Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

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First Solo Holiday

Now whilst I have visited and stayed with friends by myself over the years, and even the odd hotel for the occasional night, I had never taken a holiday on my own. Until last week that is. I am so glad I chose somewhere familiar with happy memories, home but not home. When I lived in North Yorkshire it was in a small town and a village, so for my holiday I selected a farm way up in Farndale.

I made lots of preparations for my journey, having the car checked out and topped up with everything it could possibly need. I wrote a packing list. And a shopping list for things like bread and milk to buy when I was nearly there .

I was off by 8.30am and the journey not only went smoothly, it turned out to be a trip down memory lane, less than 5 miles from home. The Greggs I’d stopped at for breakfast once after visiting my oldest. The road that intersected the journey from our home in Oxfordshire to my Mum’s home in Wales. Birmingham where we’d gone to a Gardener’s World show many moons ago. All the towns I’d taken my youngest to, to watch his football team, Mansfield, Nottingham…The greasy spoon Cafe Mr E and I went to once whilst hitching from Cambridge to my Dad’s and how good egg and chips and a mug of tea could be…

I was in York by 12.30, where I did my food shop. Then I was on the final leg of my journey, noting changes since we moved two years ago. Nothing drastic. Trees seemed bigger, some shops had closed , the old police houses had received a makeover, and then I was there.

Norah’s Nook.. a converted piggery.

I was glad it was a converted redundant farm building rather than a cottage which was once home to a family.

Not going to starve
Somewhere to eat
Comfy bed with a friend waiting for me.
Eggs for breakfast
The neighbours, Bill, Ben and Bob
Security in the owners home next door
Scenery to die for. The Heather came out fully during my week, as you’ll see from later pictures.
And proper walls.

This was without doubt the best place I could have chosen for my first solo holiday.

I wonder, if you have taken holidays by yourself? What does or would make the best place for you?

Indian Block Printing

I recently attended another workshop at the Brewery Arts Centre in Cirencester- link here-https://www.newbreweryarts.org.uk/workshops

The tutor began by explaining the history of traditional Indian block printing which is all done by skilled artisans by hand. She had travelled to India and seen the crafts people at work. She showed us photos from her trips and samples of their work. It was most fascinating. Then it was our turn to have a go.

First we had a play on tissue paper.
Then an attempt on paper
Progessing to card before finally
Let loose on a fabric drawstring bag.
Two sides, two chances to play.

I really enjoyed this half day workshop, it was great fun, an excellent tutor and lovely participants. It was the perfect antidote to feeling poorly. Glad I went, but for once I don’t think I’ll take this further.


Love to know if anyone else has tried something new this year, if so what, and will you take it further. I unfortunately really do have far too many not yet started projects.

July books-22

Only three books this month, but the First one was at least quite big!

Colleen McCullough-The Thorn Birds– this book appeared on the Big Jubilee book list, produced for the Queen’s jubilee, 70 books written by authors across the Commonwealth, one from each year of her reign. This book was a runaway best seller when first published, and its surprising I had never read it. Set mostly in Australia, but also in London, Rome and New Zealand, it’s a multi generational narrative set on a huge sheep station, covering lives and loves. It was enjoyable. The cover likened it to Gone with the Wind, in that it’s a big historical novel covering settlers. Probably less controversial these days than GWTW. A Good read.

John Boyne- The Echo Chamber– I read a review of this on a blog, and placed my library reservation straightaway. It’s really a book for the 2020s. Very funny, says the things you ask youself about the Twitterati , Instagrammer poser, woke and cancelled culture, troll world that swirls around us. I think the time I had finally decided I became a dinosaur was when my solicitor’s firm started adding their preferred he/him, she/hers after their names! So as not to spoil the plot I am using the back cover blurb only..The Cleverley family live a gilded life…. they will go on a journey of discovery through the jungle of modern living, where reputations can be destroyed in a moment…I found it laugh out loud funny whilst nodding my head in agreement so often. Read and enjoy.

