows, I wondered whether the sliver of sky I could see was deep blue or charcoal grey; it turned out to be the latter.  We heard the thunder rumbling around, getting closer, and eventually fat, heavy drops of rain began to fall.  We were not deterred - after all, we are British and used to this sort of summer(!) so we simply put up an umbrella and carried on chatting until the storm passed.  Our endurance was later rewarded with glorious blue sky punctuated with thin white streaks of cloud although later still, the cloud thickened and expanded to cover the blue and the temperature dropped. 
There are wooden benches in the grounds, even some picnic benches, so we had taken a picnic.  My friend had expected me to take a flask of tea but I didn't...I took cans of gin and tonic instead!  There we were, without any responsibilities for a few hours, spending them drinking gin in the twelfth century!  And so we spent almost five hours together eating, drinking, chatting and looking at the ruins, separately and together, marvelling at the fan vaulting and the centuries-old encaustic tiles in the Chapter House and the huge pillars in the roofless nave, watching the swallows diving in and out of the Monk's Parlour to feed their chicks who were safely tucked up in a nest in the vaulting.  Butterflies fluttered by and a large dragonfly showed off.
I have been to Buildwas Abbey many times before - for several years it was the site of an annual family picnic to celebrate The Teacher's birthday - but never lingered for so long.  It's that kind of place.  Do go if you can - it's in the care of English Heritage and the current charge is £4.30 for adults.  The website is hereI think I'll be going back soon to chill out and see how those baby swallows are getting on.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday, 29 July 2017

My First Commission!

Hello, thank you for dropping in, I am so pleased to find you here.  School holidays began here a week ago and predictably, we have had a lot of rain!  However, we did fit in a lovely trip to the Berwyn mountains on Monday and the sun was shining when we got there.  I'll share it with you next week but today I'd like to share my knitting because I have made something beautiful (there, I've said it) and I am feeling SO proud of myself that I could almost burst!
Several months ago, a friend of a friend asked if I could knit a traditional white lace baby shawl for her.  I had never knitted one before - I had never really knitted any lace before - but I did fancy learning how to do it and I knew someone who might help me, a wonderful knitter who has been knitting baby shawls for more than fifty years.  I asked her if she would teach me and she immediately replied, "Do you want to do that circular one I've done a million times?"  Of course I did!  So, on her advice I bought a copy of Patons Pattern 8008, 200g of 3 ply yarn and a long 6mm circular needle and soon, I was ready to begin.  Get me, working on my first commission!
I am not a particularly fast knitter and it took me weeks months.  The pattern was not difficult to follow but a considerable amount of frogging was involved as I got to grips with it and learned to relax and knit loosely while counting to six over and over again.  The Best Beloved learned not to talk to me while I was counting because if I lost my place, it was his fault, obviously, and the consequences were not pretty!  Once the knitting was finished, I took it round to my knitting mentor and she showed me how to sew up the seam and weave in the ends.  Last of all there was the blocking which was problematic because I don't have a space in my tiny house which is big enough to stretch out a four foot circular shawl and leave it overnight without cats sitting on it!   What did I do?  I took it to my parents' house and pinned it out on a spare double bed, of course.  I sprayed it with water, opened the window, firmly closed the door (in a catproof manner) and went back in the following morning.  I gently removed the 54 pins and those lovely points stayed crisp and, well, pointy.
I delivered the shawl last week and the friend of my friend is delighted.  Phew!  She bought me an extravagant bouquet by way of thanks.  That's not bad, is it?  I got the pleasure of the knitting, the acquisition of a new skill, the satisfaction of making something beautiful AND some lovely flowers in return for my labour.  And in a few months' time, a new baby will be snuggled up in a soft, gossamer shawl given by an excited grandmother.
Before that, however, another new baby will be snuggled in an identical shawl, made by its grandmother with love in every stitch, for  when The Teacher saw the first one she asked me to knit one for the baby she is expecting in the autumn.  One, two, three, four, five, six, yarn over, two, three, four, five, six, ... 
 See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Acton Burnell

