Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

Archive for March, 2022

Books, March 2022

So this month I was back in the library armed with a list of books recommended by bloggers and friends. The first one actually appears on several lists I have made over the years, so I was pretty excited to get my hands on a copy.

Amy Bloom- White Houses– This is a novel not a biography, but concerns Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin and a reporter called Lorena Hickok, and the secret love between Eleanor and “Hick”. I found it interesting, and always a good sign I find when I break off to google everyone. The blurb on the back calls this A great American novel. Not sure I agree. I found it a bit muddly the way the narrative jumps back and forth across time, and trying to recall who was in favour or out of favour at any time. I’d have liked to know much more about Hick’s journalism as she reported on the American dust bowl , a subject that fascinates me, but maybe I need to find a different book for that. If lesbian love affairs or presidents interest you, then this could be the novel for you.

Tom Rob Smith – The Farm– Huge thanks to anyone who recommended this one. I loved it. It’s a crime story with a difference, no detectives, no blood and gore. Daniel’s father tells him his Mother is not well and is accusing people of all sorts, including him. His mother tells him not to believe anything his Father says, she needs to tell the police, he must believe and help her. Daniel is torn between them, he loves them both dearly, but has his own secret too. The plot is skilfully drawn, the characters believable. One cold weekend I stayed home and just read.

Janice Hadlow- The Other Bennet Sister-Well, WOW. Thank you to everyone who made me aware of this book. I absolutely loved it. And that’s despite the cover. Last month I had an indifferent book with a great cover, this month a cover which would have had me running away, thoughts of drippy badly written romance…

Totally wrong first impression.

Briefly it concerns Mary Bennet, the seemingly pretentious, untalented, rather plain middle daughter in Pride and Prejudice. Now I am generally not a fan of authors who retell, or alter the works of others, but this is the exception. It’s a big book, over 600 pages, perfect holiday reading length. The first third retells the story of P&P from Mary’s perspective . The author has the right pace, style and language to make this part entirely credible. The middle section moves Mary between her relatives, and gaining self awareness. The final section, well I am saying nothing for fear of spoiling it. I loved it. Chores just had to wait whilst I read.

Victoria Hislop- The Island– A friend recommended this one on Facebook and all the comments on his post sang it’s praises. The plot- Alexis is interested to discover more about her mother’s childhood in Crete whilst she is holidaying there. Her mother gives her a letter of introduction to an old family friend on the island and tells her she will tell the story. Alexis arrives in Plaka, Crete and discovers it’s a stone’s throw from a tiny island which used to be Greece’s former leper colony. What unfolds is a story of love, loss , passion and reconciliation.

The front cover describes the book as A beach book with a heart. It was an interesting story , a tad too long maybe. Not sure I’d want to read about leper colonies on holiday though. I have read this author before and as with the previous book I felt she just missed the mark with historical accuracy. The problem I have is my greek mother in law used to tell me about her childhood and the war years , and her personal recollections don’t quite collaborate the novel. Plus my sil once approached the author at a book reading and started to mention her mother. The author was very abrupt to the point of rudeness and shut down the conversation immediately.

It was a Richard and Judy Summer Read winner, and it was pretty good. If I ever go to Crete again I would visit Spinalonga, which is no longer a leper colony but a tourist destination!!

Richard Osman- The Man Who Died Twice– The Thursday Book Club are back and sleuthing again. The plot is suitably improbable and the writing deceptively simple, but it is laugh out loud funny. Highly enjoyable. Probably not a good idea to read in public for fear of the odd snort and chuckle you will emit.

So that is my month of reading library books as recommended by others. If you had mentioned these books as good reads then thank you very much.

I am half way through one which will appear in next month’s round up. I have one book en route to me at the library which I might have to renew so I can read it in May, because April is designated as a month in which I shall tackle the TBR heap, formerly located on the bedroom floor but now moved to a stool on the landing. And rather foolishly I bought another book whilst in Bath to add to the pile, having already checked that the library didn’t have a copy.

I hestitate to ask for fear of adding to my must read list but have you read any good books recently?

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Balance- March

My word for the year if you recall is Balance, as I adjust to life as a widow , and generally fettle myself. Last month I had concluded that if I felt tired I needed to sleep and rest. I had done some research and found exhausation to be part of the grieving process. Once I had stopped berating myself for being tired and just went with it I improved, even found myself picking up the knitting from time to time.

