Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

Books- May 2023

Some really good books this month to share.

Amanda Jennings- The Judas Tree. This was so good, that I’m only going to quote from the books’ cover so I don’t spoil it for you. “A gripping page turner ” It was and I read it in only a couple of days. “Childhood betrayal casts a long shadow” . Set in a school in Cornwall leading to an horrific incident ..which haunts two boys Will and Luke into adulthood. First rate thriller. That’s all I’m saying. No it’s not all I’m saying ..the author has written other books. Hurrah!

Bonnie Garmus- Lessons in Chemistry- I have read reviews of this book from those that loved it and those that couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. I’m in the Love it camp. It is set in the 50’s when the idea of women as serious career scientists, managers, engineers was thought ridiculous and/or unnatural. Criticism that this is not a new topic is accurate. But this novel lays out what a crazy waste of talent this was. So Elizabeth Zott fired from her job as a research chemist becomes a TV cookery presenter and explains the science behind her recipes. The novel is funny and charming and I loved the running commentary from the dog Six Thirty.

Kate Morton-The Distant Hours- The setting is a castle in Kent, the distant hours reflect the people and events from the past and the impact on the present. If only the walls could talk, the tales they would tell. In the novel the past does have an echo.The time span is the 1920’s till the present day. Three sisters live in the castle inherited from their father..an author of a well loved children’s story, a rather unpleasant scary story as it turns out. Not going to say much more . Kate Morton is a very skilled plotter and writes beautifully. Just when you think you have sussed everything out..she springs the final twist and find yourself totally wrong, bamboozled in fact. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Paula Hawkins- Into The Water- an enjoyable but not great murder mystery. I wasn’t keen on the multiple narrators as I kept forgetting who everyone was. But it kept me gripped and you can’t say fairer than that.

Mark Mills- The Savage Garden- Picked up from the library’s display table on gardening books. It was a Richard and Judy summer read, and would be perfect on your hols. Set in Florence and surrounding environs’, Adam a student at Cambridge in 1956 is invited to a Tuscany villa with gorgeous garden to unravel the mysteries of its design. Described in the blurb as A hugely atmospheric murder mystery. Which it was!

Sarah Winman- The Tinman- From the cover ” It begins with two boys, Ellis and Michael who are inseparable. The Boys become men, and then Annie walks into their lives, and it changes nothing and everything” . The setting is Oxford..not the university but the car factory and the Cowley Rd and France, with nods to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and Frejus, where Mr E and I had a couple of camping holidays. It is a beautifully written tale of love and loss. I assumed there would be a twist in it at the end, there wasn’t unless I missed it. The problem with some books is that author’s assume you read in a single sitting, but most books are read in small goes, and if the chapters are too long you loose the thread. If I’d liked it more I would reread it to make sure I’d not missed something vital. At only 195 pages I shouldn’t feel this, maybe I’m just getting old.

So that’s it for May. Lots more good ones in the stack for June. I hope you have some Good ones too. My next one is another from the Garden display.. Wondered if you use your library do they do themed displays?


Divest- May

My one word for 2023 is Divest. Both stuff and a bit of a negative attitude towards things that need doing around the house.. apprehension of hassle, generally not liking my home with people doing jobs in my space all leading to procrastination.

May was the first month I decided not to make a firm plan and to see how I got on. The answer was pretty good. I have spent a lot of time in the garden divesting weeds. It’s coming along quite nicely, but there is more to do.

I have started to take things out of the under stairs cupboard. It’s a start. The test will be to not return it all.

I have begun to fill a box with surplus craft supplies.

I contacted a plumber re the shower in the ensuite. He spent an hour here today, but will have to come back as the pump is making a noise..at least it now gets cold water through. More importantly I coped brilliantly with him here. and the previous owner had said it made a noise , it just didn’t when I used it . At least I have done something about it after complaining about the temperature of the water when we moved here three years ago! Not used it in the last 18 months, but overnight visitors are expected at the end of June.

Having spent so much time in the garden I have come to realise how much good it does me. I feel so much brighter for being outside.

I also appreciate the need for rest. Time spent alone. But also the time spent with family, old friends, and people with whom I share interests.

I have realised that doing everything one needs to do day to day just takes longer the older I am. No point in writing enormous and totally unachievable To Do lists.

So the plan for June, is simply to carry on, doing what I’m doing. Letting stuff go, and carrying on with life. June will bring the delivery of a single bed for grandchildren, a plumber fettling the shower, gardening, a family BBQ, a trip to see The Lion King , a family picnic and a Postcard Fair.