Acton Burnell is a small village in a very quiet part of Shropshire.   If you lived here, your address might be 12 Acton Burnell, for there are so few houses that street names are not needed, and yet once this was the most important place in England.  I'll just let that sink in for a few seconds... once, Acton Burnell was the most important place in England.
The Best Beloved and I went there one sunny April day at the end of a long and difficult week.  We drove along the village street, turned down the lane, passed the ancient church and parked when the lane ran out.  We got out of the car and found a little gate which led us into a shady thicket, perhaps it was an old, overgrown shrubbery?  Following the path, we emerged into the sunlight and saw this, Acton Burnell Castle -

Robert Burnell was born in Acton Burnell in 1239, one of four brothers.  He became a priest (which was, after all, a way to get a good education) and worked in the household of Prince Edward, the son of King Henry III, and when he was eighteen years old he was appointed the prince's chaplain and private secretary.  The two young men were the same age and became close, Edward appointing Robert his Chancellor in 1265, so when Edward went off to Tunisia to fight in the Crusades in 1270, Robert was one of four men appointed to look after his interests in England while he was away.  When King Henry III died in 1272, Robert became one of the Regents of the kingdom and was responsible for supervising Parliament in the absence of Edward, who was now king, and upon his return from the Holy Land, King Edward made Robert the Lord Chancellor of England, his chief advisor and administrator.   
In 1275 Robert became Bishop of Bath and Wells and his thoughts also turned to the village in which he was born.  He bought the manor of Acton Burnell and rebuilt the church, which was dedicated to St Mary, laid out the village and built himself a rather grand home, surrounded by an outer wall and a moat.  The wall and the moat are long gone, as are the outbuildings, but the red sandstone ruin of the block which housed Robert's private apartments still stands.

In 1284, Robert was granted a licence to crenellate, which gave him permission to add battlements to his home.  This sign of his high status would have looked very impressive and some homes were crenellated simply for this reason, but remember that we are close to the Welsh border here and 1284 was the year in which King Edward conquered Wales after several years of fighting, so Robert may have had genuine military reasons to fortify his home.
Although you can't tell from the photographs, there were actually a fair number of visitors while we were there.  There were several families with children of all ages from tots to teens, older couples and a very young couple who arrived on bicycles with a picnic in their backpacks.  Next time we go, the Best Beloved and I will take a picnic because it is a perfect spot on a sunny day, bounded by fields, the thicket, the churchyard and the grounds of a private school (remember the school as I shall come back to it).  We picnicked here with The Teacher when she was very small and she loved clambering over the empty windowsills and running through the empty doorways. 

 After spending a while sitting in the sunshine, listening to laughing children and chattering birds, we walked back up the lane to the sandstone church - after all, I do like to visit a church!

To be quite honest, and I am whispering this very quietly, I was a bit underwhelmed by the interior, although the north transept contained some fascinating memorials, including the finest medieval brass in Shropshire on the tomb chest of Sir Nicholas Burnell, who died in 1382.

