Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

Archive for January, 2022

Books-January 22

This year has started with some wonderful books. I choose all of them before Christmas as I dreaded another lockdown coming. In the end for England it was only partial restrictions with the library staying open as usual, it was me that got lockdowned, so thank goodness for these books.

Clare Marchant- The Queen’s Spy– A book recommended by a blogger. Thrilled to find it in the library. Two parallel stories, which of course come together. One concerns Tom, herbalist, painter, itinerant, deaf mute , who becomes a spy for Walsingham to protect Queen Elizabeth 1st from Catholic plots, the other Mathilde who unexpectedly inherits a gorgeous Manor house in 2021, which gradually reveals it secrets. A lovely gentle historical read, if you ignore the hangings!

Kate Morton- The Lake House– couldn’t believe my luck before Christmas to find this in the library. A Good big book to read after Christmas. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Set in London and Cornwall. A child goes missing in the 1930s from the Lake House which is subsequently abandoned. 2003 Sadie Sparrow , a detective is given extended leave and visits her Grandfather in Cornwall. She takes up the mystery to see if she can solve this old case. Not saying anymore as I don’t want to spoil it.

Toni Morrison- Home. And right next to the Lake House on the library shelf was this book. It tells the story of Frank Money, a disillusioned and traumatised veteran from the war in Korea, and his journey back to where he grew up to rescue his sister Cee. Never an easy read from Ms Morrison, but moving and thoughtful.

Kate Mosse- The City of Tears– and yes you’ve guessed it on the same shelf and next to the previous two books sat this one. The second of a trilogy set in the 16th Century in France and The City of Tears itself, Amsterdam. The background to the novel is the religious and political unrest between religions- the Catholics and the Huguenots, and the families caught up in them. Thoroughly enjoyable, and takes me nicely into February.

In other years I have set myself various reading challenges- five non-fiction books one year, reading my way through the alphabet in order with an author for every letter, that was quite a challenge, then there was the year when I attempted to read my way across Europe, that was a bit of a fail mostly because I couldn’t keep on task with so many other good books coming my way. Mustn’t forget the year of book bingo, or last year when I attempted to complete the list of Channel Four’s forty best books. Didn’t succeed with that either.

Meanwhile the library here has supplied me with lots and lots of good reads, yet I keep asking for books for presents and the home tbr pile keeps growing. So this year I am trying to be realisitc, the pull of the library will be great and I will want to read books recommended by you, so this year my challenge is to have a month of library books followed by a month of books from home. My own version of BYOB- ie bring your own book.

So February will be all my own books, and the only problem I have is returning my library books and not looking at the tempting displays.

Will I manage it? Is anyone doing a book challenge, some I know do multiple ones, and what have you read that was good enough to tempt me in March when I will choose library books again?

Wish me strength of mind to manage this at least for February, because I actually have a pile of jolly good books to go at.

Friday Finish

Good gracious a finish, well as they say up North “Go to the foot of the Stairs”!

Oh yes I have finished this bookmark. It’s not a bigy but it was in danger of going from WIP to UFO, saved just in time.

Spring by Textile Heritage

It was a kit. Lovely quality, easy to follow. The construction took me a while as I had to cut the felt to size that backs it and a piece of card to stiffen it, and I make no bones about being totally hopeless about measuring anything, it challenged me, but hey I’m doing wordle these days, grey matter is in working order. Have you tried it- now have four family members doing it- very addicitive- caught my son posting he’d done it just after midnight when the new word was posted, I’ve gone from morning coffee time to straight after breakfast, I draw the line at midnight.

Anyway if you’ve not tried it, it’s fun.

Next project to finish then will be the cardigan for Baby P. I’m on the second sleeve, so who knows I might have a Friday Finish next week too.

So what is everyone working on at the mo and do you have any nice weekend plans? I am having an Indian Head Masssge shortly. A first for me, if I can find it. I was sent the wrong address and on a reccy yesterday the street number was for a dentist, now that’s not on!