I have continued in the same vein this month. Really paying attention to when life is getting too busy. Planning my days better so that I have time at home by myself, and it is working. More importantly I took the decision to stop listening to the world service to get to sleep by. It had started a while ago to stop me thinking about all the sad things that had happened, and for a time it had helped. More recently it was waking me in the night , sometimes the programmes were interesting so I would wake myself up to listen properly, but then the news took over , and it really affected me. So I stopped turning it on when I turned off the bedside light. To begin with it felt weird, the silence… then mid month I realised that I had started to dream every single night and what a jumble they were. My childhood home, my Mum, my sons, Mr E, random dogs, suitcases, etc . After about ten days the dreams ceased, I have had the occasional one since, but not every night and not as busy. Sleep really is great isn’t it?

The other big thing that occured to me was about STUFF. I have Dad’s stuff, Mum’s stuff and now Mr E’s stuff, and since Dad died back in 2014 felt like I was a custodian of stuff. Things they had kept, things that had meaning for them, but not for me…. some is useful but much is just stuff. And actually all this STUFF is now MY STUFF. It’s no longer anyone else’s but mine. I don’t have to feel that I have to keep it. In all probability my sons will just throw it all in a skip, they won’t feel like a curator in a museum of stuff.

So I had a final clear out of what Mr E had planned as a media room with his electronic organ which he never actually unpacked, all the home cinema stuff ( Successfully given away last month), umpteen computer bits etc.

See the empty space

I ordered myself a computer desk. No longer would I need to be on the dining room table.

The only drawback is I now need a chair. I’m sitting on two cushions as I type and this is not ideal.

I think I’ll look out for a rug too. The room feels like mine now. When Mr E got really poorly I’d cleared space for the hospital bed, and that memory lingered. Now it feels quite different in here. I have moved my family history books to the unit, not the prettiest of units but functional and now useful.

With things opening up in England post Covid lockdown I have been to a few crafty workshops. It gets me out and meeting other people, making friends and activating my brain again. Putting a life together which is balanced between things that have got to be done and those which enhance.

My son Mr T’s MIL has a pottery studio where she has drop in sessions. I’ve been a few times now, not every week, but maybe every two to three weeks.

I’ll not be entering the Pottery Show any time ever, but there is something decidedly comforting about clay!

Leaf dish
Underneath. Looks more like a tortoise now!

The carer’s group has continued to provide support with monthly walks and coffee mornings and craft workshops.

Mosaic coasters

We had to bring them home to grout them and sadly the journey caused some tiles to slip a bit.

Grouted! The one on the left was supposed to be a beach hut but didn’t work out as intended.

The class has reignited my love of mosaic making too.I am very, very lucky to have this wonderful organisation in my town, and post moving house, loosing Mr E and lockdown the group has really helped me regain some balance in my life.

Yesterday I tackled the garage, full of things Mr E rescued from my Dad’s home and all his woodworking etc tools. I have found a charity which refurbishes tools to send to Africa, and those which aren’t needed are sold on to pay for shipping. A chap came and helped and together we filled his carboot. I just know Mr E would be glad that I had found good homes for everything he valued, and he would have adored attending the tool sale!

So what is now mostly left in the garage are things I can use for gardening and plain old rubbish. Do I need another skip? Probably, most certainly.

I really feel this month that I have acquired a good balance between “Getting things done” and rest. That awful feeling of being overwhelmed has largely gone, and if I sense I am trying to achieve the impossible for me I stop a while.

I have even been swimming again… twice

Easter next month.. I am going to clear the hallway which has become a dumping ground for things that still need good homes, largely books and kitchen gadgets. Mr E did like a kitchen gadget. Then I shall just enjoy the chocolate, no not the chocolate , family gatherings, I hope.

I am grateful to Carolyn who hosts One Word- the link is here-https://youronewordblog.wordpress.com/2022/03/28/one-word-march-twenty-two/

Felting Workshop

My son’s mother-in-law Mrs J told me about a group of people who ran crafting workshops in a lovely old farmhouse attached to Stanton House Hotel, less than 10 minutes drive for me. I googled them and spotted a felted landscape workshop for the 19 March. I went (surprised?)

Lovely old farmhouse
Trough of Daffodils to greet the visitor
Gorgeous kitchen garden

Volunteers do the work whilst supporting people who are maybe experiencing mental ill health, bereavement , need somewhere safe to be with others…

Who says you need fancy pants pots for plants, any recepticale will suffice.

There was one flower pot which I really liked so much that I forgot to take a photo , but that I did come back and immediately ordered one… more on that in due course .