Muriel Spark- The Girls of Slender Means– another one from the Jubilee List, appearing for 1963. It’s more a novella than a novel, just 141 pages. Nicholas Farringdon is murdered in 1963 in Haiti. Back in 1945 he was a would be poet but a dramatic event led to a religious conversion and his becoming a missionary. The book concerns the events that occurred at The May of Teck club in 1945 between VE day and VJ day, and the Young women who lived there, a hostel if you like, for those following poorly paid careers. What can I say really, it’s a modern classic but I just didn’t get it, it seems dull. I fully accept that it’s me and not the book. Love to know if anyone loves this book and why please?

And that’s it for July 22. My current read is the follow on from Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, called Bring up the Bodies. 484 pages to enjoy, lovely.

Love to know of any recent good reads, or your current book. I have four more library books already out , plus five on request. Unlimited request subscription seemed like a very Good idea, but I think I might have to reign in my enthusiasm a tad.

Balance- July22

I knew July and August would be tough months for various reasons. Firstly, hot weather and me don’t go together well. Secondly, July is Mr E’s birthday and August would have seen our wedding anniversary and the anniversary of Mr E’s death last year. Thirdly, usual every day groups and social activities grind to a halt for long summer holidays. So with this mind , I laid down some plans.

Humph! Things went really well for a few days. I watched and enjoyed Wimbledon -the tennis, and knitted, and the chaps came back and repaired the Summer House roof. I went to a school concert and cheered on Master T playing his drums (already studying Grade 5), and Miss F on the piano (Grade2). Then, the following day I heard that the two people I had sat between had tested positive for Covid, caught from independent sources. The following day I had a sore throat and fatigue set in. I got progressively worse, yet returned a run of negative Covid tests. Eventually I was persuaded to go the doctor, and was prescribed antibiotics and drops. It was all I could do to work out a timetable for taking my meds. It’s taken two weeks to get better, during which we endured the hottest temperatures in the UK on record, and all I have managed to do each day is the bare minimum of chores, and sleep. It has been a struggle to get through each day, emerging now and extremely grateful to family who told me to seek medical advice.

Things like concern for the food I ate and exercise just went out of the window.

I cancelled most of the things I’d had in mind to do this month. What is it they say about best laid plans? I missed a walk, the last poetry session, a church meeting and a family picnic. Instead I slept. The knitting is in my bag in exactly the same state it was on Gentleman’s Final Day at Wimbledon. The sewing project I planned on making for Baby P is lying just as I left it on the dining room table.

But it was only a throat infection, and I have now managed to get through (covid in January) two spells of minor ill health without the comfort of a partner. It is an achievement of sorts.

I was well enough and lucky enough to go to the cemetery with two of my Boys on Mr E’s birthday, and we did go for a family meal afterwards. We talked of happier times.

I was well enough on Saturday to go to a half day workshop at the Arts Centre. My plans were not all in vein after all.

Unexpected illness of a very minor nature only threw me off balance for a relatively short time, it just wasn’t nice.

Meantime, I’m in the market for a new tumble dryer, some light bulbs for the lounge and the kitchen clock needs new batteries. I want to tackle the garage next month for which I need a skip. The boiler is due a service in August. Tessa is coming to help again with the garden, which currently looks very brown but did provide the slugs with a Good feed, and I have a wonderful week in Yorkshire to look forward too.

I will survive!

Joining with Carolyn for one word monthly review. Link here..https://youronewordblog.wordpress.com/2022/07/24/

Lavender Bags

I have really enjoyed my first full term at the U3A embroidery group. Everyone has been incredibly friendly and welcoming. My biggest challenge was finding portable projects which don’t take up much space in a group. I do tend to spread a lot! I also wanted things that didn’t challenge me too much so I could stitch and talk at the same time, the japanese rice bag and felted landscape fitted the bill well.

I enjoyed looking round the internet for suitable projects and imagine my delight when I found a company I thought had vanished. Do you recall or know Cloth Kits. They were based in Lewes in Sussex. A few years ago we were near there and I thought to visit the shop, but they were gone. Well turns out the company is alive and well, and is now in Chichester, Sussex. I popped in an order, including this lavender bag kit, perfect for my group.

Felt Lavender Houses by Corinne Lapierre

I really enjoyed stitching these, and there is felt, stuffing, threads and lavender leftover to make more…

I hope to start a more complicated project in September.