Be Happy, I’m doing my best to be,

Cathyx

Balance- January

Carolyn holds a link party for people to share their one word posts. Thinking about my word for the year, Balance, once a month, seems like a good plan for helping me through this first full year as a widow. Yesterday marks the day when we first saw each other 50 years ago, so it’s no wonder I am having to rebalance myself.

I have indeed gone back to basics in my need for balance, prioritising the simple necessities of life. I sound like the Jungle Book! Apologies to anyone singing about Bear Necessities right now, or was that bare?

First thing I concentrate on every day is food. No more planning one thing and copping out to make something simpler because I can’t be bothered. I have actually managed to think of my meals the night before , making sure I eat meals based on things in the fridge or defrosting something. And sticking to it. Except for the day Dave the computer man came and didn’t leave till 7pm , then I had salad. The thing about starting the day knowing what my main meal is gives me an anchor for the rest of the day, maybe I need some shopping, or need to do some preprep. And thinking of the following day after I wash up at night, helps start the end of the current day leading me to the next. It’s not so much the food that creates balance but the planning.

Next identified exercise. I was when I wrote the first post still in the throws of shaking off Covid, I needed to get out in fresh air and blow it out of my system. So I went to Barbary Castle, the iron age hill Fort, and blew away the cobwebs.

The views are wonderful from here on the Ridgeway.
Incredible to think the M4 and Swindon is down there.

All I could hear was sky larks.

It did me good. The following day also dawned with blue skies, so I armed myself with my duck food and set off to Moulden Hill Lake.

Yum yum, they said.

Swans, ducks, geese, moorhens, coot, seagulls, a Robin and Wood pigeons.

I wish I could say I kept this up, but I didn’t. Because what I hadn’t taken into account is something else I completely failed to think about in the beginning. I’ll explain later.

Next up I’d thought came household maintenance. I don’t just mean fixing stuff but just those things that you have to do. So the car has had it’s MOT, which means its been officially tested for road safety. And I have the paperwork to prove it. I have also made sure the house has it’s correct insurance. Various bits of personal admin. I have dealt with letters and phone calls as they came in. Much less stressful than putting them off all the time.

I have also progressed a couple of bigger plans. I am in the process of acquiring a new laptop, current one has an ominous black line across the screen. Technology was Mr E’s line of work so I was totally at sea, hence the need for Dave the computer. And then the folorn patch which again had been Mr E’s baby now mine. Tessa the wonderful is helping me with my dream of a fruit Grove, ie orchard. She doesn’t think me crazy, she’s totally with me on wanting to use some older varieties to help keep them going. Come on, wouldn’t you plant an apple tree called Eynsham Dumpling? She does the digging, I am the goffer and tea maker. She has so far planted me a Victoria plum tree, and two peaches called the Duke of York and Rochester, and yes their names did play a part in which ones I choose. Tessa will also help me in the front to rip out the artificial grass and plant shrubs and flowers for the bees, butterflies and birds. Rats please note you aren’t beng catered for.

I am loving doing these projects. You may recall I had identified a lot of things I wanted to do. I have had the sense to stop at two.

I reckoned to have balance in my life I needed to feel useful. I have been doing some homework ahead of some training in Safeguarding. It’s going to be via Zoom which I hate with a vengeance. If I had known zooming was part of everything I might never have volunteered in the first place.

Balance also meant thinking about mental well being and seeing people. I do try to venture out daily and mingle but most of the groups I had signed up too closed for this month due to Covid fears. It’s meant I have spent more time at home than for quite a while. It turns out that actually I have benefited from this time alone. I can’t say I have been super productive in anything. I have just not been rushing around and feeling stressed and overwhelmed by stuff. I think what it means is I have to be a bit more picky about what I choose to do. I need time alone. I am of course very lucky that we moved in 2020. I have seen family every weekend. I have cuddled the gorgeous Baby P. I have been on a shopping trip for school coats and eaten pizza. On Saturday I walked with my son and family for a meal in a nearby pub. So it transpires rest is important for Balance too. I have been choosing reading over exercise. Maybe when its warmer and I am fully recovered this will change.