Joining with other one worders here https://youronewordblog.wordpress.com/2023/05/30/checking-in-5-23/

How was your month? Are you decluttering or getting jobs done? What things are you looking forward to in June?

Unraveled Wednesday

Progress on the new cardigan for Little Miss P. The left front is done and I have marked out where the corresponding buttonholes will be on the right front. This pattern has the button band added onto the main body of the cardigan, so not so much picking up of stitches will be required.

It’s looking more pink and less flowery than I’d expected. Hoping the right front gets more flowers and less pink.

I’ve been busy working on the dresden plate block for Kate’s quilt for charity. Wasn’t happy with how it looked when I added it to the plain background, so undid that bit and started over. Pleased with how it looks now and hope to post it to Australia next week. I’ll post a picture once it’s safely there.

Meantime the sun has been shining and I’ve spent a lot of time outside working on my little patch of garden. Cut the grass this morning, but left a bit long for the bees and insects. Not for the greenfly and slugs, they can jolly well go away please. And the snails can do one.

Lots of reading too. I went to the library a while since to collect my reservations ( an aside.. had to renew my annual reservation pass today. Mentioned to the librarian that I had had good value from it, £1.50 per book without a pass. £30 for unlimited books. She said she’d noticed my name came up a lot, and was pleased to put a name to a face, that’s nice). Anyway to get back to what I was saying, when I was there before I noticed one of their table displays on gardening, and in amongst various gardening guru books there were novels. This is the first of the two I borrowed.

Set in 1956 in Florence and surrounding countryside, a Cambridge undergraduate is investigating a private garden made in the 16th century and uncovering skullduggery. Perfect light read for my post gardening and preknitting daily activity.

Joining with Kat and others for more yarny goings on. Do please pop over for a read. Link here-http://askatknits.com/2023/05/24/unraveled-wednesday-5-24-23/

Unraveled Wednesday

A new project and a new book.

Oh so pretty, and in chunky yarn which is quick to knit. A new cardigan for Toddler P.

And the book is

Just started this, one chapter in, and so far so good. Picked up from the library a couple of weeks ago.

Joining with Kat and the other unravelers here. http://askatknits.com/2023/05/17/unraveled-wednesday-5-17-23/

Scrap Happy May 23

Last time at the Big Knit group I go to, someone brought in four incomplete unloved little teddies they had found whilst having a tidy up of their yarn stash.

I recognised them immediately. They are what is known as shoebox teddies. I’m sure you have heard of the annual Christmas shoebox appeals , but just in case you haven’t. Empty cardboard boxes that you buy your shoes in are filled with toys, and useful things like notebooks and crayons, wrapped in Christmas paper and sent to places where there might be children who won’t be having much fun on Christmas Day. The lady who donated them had made about two dozen teddies, destined for orphanages in Romania, and basically ran out of oomph after finishing twenty.

I volunteered to complete them and return to the Big Knit for this years appeal. Now the point is you can’t stuff them quite as much as you would like as they mustn’t take up too much space in the box.

I don’t know about you but I keep all the the tiny left over scrap yarn I have , some no longer than it would take to complete these. I always have toy stuffing. In less time than I thought these four bits of knitting became

Four little teddies!

Love them. So happy to have been the one to bring them to life.

Joining with Kate and others for scrap happy day. Do pop over to see contributions from others. Here-https://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/2023/05/15/scraphappy-may-5/

Unraveled Wednesday

Kat has returned from her travels so I am back to the unravels this week, and a chance to share what I am knitting and reading. And I have a finish a just in time kind of finish.

And for comparison , taken direct from the BBC coverage, The Real Thing

Know which one I think is the better looking!

And for reading

What’s not to like about a lovely castle in Kent for the setting.

Link to Kat and the others here http://askatknits.com/2023/05/10/unraveled-wednesday-5-10-23/ Do pop over there are some really lovely projects as always.

And now for new knitting, hurrah!

Divest- The May Plan

When I reviewed my one word-Divest- in April , I pretty much knew what I planned to do with the last week in April, and in May. The plan was on paper , it just needed typing up for here.

Then it was all change. I’d been procrastinating about finding a decorator to paint a bedroom for months. Following on from April’s review I realised that part of the issue was down to not wanting someone in my space coupled with the general angst and hassle of finding said decorator. Add in watching one too many TV programmes on interior design. They make painting look such a doddle. You can guess where this is going. Although the last room I painted all by myself was in 2013, and the last time I wielded a paint brush was 2017 with Mr E doing the wallpapering, I decided to Do It Myself. So I did. It’s very amateurish but hey I did it. So that took care of the last week of April and the under stairs cupboard is still in need of a sort out.