There are also some rather grandiose marble memorials of members of the Lee family, including this one for Sir Richard Lee who died in 1591.
The manor of Acton Burnell eventually came into the hands of the Lee family of Langley, less than two miles away, and you might remember that I wrote about Langley here when I visited Langley Chapel in January.  They had no need of a grand residence in Acton Burnell as they lived in Langley Hall so the castle, which had been abandoned in the fifteenth century, was left to gently decay, although the family still used the parish church.  It is this Lee family connexion which explains this plaque -
It used to be believed that Richard Lee, who emigrated to Virginia in 1639, made a fortune out of tobacco and is an ancestor of General Robert E. Lee, was a member of the Shropshire Lee family, although I think that research in the 1980s revealed that Richard's direct ancestry was actually in Worcester.
When Mary Lee married Edward Smythe, Acton Burnell and Langley passed to the Smythe family (women were not allowed to own property in England until 1870 so anything Mary inherited went straight into the ownership of her husband).  Their descendant Richard Smythe left Langley and built Acton Burnell Hall in about 1700, right next to Robert Burnell's castle, which became something of a picturesque folly, although it was obviously put to some practical purpose because the tower with the pyramid roof was used as a dovecote.  Acton Burnell Hall was rebuilt in the 1750s and remained in the Smythe family's ownership until 1939 when they sold it, although they retained the rest of the property.  They sold most of that in 1949 but retained the landscaped park which had been improved during the rebuilding in the 1750s.  Acton Burnell Hall was sold on in 1973 and is now that private school I mentioned earlier.
Fifty metres apart, in the grounds of this school stand the ancient gable ends of a very large stone building which is traditionally known as "the parliamentary barn" and it is these incongruous ruins which are really the most important stones in Acton Burnell. 
In 1283 King Edward I needed to raise money for his expensive military campaigns in Wales and Scotland and so it was decided that a new tax should be levied.  Edward needed the support of his citizens to raise this tax so he had to call Parliament to pass a new law.  At that time, Parliament met wherever the king was so Edward came to stay with his friend and Chancellor Robert Burnell at his lovely new home and his nobles and bishops came too.  The important fact about this meeting of Parliament is that for the first time ever, commoners came too, representatives from each city and town in the land.  A large building was needed to accommodate everyone and tradition has it that they met in the tithe barn, although, frustratingly, there is no documentary proof.  Some historians believe that the lords and bishops met in Robert's castle while the commoners met in the barn, while other historical scholars suggest that the building was not a barn at all but a new great hall built by Robert specifically for the parliament to meet together. 
Wherever Parliament met, it was the first time in England that untitled people participated in creating a new law, and Robert Burnell's hospitality must have been well-received because Parliament came back to meet here again a couple of years later.  That first meeting resulted in The Statute of Acton Burnell, or The Statute of Merchants, which was intended to attract foreign merchants and increase trade  by allowing for debtors to be imprisoned until their debts were repaid.  (If you are familiar with Little Dorrit or the Marshalsea, you will know about this!)
Acton Burnell Castle is in the care of English Heritage and is free to visit.  If you go in the spring, the churchyard is full of daffodils as it holds a national collection of narcissus; if you go at any time of year, you are visiting somewhere that in 1283 was the most important place in England.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Thank You

Hello, thank you so much for popping in here.  I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to those of you who left comments and sent messages and emails in response to my last post about the fire in the tower block.  You have enabled me to see things from a different perspective and helped to soothe my soul a little.  You lot are lovely.
It's four weeks today since Grenfell Tower burned.  Eighty people are now thought to have died. 

I'll be back very soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Fire in a Tower Block