July Scrap Happy-22

Or another felted landscape, using the scraps leftover from a felting evening class I attended 10 plus years ago, back in the day when there were evening classes.

Lots of green and blue and a splosh of yellow, begining to needlefelt.
Lots more yellow, a wobbly house and what I hope look like cedar trees.
Adding some stitches and two buttons which were in need of a home.
Pretty darned cute buttons

I’m enjoying my return to felting. I might even try wet felting again.

Please check Kate’s site for links to other scrappy projects here https://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/2022/07/15/scraphappy-july-5/

Corsham, town walk.

So, I have joined a U3a group which once a month explores a town or village focusing on its history and development. Perfect for me who is still learning about the area I moved to two years ago. As it happens we actually did some house hunting here in Corsham, and whilst we liked the houses realised the town was just that little bit too far for us to visit our London based family within a daytrip. As far as I recall we did have a pitstop coffee break in the modern arcade of shops but totally missed all the more interesting and attractive parts of the town. Had we seen them it might have made our decision much harder.

Anyway let’s begin,

Once a private home, this is now an Independent (fee paying) school. The town was clearly very prosperous at one time. Many huge houses all built upon the wool trade for which the Cotswold area is famous.

There are also many peacocks that have free reign in the town. We spotted three but my photo was rubbish.

The row of cottages on the right were built for the Flemish weavers in the 17th century by Paul Methuen, Lord of the Manor living in Corsham Court. The weavers had fled religious persecution in their own country. Their skill ensured the importance of the wool trade for the town until the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution.

The chaps you can see right hand side up ladders were repairing the old wooden sash windows, and making a right old racket. Our guide had to shout! The cottage to the right with the White windows was the site of the town’s First fire station built circa 1800.

The yellow house was once a Temperance Hotel.

Note the little mouse on this memorial to a local dignatory that was added by the team that carried out the restoration in 2007.
Building on the right is now the town hall, previously called the Methuen Hall and built as a market hall. The lower part was originally open, but closed in 1882 to facilitate the building of the second floor. During the first World war it was used as a hospital for soldiers, in total 875 men were treated here by 75 nurses.

Apparently the pub next door does a good lunch!

The High Street which has been used in many a Costume drama including a fictitious town in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and standing in for Truro in Poldark.
At the end of the High Street is Corsham Court- a Saxon Royal Manor House, home to the Metheun Family, and rebuilt in 1582 as an Elizabethan house. Open to the public, I shall return for a visit.
St Bartholomew’s church is conveniently next door. I’ll be back to see inside too, but we were headed off to see this gravestone.
Well I never. Maybe I won’t need to replace my gold tooth after all!

We had a brief stroll down an attractive avenue of trees from the house through the park to see the Almshouses.

It included a schoolroom, a masters house and six dwellings and stands in four acres of land. Built in 1688 for Lady Margaret Hungerford, widow of Lord Edward Hungerford who commanded Cromwell’s Wiltshire forces during the Civil War.

There is still so much to see in this town. It really was a treat to visit. Hope you enjoyed it too!

Free Motion Machine Embroidery.

Remember this picture when I bottled out of the free motion machine embroidery, and settled for hand stitching? I said I’d do something about my lack of skill.

Well I was thrilled to bits when I found a suitable workshop in the nearby town of Cirencester. The tutor was excellent. My fellow workshoppers friendly, and progress was made.

First attempt using a round frame.
Second attempt, no frame, bondaweb on the back for stabilty.
Third attempt drawing round biscuit cutters for guidance, and getting better.

And finally


Worth doing the workshop. And in due course I do have another project way down the pipeline that requires free motion machine embroidery.

Friday Finish

So long since I finished anything I almost forgot what it feels like. So without further ado here is cardigan with 28 handsewn bobbles.

Pattern and yarn is Sirdar Snuggly

When I saw the pattern I assumed the bobbles were knitted as part of the whole , but No. Knitted separately and sewn on…

Best bit is choosing the buttons.

Cute or what?

For Baby P of course. And best thing about a finish is starting a new project. Hurrah.

I need a hurrah, catastrophic dental failure yesterday, my much prized gold tooth is no more. 26 years I have had that… I shall be seeing my dentist rather a lot this Summer. Thank goodness for emergency appointments yesterday and today. The perils of an aging bod!