The bedroom I realise now was acting as a bit of a mental block. It is the smallest one in the house and primarily had been used as the space where we kept Mr E’s medical stuff etc. His photography stuff is still in the wardrobe. I need to put a bed in there for grandchildren. It’s the first room to be decorated since we moved.

Doing it has shifted something in my mindset. Unexpectedly the hedge and lawn people who chopped back the hedge in Winter came on Tuesday to fettle the lawn.. Moss all gone, grass seed scattered. Throw in an equally unexpected last minute family picnic, a letter from an old friend in Sussex, and a plan for another gathering of school friends in Yorkshire, and I now have bookings for two long weekends away at the end of the month and in the Summer. All of which have been arranged within the last seven days.

My life is beginning to look and feel very different. I am getting used to the idea that this is my house, my garden, my time, and it’s all been a bit strange.

So the carefully worked out plan for the first week in May has gone the same way as the end of April plan. Out of the window.

This morning it occured to me..What if the plan for May was No Plan. Let me test what I have learned so far this year. Let me see how I cope with the unexpected, have I built up enough momentum to keep divesting myself of stuff, have I learned the importance of dealing with negative attitudes and beliefs. See what happens, then work on the bits that haven’t become hard wired.

Caffeine has well and truly gone. My breakfasts have changed..fruit and yogurt instead of sugary porridge. So some things are already second nature.

I like this idea a lot. I really think a month with no specific plan is worth trying. I have a request at the library for a book I think will help me with letting go of my parents things, which I will read. I really do believe in the necessity of rest and total downtime every week.

So my plan for May is carry on doing what I have learned so far and see where the weak spots are, and celebrate the successes.

Quite exciting really.

Books April 23

An eclectic mix of books this month. The Agatha Christie was from my own bookshelf and has gone off to a charity shop. Alexandria belongs to my son and awaits collection. The rest were library books.

Agatha Christie- Lord Edgeware Dies- A re-read from many many moons ago, and one from my own bookshelf. One of her best to my mind. Already donated to a charity shop.

Jake Eagle & Dr Michael Amster- The Power of Awe- Requested from the library back in January, I finally got my hands on this book to help me understand how Awe could help me Divest myself of unhelpful behaviours and thoughts. Awe they say can be broken down into Attention, Wait, Exhale and Expand. They argue that you don’t need the Grand Canyon to find Awe, it’s everywhere around you in the treasured objects in your home, the bubbles in your washing up bowl etc. They make some pretty big claims in how Awe can help ease chronic pain and overcome burnout and anxiety. Do I believe that? Not sure, but just noticing something everyday and focuses on it for a minute (they claim 15 seconds is enough) certainly gives that necessary breathing space , and who knows the long term effect? I certainly have been captured by sunshine on droplets of rain on a branch, the dandelions and gorse flowers along the grass verges and the daffodils in a vase in my home.. I read a lot of the book, but must admit to skimming parts which seemed a bit repetitive.

Edmund Richardson- Alexandria-The Quest for the Lost City. A detailed and scholarly account of an unknown to most people, self taught archaeologist , part time and most unwilling spy for the East India Company in Afghanistan and deserting British soldier, Charles Masson, real name James Lewis. It was quite a challenging but interesting read, and I understand a lot more about the politics of the area than I did before. And the lost city, found but under sand and rubble again.

Anthony Quinn- The Blood Dimmed Tide- I was searching the library website for a poetry book with the poems of W B Yeats. I duly found one and reserved it, however I was intrigued to find this novel pop in the same search.. I had to read it. Indeed the poet and his wife appear as characters but the plot I believe is fictitious, although Yeats and his wife Georgia are pretty much true to life I think. Yeats was Ireland’s poet laureate. The novel is set towards the end of WW1. At that time Yeats was caught up in the interest in the occult, magic and ghost hunting. He was a Protestant , but hailed from the South of the country and believed in independence. In 1918 the struggle for that independence had turned bloody. The powers that be were obviously worried about that. So, the main protagonist is Yeats’s apprentice ghost catcher Charles Adams who goes to Sligo to investigate the murder of a young woman whose body was washed to shore in a coffin. Throw in a few séances, smugglers and the Daughters of Erin fighting for freedom and you have the basis of a Good plot. Which it was. It makes Yeats sound a triffle silly with his belief in the occult. It was an ok read mostly because I didn’t like the writing. Trying to figure out what I didn’t like.. maybe too much in the plot that didn’t flow very well. I enjoyed it, gave me some insight into Yeats and his world and the background to Irish independence and the links to Germany in WW1.

