Wednesday 30 August 2017

Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2017

Hello, thank you for popping in.  It's the last week of the school holidays here and it's pouring with rain - no doubt the sun will come out next week once everyone has returned to school!  Actually, it may not be the last week of the holidays for us because the Best Beloved has no work lined up yet for next term, which is a bit of a grim prospect.  Hey ho.
We spent the weekend at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival and for the first time in the nine years we have been attending, the sun shone all weekend.  I shall repeat that because I can't quite believe it myself: August Bank Holiday and the sun shone all weekend!  We arrived very early on Friday morning and left at midday on Tuesday, exhausted but very, very happy.  I wrote a comprehensive post about this festival in 2015 which you can read here if you would like to, and this year the formula was repeated but OH, THE SUNSHINE!!!!!! 
As usual, there was great music, dancing, food, crafts, a beer tent, a wine bar (because not all folkies have beards and drink beer), bunting, face paint, a children's festival and a real family atmosphere with something for everyone.  I'm afraid I took very few photographs.  I sat in the sunshine, drank cocktails, knitted, listened to music, watched people and drank up the aforementioned atmosphere.  In the evenings, I wrapped up, sat in a marquee drinking wine and watched some amazing bands.  There was happiness everywhere, and colour, lots and lots of colour.  The days were full of colour and the evenings were full of light.  When I look back on this year's festival in the future that's what I shall remember, colour and light.


If you'd like to see some more of the festival, hop over to Three Stories High where Jo has shared some wonderfully colourful photos. 

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Thursday 24 August 2017

More Sock Knitting

Hello, thanks for calling in, it's lovely to see you here.  It's also been lovely to have a bit of sunshine at last, the garden has really welcomed it and so have I. 
When I showed you the Peacock Socks I knitted for a friend, I told you that she bought me some Drops Fabel wool so that I could knit a pair of socks for myself.  Here it is, called, rather unimaginatively, Green Print (542).  Honestly, where do they get these names from??
When I saw it, my immediate reaction was, "Ooh, Mossy Woodland".  I love a walk in the woods with dark, shady bowers, dappled glades where the sun peeps through the canopy, making the leaves glow where it lands, and soft cushions of moss on the north side of the trees, hiding from the sun.  I thought a pair of Mossy Woodland socks would suit me right down to the ground.  However, once I had knitted enough for the pattern to emerge I realised that it wasn't a woodland at all because it was just too stripey!  The rows were too neat, too geometric, too regular, too cultivated, not an organic, sprawling woodland shape at all
I knew that these socks were weaving their own story but it was just out of reach and that bothered me, niggling away until at last I realised: they are Somerset Socks.  We have visited the Somerset Levels for the last two years during the school holidays at the end of May.  These socks were showing me those views: the regular shapes caused by the hedgerows enclosing the fields and the drains and ditches which take away the excess water, the dark lines of trees rising above the white mist in the early morning, narrow lanes lined with green hedges and creamy cow parsley, yellow fields of buttercups and all the shades of green we saw as the sap was rising and foliage was bursting with vitality and growth.  Yep, these are most definitely Somerset Socks.

I do rather love these.  For all I am drawn to rich, warm colours, I like the muted nature of these colours working together, they seem quite modest, shy, even.  Shy Somerset Socks.

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Able Seaman Joseph Garside RNVR

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  I am so please that you have because I have some lovely news to share with you today.
In November last year I shared with you the story of Joseph Garside, a young man who was shot in the spine at the Battle of the Ancre in November 1916, discharged from the Royal Navy in August 1917 because of his injuries and died in June 1918 - you can read the post here.  As he was no longer a member of the armed forces when he died, his name was not recorded on any war memorial until last year, when a new memorial was unveiled by the Duke of Kent at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.
Well, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has made a beautiful headstone of Portland stone for Joe, just like those you see in its war cemeteries, and three weeks ago it was installed at his grave in St James' Church in Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne. 
We will remember them.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Sunday 20 August 2017