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  It's lovely to see that you are here, really lovely.  Thank you
A couple of weeks ago, Rosie wrote that she is "keeping on keeping on" and that struck a chord with me.  I wake up in the morning and quickly turn on the news, wondering what may have happened overnight in this country which we have considered to be a peaceful, safe, democratic place in which to live.  The political situation is uncertain and the recent terror attacks on people of this country are frightening, but the event which has upset me most of all is the fire at Grenfell Tower and I should like to share with you the reason why.
When my girls were young, I worked in an eleven-storey block of flats which belonged to the local social housing provider, a housing association which had asked the local ecumenical council of churches to run a community project there.  The tenancies were offered to people between the ages of 17 and 29 but they were secure tenancies and many people had lived there for years because they liked it, so their ages ranged from seventeen to sixtysomething.  Some of them had babies (although not the sixtysomethings!).  Some were working, some were unemployed and some were retired, making it a mixed community of ages, genders and cultures.  There were fifty-seven flats, each housing one, two or three people, and I knew all of them.
The community project was open during limited daytime hours from Monday to Friday and from 6pm to 3am every night of the year because people tend to have their emotional crises
during the night, when limited support is available elsewhere.  I was regularly that support.  The importance of fire safety was impressed upon all staff members and we attempted to impress that importance upon all the tenants, but working at night, it was up to staff to enforce it.  So, during my nine hour shift I would check all twelve landings three times, once between 6pm and 7pm, once between 9pm and midnight and once between midnight and 3am.  I would close any doors which had been left open, remove any bags of rubbish which had been left and check that the dry risers had not been tampered with.  If the rubbish chute was blocked and I couldn't unblock it, I would ring the emergency maintenance team and they would come out before my shift was over and unblock it because rubbish is a fire hazard.  Similarly, I would check outside the building and if anything had been dumped there, I would ring the emergency maintenance team and they would come out and remove it before the end of my shift, because it was a fire hazard.  Three times every night of the year these checks were performed and written down to leave a paper trail. 
We were told that if there were a fire, the floor on which the fire started and one floor above and below would be affected but that the construction of the building was such that the fire service would put out the fire before it could spread further.  We were told that the fireproof doors, including the front doors of every flat, would give an hour's protection, by which time the fire would be out.  We tested the fire alarms weekly.  We were told that if there were a fire, we shouldn't touch the fire alarm system control panel in the staff office,  but we should wait in the office until the arrival of the fire brigade (we still called it that then) and that the Incident Commander would then deal with the panel.  Nobody else would touch it.  At that point, staff should take instruction from the Incident Commander about what to do next.  Nobody could remember there ever having been a fire in the thirty-odd years of the building's existence, but we took the risk very seriously, so perhaps that's why there hadn't been a fire.
Late one night there was a fire, a malicious act of arson on the fourth floor.  The fire alarms went off and the panel in my office went doolally.  The lifts stopped working and some people evacuated the building, using the only stairwell.  I was the only member of staff on duty but I felt quite calm because I knew exactly what to do: I waited for the fire brigade who arrived within minutes, shortly after the police.  The Incident Commander came into my office and started dealing with the fire panel.  By this time, the alarm had been going for a while, longer than usual, and tenants were anxiously ringing down from their flats to ask if it were a real fire or a drill and should they evacuate, so I asked the Incident Commander what I should tell them.  "Yes, get them out," he replied, so that's what I did.  As I knew all the tenants, I knew who was still inside the building so I rang round every flat until I had spoken to all the tenants.  Although I could feel adrenaline start to take hold, I was calm because I thought our procedures were sound.
The problem was this: there was one stairwell and so many people were rushing down the stairs that the fire officers could not get up them to the fourth floor, so the fire was spreading.  Once all the tenants were outside, I left the building, leaving it to the firefighters who soon put out the fire.  I was calm.  Nobody was hurt, I reassured myself, those stuck inside the burning flat having been rescued by the firefighters and their long ladder.  The fourth floor was badly damaged but the fire hadn't spread any further and quite soon, everyone else was able to re-enter the building and return to their homes and their belongings.  I finished my shift and calmly wrote my incident report for the manager to read in the morning.  When I got home at about 3.20am, I took off my professional head and discovered that I was too agitated to go to bed for hours, thinking about what might have been.
A couple of weeks later I was asked to attend a multi-agency meeting with my manager to discuss the night's events.  Representatives were also there from the housing association, the local authority and the fire service.  At the meeting, I was asked why I had evacuated the building because that action had seriously impeded the firefighters and prolonged the life of the fire.  I explained that the Incident Commander had told me to and the fire officer at the meeting said, "I was the Incident Commander that night and I didn't give that instruction."  I felt stunned.  I explained that I had been told that only the Incident Commander would use the fire panel and that as the officer in question had been doing just that, I had assumed him to the be Incident Commander.  He then told me that I should have known who was who by the number of stripes on their helmets(!!) but somebody else spoke up for me and said that that was unreasonable and that if a person wearing any firefighter's uniform tells you what to do, you do it.  I left the meeting exonerated.
When I woke up last Wednesday morning and saw the news unfolding of the fire at Grenfell Tower, all of this came back to me in vivid detail.  I told a friend who I saw that morning that I felt "a bit traumatised" and although I meant it honestly, I feel embarrassed about that word now: the people who have lost their homes, their possessions and those who they know and love are traumatised, my feelings pale in comparison.  I have no right.  Every day since, I have replayed that night in my mind, and I count my blessings as I hungrily search for updates on the former residents of Grenfell Tower.

So far, there are seventy-nine people confirmed dead or missing, presumed dead.  The first funeral was today.  Those people who survived have lost everything except their lives. 