Gwendoline Riley- My Phantoms. Oh my the writing in this book is simply incredible. Very little action, mostly dialogue. Helen Grant is a mystery to her daughter Bridget. Part one, takes us through Bridget’s relationship with her divorced parents. Her writing is so sharp it hurts. A permanently disappointed mother and a father who thinks he’s being funny, but is boorish and unpleasant. Part two, the father has gone his own way, and Bridget rarely sees her mother, they just don’t communicate well nor seem to love each other much. Descriptions of their shared birthday celebrations are excruciating. Helen has a bad case of Fear of Missing Out and Bridget just wants to read a book, she is dutiful but mean with it. It’s a short novel, just 200 pages. Read it for the prose. It made me very grateful for my parents.

Kate Morton- The Forgotten Garden- I loved this one enormously. Set mostly in Cornwall, but the story begins with Nell’s arrival in Australia as a four year Old, unaccompanied child in 1913 Trying to understand why that was she goes to England in 1975. In 2005 her granddaughter also visits Cornwall to investigate her family history. The story has three narrators and their accounts are intertwined .

And that’s it for this month. I have chosen some good looking books from the library for May. We have three public holidays in May so plenty of reading time.

What are you reading at the moment? Love to know.

Unraveled Wednesday

The weeks are just speeding away. I know when I was at school and again full time working, weeks seemed so long. Now blink and they are gone!

However it’s time again to catch up on all things yarny with Kat and the others, link here-http://askatknits.com/2023/04/26/unraveled-wednesday-4-26-23/

I have now completed the King’s arms and nose, but they aren’t attached to his body yet. Meantime the robe is shaping up nicely.

I reserved a copy of Kate Morton’s lates novel. I’m 7th in line for a copy at the library. However it appears I still have lots of her previous novels to read. This is the first of two I got my hands on at the library. And jolly good it is too. Three narrators, spread over the 20th Century set in Brisbane and Cornwall. Just lovely and just what I needed this week – pure escapism.

I had a lovely walk on Monday with a friend to Badbury woods where the bluebells are now in full bloom. I promised a photo so here it is. The weather had sadly turned a wee bit damp by the time I thought to take a picture.

The woods in February

On Monday. I shall go back the next sunny day I can for a better picture.

One word update-April 23

My one word for this year is Divest. I want to divest myself of stuff and of a tendency to put off difficult things, both of which cause me stress. I draw up a tentative plan each month, and reflect on progress with Carolyn and others at the end of each month.

This month I planned to clear the cupboard under the stairs. I cleared the utility room instead, and I still have nearly a week left in April and four of those days are blank in the diary. So theoretically I can still achieve this. Unless the sun shines and I do weeding instead.

I chose three craft projects to complete this month. Two out of three isn’t too bad. And again I could just get the socks done in the remainder of the month.I did manage a scrap happy project and the crochet blanket both of which used materials from stash.

I decided that as two books came in the house in March, three should leave. I have done better than expected, three have gone to charity book stalls and one awaits collection by my son. Even better, I’ve not bought any new books.

I’ve thought a lot about the Power of Awe this month. Especially finding awe in small every day things. I did spend quite a time watching sunlight bounce off raindrops on a branch, and loving the prism of colours and the sparkle. Not sure I’m quite up to awe in buckets of bubbly cleaning water yet.

Proactive maintenance hasn’t gone so well, hmm not at all this month. I have done nothing about the garage gutter, but again April is not yet done. I did cut the grass and started the spring tidy up. So that is a bit proactive.

My boiler saga continued. Came home from France, boiler pilot light out, cold house and water, but at least I knew how to reset it. Came home on Saturday evening after a full days outing.. No heating, but there was hot water, much googling and fiddling, consulting of son, more googling, photos of thermostats and more fiddling.. Booked appointment with heating engineer who came on yesterday (Sunday). Turns out a spare part was needed.. No amount of DIY faffing was ever going to work.

Whilst I waited for him on Sunday morning I tried to workout what was so unsettling, and a lot of it is apprehension, things out of one’s control, but also for me the underlying thought I’ve broken something, or I’m too dim to work something out by myself that I should be able to do overlaid by needing outside help in my happy place. I’d been thinking about happy places all month and had reached the conclusion that home was it. More things to think about!

After the engineer left I slept for a whole hour.I’m beginning to think my mantra shouldn’t be Rest, Recover, Resolve, because that’s not how I do things .As a matter of course it’s Resolve, Rest, Recover, Reflect.

Still learning.

Joining with Carolyn and other One Worders here https://youronewordblog.wordpress.com/2023/04/24/checking-in-4-23/

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