As well as doing classes and gardens they also sell refreshments when they can get the volunteers. They can only make drinks there, edibles are made at home, on account of the kitchen not being suitable, yet.

Beautifully decorated old fireplace . Spot the sewing machine and typewriter.
Teacup stack
Eye candy for the crafter
Cute or what?

And they also sell handmade items

Look at the felted gourds.

Oh yes felting. Our teacher was Lisa and I can honestly say she was one of the best tutors I have met. She broke everything down into steps, she had everything prepped ready and set up. She completely rekindled my interest in this craft, and for once I came home pleased with what I had produced.

We even were supplied with a mountboard and frame.

I do hope you can all tell what it’s meant to be. I really liked that we got to stitch too.

And sorry that I wrote more about the venue than the felting! Now to go an unearth my felting supplies. Oh yes I have them …

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Wordless Wednesday

Bath

My son and I visited Bath this week. I have happy memories of Bath, visiting the Roman Baths with family, and of a day trip I did with my Mum by train from Abergavenny, Wales. On that occasion we sampled the waters, not nice, took an open top bus tour, had a picnic and immmersed ourselves in the Jane Austin experience.

This time, we visited the Apple Store for my son to complain about ear buds (head phones apparently, not plants to grow ears). Then we had a wander round town, checked out Waterstones, it passes muster, we both bought a book, before stopping to admire the rather wonderful Georgian architecture of the

Royal Crescent .

From there it was a short stroll to our lunch destination. Now I don’t often post pictures of meals out, but this meal was something else. Our destination was a minute’s walk from here, to the Circus Restaurant. Nothing to do with circuses, it takes it’s name from a circle of Georgian houses called the Circus. According to the board outside its named as number four of twenty best restaurants according to foodies, and Tripadvisor has it in its top 1%.

So here to tickle your taste buds is my meal, and honestly if I could have licked the plates I would have.

Cauliflower and almond soup dressed with chilli oil and toasted almonds. Wow.
Sweet potato massaman curry with sticky spring onion rice. They gave me a spoon, I nearly scraped the pattern off the plate.
Stem ginger sorbet and Yorkshire rhubarb. Oh My….

I’ll spare you the pictures of my son’s confit of duck with salad, pork belly with cassoulet and chocolate nemesis cake, but we were both in food heaven.

After that some more wandering round town, past the Abbey.

But truth be told, we headed home, in need of a bit of a nap. Needless to say I didn’t require anything else to eat that night.

Wondered if you have had a meal so Good recently you would have licked the platter clean, if so what was it and where did you go?

Scrap Happy, March 2022

You may recall these lovely squares sent to me by Jean from https://onesmallstitch.wordpress.com/2022/03/14/scrap-happy-march-4/

Woven squares.

This month I started to embroider them using threads leftover from previous projects.

French knots and couching in blue threads.

The squares fit neatly into some leftover cards I had bought for Christmas cross stitch cards. The white card looked to white so I sponged on some blue acrylic paint, so ancient are my paints I hardly dare think.

Next up some more bluey turquoise threads. You can see that the white card is too stark a contrast. More splodgy paint called for. I also decided to add a bit of bling to this one.
The odd sequin never goes amiss, and yes leftover from previous projects.
Finally the current one in progress- running stitch, chain stitch and a lazy daisy.

Crafting has been slow this month, I am still tired, but allowing myself to be…. this last week I have started to dream again when I sleep, something is changing.

Please pop over to Kate’s to see what others are doing with their scraps this month, link here-https://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/2022/03/15/scraphappy-march-5/

Preshute,Marlborough

To say I was excited to discover that I had an ancestor from Wiltshire maybe an understatement. I was ecstatic to think that I could claim to be a local even here. Now I have to go back a long way to reach them, to my 3x great grandfather John C, who was baptised in 1794. He became a Gamekeeper, married and raised a family in Fairford Gloucestershire, and lived to the ripe old age of 83.His father was called William and his mother Anne. I know about his parents because I found his baptism records at the church of St George , Preshute, which of course means my 4x great grandparents are Wiltshire folk.

Now I love nothing more than physically tracking down somewhere my ancestors were. Somehow it connects me to the past, lets face it, its over 230 years ago, and I can be where they were. But Preshute it turns out doesn’t really exist. There is no village or town of that name.It’s actually a large rural church parish on the outskirts of Marlborough. The name Preshute means Priest’s Cottage. So long long ago a priest built a rudimentary cottage and church , and so the story began. Fortunately the church still serves a large rural community of farmers, and no doubt Gamekeepers. And that is the church in which John C was baptised all those years ago.