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Thursday, 15 June 2017

I Crocheted A Rainbow

When The Teacher told me that her friend was pregnant I decided that I wanted to crochet a blanket for the baby, something soft and snuggly to play on, sleep beneath and wrap up in.  I have been learning to crochet for a year or so, dipping in and out of a project, but deciding to actually finish something, before a deadline, spurred me on to develop a level of skill that would produce something good enough to give to somebody else.  So, I looked around the internet for inspiration and found these gorgeus rainbow blankets made by Heather at Little Tin Bird.  As soon as I saw them, I knew that I wanted to crochet a rainbow: The Mathematician says that rainbows make people happy and what better wish is there for a new little person than happiness?

I followed Heather's colour scheme to the letter: Stylecraft Special DK in lipstick, spice, saffron, lime, turquoise, violet and magenta, ten rows of trebles in each colour.  I began at home, sitting in front of the computer and trying to master a chainless foundation row, frogging it, trying again, frogging again, beginning again... six or seven times before I had a smooth, straight(ish) row of 104 stitches.  Your comments after I showed you my first stripe of magenta in April encouraged me to keep at it.  I was glad when I reached the yellow because until then, it looked like a peacock and whilst I love peacock colours, I wanted to give the baby a happy rainbow. 

All the hours I spent in the passenger seat of the car during April were spent mastering the hook and Knit and Knatter on Thursday afternoons became Crochet and Cnatter.  I crocheted in the summerhouse, on the sofa and in bed. 

In a fortnight, the blanket was done.  I sewed in the ends and thought about a border.  I am not very good at choosing colours and with so many colours in the blanket itself, I didn't know what to do, although I was repeatedly drawn back to a ball of copper-coloured yarn.  Neither did I know how to make a border.  So, back to the internet I went and when I saw Lucy's spot on edging over at Attic 24 I had a flash of inspiration: the small tortoiseshell butterfly has a row of turquoise spots around its wings.  I wanted to crochet a border of turquoise spots within a copper band, butterfly wings to enclose the rainbow. 
So without further ado, here is the finished blanket, a rainbow held in a butterfly's wings. 

I know that it's not perfect, it's only three simple stitches and many of you make far more complex and delicate things with your hooks and yarn, but I am SOOOOOOOOO ridiculously proud of myself.  This blanket makes me happy every time I look at it.  I hope that it makes Baby Nate happy too.

The blanket certainly made someone happy - I have been asked to make another!  Get me!!
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday, 10 June 2017


Hello, thank you for calling in.  Is all well?  Thank you for your comments on  my last post, especially for your condolences.  My bookish aunt's funeral went well: my cousin played some Ravel on her flute, I gave my well-rehearsed eulogy without embarrassing myself (crying / falling over / leaving my skirt tucked into my knickers) and as at all the best funerals, there was some applause and some laughter as well as some tears.  I think we're going to be all right.
During the half term holiday the Best Beloved and I went camping in Somerset.  We went there for the first time last year and enjoyed it so much that we decided to return to the same campsite in a rural spot on the Levels.  As we turned down the lane, bounded by green hedges and frothy cow parsley, a small rabbit hopped ahead to show us the way  to the empty camping paddock and I instantly relaxed into happy holiday mode.  There were the ponies, the alpacas and the swallows, just as last year, and there was the view across the Levels to Glastonbury Tor, just as last year.
Ah, that view.  We had intended to eat out a couple of times but in the end we didn't bother because, as I said to the Best Beloved,  we wouldn't find anywhere with a better view than the one from our tent, so eating dinner whilst watching dusk settle over the Levels was our nightly pleasure. 
The view was a morning pleasure as well, particularly at 5am on our final morning, when it looked like this -
Behind our tent was a field which two friendly horses shared with quite a lot of hoppity bunnies and...a harrier jump jet.  I kid you not.  The campsite owner bought it on ebay a few years ago and is restoring it.  The aeroplane lives in a hangar but two fuel tanks lie casually by the gate. 