And that kind of brings me to this week. More computer stuff, collecting grandson from school so his parents can have a grown up outing by themselves and getting myself a senior rail card .

It’s been quite a learning experience, and thanks if you managed to stay with me till the end! Have you chosen a guiding word this year? How are you getting on?

Leaving you with another picture from my lakeside walk.

And the link to Carolyn here- https://youronewordblog.wordpress.com/2022/01/23/one-word-january/

Scrap Happy, Jan. 22

I quite surprised myself last year when I stitched all 52 #hannemade tags.

52 tags
Starting with the White one for a New Year, and ending with the Christmas tree at the end.

About six months ago I shared my favourites, and it seems like a good plan to share my favourites from the rest of the year.

Beads and tassels.

This was great fun to make and I love the exuberance of it in its blinginess.

This was couching textiles.

Not only my favourite colours , but incredibly tactile to boot.

Invoking a memory.
Week 51, A Christmas wreath, and possibly my favourite, lots of stitching and beads.

Anne Brookes whose inspiration and you tube videos was behind this endeavour suggested that we could use the back of the tags as a journal. I used mine as a mix if dedications to family, friends and events, Captain Tom and the Duke of Edinburgh both got a mention, and as a journal to important family events. They are lovely to look back on.

When I started this project I determined to only use scraps of fabric, lace, threads and haberdashery I owned. I bought the tags and the ring that holds them, and that was all. I assembled a box of scraps,leftover embroidery floss from kits and various pieces of pretties. You can’t tell I have used anything, there seems to be just as much now as there was a year ago. In the course of 2021 , the only fabric I bought was for a toy elephant. Quite simply I don’t understand it.

So what to do with the box of scrapy fabric. Well a rummage around unearthed another pack of plastic canvas, and since I have scraps of wadding and calico I decided to make another vintage fabric box.

Work in progress.

I thought it would be the ideal project to take along to a new craft group I joined. It should have been yesterday, but it’s fallen victim to Covid fears of the participants. Oh well, maybe in a fortnight’s time.

Meantime do pop over to Kate’s to see what others have been doing with their scraps to make them happy. Link here- https://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/2022/01/15/scraphappy-january-6/

One Word

I was reminded the other day that I used to set goals every year. 16 for 2016, 17 for 2017 etc. They got increasingly hard to think up let alone fulfill. Last year I became aware of other bloggers who would choose a word to guide them or focus on during the year, and how it would keep them grounded.

A wise lady , who is the friend of a friend, of a friend, and on Facebook, whom I have followed for a year or so and helped me through these months puts up occasional prompts. Earlier this week she suggested people choose a number from 1-16 and she would give us a corresponding word to help us through the year.

So I did, and my word is Balance to help me build a new life. I had just started to think about balance and what I needed to balance, when wallop, Covid gave me a bash on the nose. All of a sudden my life required immediate action, I needed to rebalance and quickly. No use at all planning knitting projects and trips to wherever, when I needed to just get through the next few hours. Top priority all of a sudden was food, what to eat based on what I had , and how to make sure I had the energy to prepare it. Complete days turned upside down. Yes family would shop for me gladly, but they have enough to do already.

First thought was that the bread would run out, and I have a bread based light meal at lunch time. So I did a quick reccy , I had home made soup in the freezer and the ingredients to make cheese scones. Enough to last me several days.

It took me all morning.

But it was worth it. The point of this is I realised that often I gave little thought to meals until the last minute, and even if I did then I left it till I was too tired to be bothered by cooking what I planned, and I would scratch some sustenance together.

Exercise is the same. I would start a day thinking I might go for a walk or a swim, but then wouldn’t go.

And then crafting, Oh I love the new project, the shopping the choosing, the starting, the thinking about starting…tomorrow.