So last week having done a fair bit of googling I travelled the 15 or so miles to Marlborough and set off on foot. Now I knew it was out of the town proper and on the left bank of the River Kennet, but look no footpath and no church and I was at the closest point in town I could be. Handy town map sort of indicated I would need to walk past Marlborough College, and proceed down the Bath Road.

Marlborough College.

It’s an Independent School by the way, old pupils include the poet John Betjeman, singer Chris de Burgh , and future Queen Kate Middleton.

Finally a footpath down the side of the college grounds and heading back towards the river.
And finally over a footbridge and there’s the church.
The Tower is the original 14th Century one, but the rest of the church was rebuilt in 1854.

Sadly all that remains of the rest of the building is

this sad pile of stones, AND
The Font, where John was baptised. Oh wow. To touch something I know was touched by William, Anne and John.
Current interior.
St Paul, carved onto the pulpit.
Plaque of St George and Dragon, carved by David Rawlings in 1973.
Ivy leaves adorning the pulpit railing.
Floor tiles in the Chancel.

I hope you have enjoyed my exploration with me. To give you an idea of how rural the setting is

This rather blurry image may help,photo in the church.

Wordless Wednesday

The Garden, March

There I called it the garden rather than the forlorn patch. Not that it resembles much of a garden yet, but in my head it’s beginning to feel like one.

The last tree waiting to be planted.

It’s a plum tree with the wonderful name Warwickshire Drooper.

The reason it’s still waiting is the place where it’s to go, here..

Is very wet and has a plastic sheet buried in the soil.

Which is jolly annoying because some people, related to me said they had dug it out. If the rain could just hold off and the sun dry it out, I’d have a go.

Meantime I have spoken to someone about replacing the wood that holds back the soil, as you can see in the first picture, and building me some sort of structure to give shade and some handrails by the steps. I await a scary quotation.

The First crocus has appeared.
Flower tub looking good.

If we ignore the dandelion I spy.

Salad leaves, survived the winter, will I get anything edible from them?
Rhubarb is doing ok.

I’m wondering about a tiny pond, I know I said never again, but ….

The garden and I are getting there!

How’s everyone else’s garden doing this weekend?

Oxford.

Although I went to the hospital several times in Oxford when we moved, and with my son and grandsons to a football match there last year, I hadn’t had a day in Oxford itself for about 15 years.

We lived in a village near Oxford for about ten years before moving to Yorkshire. Our middle son returned to college Oxford Brookes to do his degree, so we did return then to visit. So when my oldest son suggested a family outing with them to Oxford over half term I said Yes Please.

The centre of the city is much improved since I lived there. Good big carpark, and a lovely modern shopping centre. I liked the way that it is covered yet open at the ends to allow good ventilation. The children made a beeline for the chocolate shops. After that we went to St Michael at the Northgate. I had once worked there managing the gift shop, reception centre and Saxon Tower. It was lovely returning there as a tourist.

Clock mechanism

We climbed the Tower, stopping for a rest to set this going. It makes wonderful whirring, clanging noises before ringing those bells.

Bit blowy but the views are worth it.

Hard to believe I used to climb up here twice a day, and on High days and holidays hoist a flag. Apparently they don’t do the flag anymore, it blew away, but there are still 17 keys to lock and unlock.

Dreaming Spires
Of
Oxford, plus a crane!

Next we went in the covered market, the vegetable stall is still the same but most of the small shops are different. The little cafes in there are very popular. We visited a nearby pub for our lunch, the food was nice.

Next stop was the Natural History Museum.

Dinosaurs and fossils a-plenty
Have a guess as to what creature this might be, answer at the end.

The children loved it. But my favourite part is the Pitt Rivers museum on the same site.

It is jam packed with wonderful cabinets of the most fabulous things ever. It was however also jam packed with visitors and getting my daughter-in-law’s wheelchair round was well nigh impossible. But here are a few things that caught my attention.

I love the old fashioned hand written labels.
Some of the collection is no longer on display, a bit contentious to have skulls of venerated ancestors in a cabinet.These treasures are ok though.
Much safer, a sewing box.
Gorgeous.

What I love is that these cabinets are pretty much side by side, no connection between them. Just a fabulous eclectic mix.

I shall be back.

Totally wonderful day out, we stopped by one of the covered market cafes for a coffee and a Candy store. Successful day out with the family,

Wondered if you were a museum fan, what sort of thing do you like looking at?

Did you guess Elephant, if so you were quite correct .

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