We drove out to the coast one day and visited Watchet, a pretty little town whose harbour inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  We sat by that harbour and watched the comings and goings while we ate our sandwiches, we visited the little museum, one of those which is firmly rooted in the history of its place, and later, we sat in a pub courtyard and drank chilled cider.  'Twas a very good day.

On a gloriously sunny day we visited Wells Cathedral and marvelled at its twelfth century architecture.  In a rather tense situation involving satnav, wifenav, an unfamiliar town and a very busy carpark "we" (by which I mean "he", obviously) managed to leave the camera in the car so the Best Beloved had only his 'phone for photographic duties.
The scissor arches in the nave were "a medieval solution to sinking tower foundations", according to the guide. 

We arrived in time for an organ recital and were invited to sit in the quire to listen.  The quire is the oldest part of the cathedral and the seating is usually roped off, so this was a very special treat. 
I am not a great fan of organ music but to hear a skilful, professional organist (Robert Gower) play the right music for the right instrument in the right place and to hear the sound fill the space was another treat.
The cathedral has "one of the most substantial collections of medieval stained glass in England".
Wells was lovely and I think we shall have to return, with the camera so that we can take some proper photographs, preferably when there is an organ recital. 
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Five May Things

Hello, thank you for dropping in here.  Thank you to all who left comments on my last post; it seems that most people are unaware of the British Army's involvement in Salonika during the Great War which is one reason why I wanted to share my great-grandfather's story here and I am pleased that so many more people now know about it; I think my father is, too.
The sun has been shining and May is working her magic on the landscape as new, lush green growth grows apace and flowers bloom.  Yellow oilseed rape shouted in the fields, bluebells rose dreamily in the woods and frothy clouds of Queen Anne's lace appeared to border the lanes.  The holly bush outside my front window has been covered in tiny white blossoms which bees visited greedily - I've never noticed before.   
Here are five things I have been doing since I was last here:
1.  A death in the family
My bookish aunt died on 7th May and I was asked to give the eulogy at her funeral.  I felt honoured to have been asked but it's not something I had ever done before so inevitably, I was nervous.  I wandered through the house for a week pulling off the shelves some of the books she gave me, holding them in my hand, trying to feel the essence of her as I prepared the words I would read. 

2.  Making stock
Almost every weekend we cook a chicken and because we buy free range and it's not cheap, I insist that we have to get three dinners out of it.  The third is always soup: I put the carcass into the large pot which my mother used to use, together with an onion, a carrot, some peppercorns and dried herbs, bring it to the boil and then let it gently simmer away for a couple of hours.  I find this all immensely soothing in its old-fashioned simplicity and at a time when my mind was almost completely preoccupied, it was good to be able to cook something without really thinking about it.

3.  Crochet
I finished the baby blanket.  I am SOOOO ridiculously proud of myself!  I shall write a post about it soon but in the meantime, here's the edging, inspired by the small tortoiseshell butterfly.

4.  Photographs
I have numerous packets and envelopes of family photographs dating from the 1890s to the present day and I really need to pull them all together and decide how to organise them.  I know that we are in a digital age but I am old-fashioned and I like to hold an album and turn the pages, and I like there to be some text to explain who the subjects are so that the album is meaningful to others as well as to me.  It's an exciting idea, one which I shall enjoy, but I just can't decide on the details yet.  I have started to plan.

5.  My hawthorn tree
The tree outside my bedroom window donned her best dress on 1st May and wore it for three weeks, during which time I opened my bedroom curtains as soon as I woke up, hopping straight back into bed afterwards so that I could enjoy her knock-out beauty while I drank my Earl Grey.  She was absolutely glorious.
I am linking with Tricky Wolf at  F.A.S.T.  for Five on Friday so if you have time, please click on the link to hop over there and see what everyone else is sharing this weekend.  Thanks, Tricky, for hosting this party every week and linking us all up together.

One more thing, for C, who has emailed me about St Bartholomew's Church at Moreton Corbet: I have found something which might be useful to you but I can't email you because your settings are "no reply".  Could you alter the settings and contact me again, or use a different email address? 

See  you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x