Hello, thanks for popping in.  I'm afraid I'm a bit fed up: we had hoped to go camping this week and I was really looking forward to it but at the last moment our arrangements fell through and we couldn't go.  I was SO disappointed.  However, the Best Beloved had a bright idea and suggested that we pretend we are camping and have a staycation instead.  It's been fun: we have used the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom in the house but otherwise we have spent our time in the summerhouse, the garden and on outings.  We have rediscovered our love for the summerhouse and decided that we should spend more time in it, whatever the weather.  (I should point out that there is nothing grand about it, and one of my friends refers to it very disparagingly as "the shed".)  We have even seen a bit of sunshine (gasp!).
Every morning has begun with our usual camping routine: a pot of tea, a bowl of cereal, a boiled egg with soldiers, another pot of tea and the newspaper, all enjoyed in the summerhouse in a lovely, leisurely manner.  Simple things can make me very happy.
On Wednesday we visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.  This is the UK's centre of remembrance, for civilian as well as military deaths, and is home to more than 300 memorials.  Every year in November we see it on the television and say to each other, "We should go there," but we never have done until this week.  We spent more than four hours there and we'll go back.  Like most people of our generation, all of our grandfathers served in the armed forces in either the First or the Second World War and we worked out that if we added in our great-grandfathers and the Best Beloved's father, we had ten men who marched or sailed off to do their duty.  Widening the circle to include uncles added another three, plus two aunts in Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps... and every single one of them came home.  I was reading this week about Thankful Villages, a term popularised in the 1930s for settlements from which all members of the armed forces survived the First World War, and the Best Beloved said that we are a Thankful Family.  We are.  So, we didn't go to the Arboretum to find a particular name, but while we were there we found ourselves remembering and reminiscing about our men and women, and that was good.

First, we took a tour on a land train with a recorded commentary, which was a good way to get an overview of the site.  The tour lasted for just under an hour and then we made our way up to The Armed Forces Memorial which looked glorious in the sunshine.  More than 16,000 names of those members of the armed forces who have died since the end of the Second World War are inscribed here and it is the centre of commemorations around Armistice Day.  It has been designed so that if there is sunshine on 11 November at 11am, a shaft of light will fall through the gap in the wall onto a bronze wreath in the centre of the circle.

Our next stop was the Naval Service Memorial - the Best Beloved's father, grandfathers and step-grandfather were all Royal Navy career sailors - and from there we went to The Arctic Convoys Memorial because two of them were on those ships during the Second World War.

We wandered through the Navy Wood and arrived at The Korean War Memorial.  My father-in-law earned his medals with the Far East Fleet during the Korean War and the Best Beloved was delighted to find his father's ship, HMS Charity, listed on the memorial plaque.  We remembered and retold his father's stories about that time, and we smiled fondly.  It was good.

Lastly, we visited the Burma Railway Memorial, which comprises actual pieces of the track, made, ironically, in England, and the Far East Prisoners of War Memorial Building.  Although none of our family was involved with the war with the Japanese, I know of three  men who were and I wanted to go and pay my respects to them.  I called them up on the electronic roll which holds the names of 57,000 British servicemen who were taken prisoner by the Japanese.  This building holds an exhibition about the war in the Far East and I found the atmosphere incredibly intense; there were middle-aged men in there weeping as they read about the hardship and the cruelty displayed there.  It was a very emotional end to our visit.
If you want to visit the Arboretum, be aware that although they tell you that it's free, it's not really because you have to pay £3 to park your car (and the spaces are rather small) and another £3 for a map of the site, which doesn't list all the memorials!  The full list is £6.50 but I looked them up online on my 'phone instead.  We also paid for the tour on the land train, which was worth every penny.  The major downside of our visit was the truly appalling cup of tea I didn't drink in the cafĂ©, the worst I have been offered in a very long time, possibly ever, and probably largely due to the nasty UHT full cream milk which was in it.  Yuck!
 On Friday we went to Lake Vyrnwy in Powys.  We took a picnic and our binoculars and spent a few hours there, through sunshine and showers, although I was a little disappointed in the lakeside bird hide: we were in there for almost an hour, during which time I saw one great crested grebe, one heron and one fish!  After I packed my binoculars away, three cormorants turned up but honestly, I think the birds hide when I go to a bird hide.  However, the chairs were very comfy and nobody else was there so the Best Beloved was able to have a nap!!  After all, he's on holiday. 
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x
 EDIT  It has been pointed out to me in the comments below that my grandfather was involved in the Japanese theatre of war, making this memorial area more significant to me than I had realised. 

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