I knew after I lost Mr E I needed to meet new people, do new things, and I might, or it might feel too scary, and I’d get cold feet or start too many. I looked at my bookcase, my life was just like if.

Higgely Piggely

Or Topsy Turvey , out of balance, failing to think of the basic building blocks of life in favour of the scatter cushions.

Food and exercise have to come First. Nothing like having to be indoors and not allowed out to make one realise that outside is pretty important. In fact I quickly realised that I needed to be outside to get better. The one single thing,the need for fresh clean air to cleanse this thing out of my system was prohibited. I got up at 4.30am just to stand in the garden and breathe. Yes it was bloomin cold, but five hours later I got that negative first test.

Then I thought about how procrastinating about basic household stuff actually made things worse. All from fear, of what I don’t know. My enormous list now over 30 things that at sometime need attending too.

So my rebalance, would be food, exercise, household maintenance. What else needs to be here? Feeling useful perhaps? I have volunteered to take on Safeguarding for my local church. It’s a commitment, requires some work being quite new to the parish. I try to be useful to my family, supporting them however I can, getting the balance right, leaving them their own space too.

So I have Food, Exercise, Household matters, Being useful.

Mental well being. Well all of the above helps, but we are social beings. The phone calls, text messages, emails, blogs have been invaluable, shouting at the Royal mail delivery driver to leave a parcel in the porch because I had Covid and couldn’t take it from her was not nice. Necessary but not pleasant. I have never seen a delivery driver shift so fast.

Seeing people then, being with others, even if only fleetingly. I had already had a hint of this need through the last few months. Days when I stop in all day long leave me feeling yuk, down in the dumps, blah. Getting out and seeing people then.

Which leads me to that bookcase. The contents of which reflect all the things I am interested in, and would ideally like to spend my days doing. And there the books are in a bit of a muddle. And when I don’t do all the things , again I feel well blah or meh if you prefer.

So Balance will be my word for the year, as suggested. Prioritising the basics before I put the cherry on the top, but never forgetting that the scatter cushions and the cherry on the top are important too.

I’d love to know your thoughts on what I just wrote. I don’t like pretentious b…sh.., so hopefully it doesn’t sound like that. How do you achieve balance? Sorry about the mixed metaphores too, blame the cotton wool covid brain. I do. I am now officially not infectious with Covid. I just need to get over this thing, it was exhausting even with the vaccines. Tessa is coming shortly, to see what trees to get and where to put them. Bit excited. Lot excited, who do I think I am kidding.

Take care, xx

#12 Wild Days of Christmas

Getting Covid was certainly not on the agenda, nor on my list of good ideas for participation in 12 Days Wild at Christmas. But you can’t put a good woman down and I was blowed if this was going to stop me doing something.

So after all that thinking we had done on bug hotels, compost bins and electric car chargers, something practical was in order, and outside.

First of all I cleaned out, and even threw away some garden pots. Then I planted up some violas in one I freed from weeds, and the urn at the top of the garden.

Next I thought about my ideas of planting an orchard, and many thanks to everyone who had commented on that post last year. I then got in touch with Tessa who helped Mr E in 2020, and we have planned my fruit tree grove, which will also provide me with shade. Hoping to place an order for them soon.

I firmly believe that planting trees will help the environment.The National Trust offers the chance to buy a sapling and dedicate it as a memorial or as a celebration. Something I could do without going out, so I have done just that as a memorial to Mr E. Five in fact.

I have been really upset not to be able to use my bird table here, because of pesky rodents. However I am able to watch the birds in the trees that I can see from the house, as at this time of year they are really searching everywhere for food. I have seen a Robin, blackbirds, blue tits, great tits, pigeons, magpies and I think this is a wren visiting my containers on the steps.

To the left of the second pot and about to jump right in.

My sleep pattern has gone out if the window. I have been waking early before the traffic gets going, and I can hear bird song. I have been shocked to hear it at 4.15am, I assume the effect of light pollution.

