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