I talked to Tessa about not being able to feed the birds and how I would like to get rid of the artificial grass in front of the house, and plant flowers and shrubs for the bees and butterflies. She thinks it is doable , I am so excited.

She has suggested I plant a crab apple tree especially for the birds.

I was upset last year not to participate in the British Bird Count at the end of January. I noticed that for people without gardens they suggest counting in a park. I thought of Moulden Hill near me, and the lovely Lake with swans, ducks , geese, coots and moorhens. I will be out of isolation by then. I have ordered some special duck food, can’t wait for it to come.

Finally last night, there were clear skies and I did some star gazing from my porch, delighted that Orion was overhead.

So without leaving my house, I have done some planting, planned an orchard, enabled five saplings to be planted, planned a flower bed for bees and butterflies, watched birds, heard bird song, looked at night skies, signed up for the Bird count and ordered some duck food.Not done too badly after all. Still giving serious thought to Green Johannas too.

Links here, if you are interested. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/plant-a-tree

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch

I don’t get sponsorship from any of this in case you are wondering.

Finally , I have my first negative Covid test today, beyond excited, the big wide world beckons. I still feel as if a ten ton truck hit me, Monday afternoon was horrible, but maybe the vaccines work!!

From the forlorn patch soon to be an apple grove come nature reserve,

With love, and thanks for being out there in bloggers world,

Cathyx

Favourite reads of 2021

And a covid update at the end.

Just couldn’t limit myself to a top five this year, here instead is my top 7, of which Penguin Lessons is probably my favouritist.

Fredrik Backman- A Man Called Ove- Ove is fifty nine, a grumpy Swede who like things to be done properly. It is a totally wonderful book, a love story which will make you laugh and cry. ‘ Warm, funny and unbearably moving’ Daily Mail.

Jenny Blackhurst- Before I let you in A great psychological thriller. Mind games!

JP Delaney- Playing Nice– One of the best psychological thrillers I have read. Stayed up to 1 am reading it and then finished it by 10 am the following day. Miles turns up on Pete’s and Maddie’s doorstep claiming that their son Theo was mis- tagged by the hospital, he was swapped therefore for their real son David. What ensues totally gripped me.

Andrea Levy- Small Island – Thoroughly enjoyable story of life in post war England, and the Windrush generation.

Tom Michell- Penguin Lessons– Utterly charming. Tom becomes an assistant school master in Argentina. Over the holidays he travels and thus encounters Juan Salvado, a penguin , covered in oil and barely alive. Tom cleans him up and smuggles him back to school where he becomes rugby team mascot, confidant of the lonely and troubled and much loved by staff and pupils. Laugh out loud lots and lots of times, and I still need to go and see some penguins.

Liane Moriarty- Big Little Lies– the build up of menace in this book scared me- school bullying and domestic violence- compelling reading and thought provoking.

Zadie Smith- White Teeth – set in multi-cultural London- three families- love war, ethics,and a mouse.

Have you read any of these, did you like them. What has been your favourite book this year?

Covid Update.

So, my son tested positive for Covid on Boxing Day, 26 December, and in due course I was pinged to do home testing. As the week progressed I began to feel as if I was fighting something, the odd cough, the odd sneeze, the not quite right feeling. No temperature, no loss of taste or smell, no continuous cough. Day after day of negative tests, till yesterday, faint line indicating positive. So down I go to a drive through test centre, and take the PCR test. Hurrah result came through negative, but I still have to do a home test as a recent contact. Once again it’s positive, so I have done another test at the drive through centre. I await the result and continue to self isolate. Now I feel OK, maybe 98% totally normal, so I just urge everyone to be really cautious, look after yourselves, and be aware of how mild this can be in someone like me with two+ a booster inoculation, but how dreadful it would be to infect a vulnerable person.

I sincerely hope you and your families and friends are well, and that we can all have a Happy and Healthy 2022. As for me, thank goodness for all my preplanning and the lovely stack of books I got from the library.

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