Oldest son’s birthday this weekend, trying to decide if steak would be pushing my luck with the temporary fix as I join him and the family for a celebratory nosh. Life hey.

Mustn’t grumble! Wimbledon and knitting for me this afternoon.

Cathy x

June Books- 2022

Some really good books this month.

Ali Smith- How to be both -The novel is two stories with a cross over. Apparently there are two versions of the books, so depending on the one you get, you may get the narratives in a different order. Glad I got the version I read. Georgia, or George as she is known, a clever teenager who is grieving for her mother, whilst caring for her little brother as her Dad goes to bits, relives a visit to Italy with her family to see a fresco her Mother loved. Second narrative concerns the ghost painter of the fresco.

I’ll be honest if I’d not paid good money to request this book I might have given up on it after two pages, in which I got totally confused by the opening conversations between Mother and Daughter,as the mother seems to be both alive and dead. Anyway I got past the weird bit and enjoyed the first half of the book. Then it goes weird for a few pages as the story is picked up by the artist who materialises in an art gallery as George views a painting. I skipped over the weird bit and enjoyed the rest of the book. Last page is weird too. I don’t know why it’s clever to put weird bits into books, but it seems to be about appealing to Book Awards. Frankly I like a straightforward telling of a tale. I accept its because I am a Philistine who doesn’t get the weird bits, to each their own. So if you like weird bits in books then you will like this, if you don’t then there’s not too much to skip over.

Tana French- The Likeness. This novel also featured in the BBC series Dublin Murders available on I Player. Again it is a big book. 529 paperback pages. I really enjoyed this. Once again the novel takes it’s time to paint word pictures so you feel you are there as the plot slowly unfolds. Briefly then and revealing nothing you can’t get from the cover. Cassie Maddox has transferred out of the Dublin Murder Squad when she gets an urgent call to go to a murder scene….the victim is her double,and her ID belongs to an assumed woman Cassie used as an undercover officer . She is persuaded to resume that identity and go to live with a group of students renovating a gorgeous Manor house. There is nothing not to love about this book. Will keep you turning pages avidly right to the end.

Elizabeth Strout- Olive Kitteridge. This one was recommended to me. It is essentially a series of short stories based on the lives of various people living in a small coastal town in Maine. Olive Kitteridge is a retired school teacher and is connected in a minor way to them all. This format reminded me a little of Maeve Binchey, except her characters and plots have a pleasant cosy feel. Olive is not likeable, nor are a great number of the other inhabitants. The plots and people are well drawn and the book won the Pullitzer prize, but I did find it a bit depressing.

Laura Purcell- The Corset. A jolly good read. I had read her novel Bone China and enjoyed it greatly so I was pretty confident I would like this. Described as a classic Victorian tale of murder most foul, twisted with a curious supernatural thread. Two narrators Dorothea, young wealthy woman with an interest in phrenology who becomes a prison visitor to further her study. Ruth the girl on trial for murder who tells her story and agrees that Dorothea can examine her skull. But is she victim or villain, mad or a murderer. Rather a page turner, and made a great read over our hottest few days whilst I hid indoors.It was also an interesting well researched account of the girls who became seamstresses. I know I number several in my family tree.

Barbara Pym- Quartet in Autumn– I first read this book shortly after it was published in the late 1970’s. I am grateful to Katie from The Cosy Burrow for reminding me of this author. One of the most neglected authors of the twentieth century, she keeps being rediscovered as a new Jane Austin, in that her characters are well observed in small metaculously described settings. In this novel, set in the 1970’s four people work in London in some unspecified office, carrying out their work , which sounds vaguely administrative. So no computers.

Now my first job on leaving college was in an insurance company valuing pensions. This means helping to make sure the company had enough assets to cover the pension payload for the schemes they administered. My job, removing people who died or updating those who left their job from the records, so that the big chiefs knew how many and how much they were liable for. I’d get a note to tell me of the death , change of curcumstances, take a card from the filing cabinet and mark it up, On a rolling yearly basis, each scheme having a different date, I’d take these cards and enter details of all scheme members onto an extremely large hand drawn book, and then make the necessary calculations using a manual adding up machine. You can see these in museums. Does that sound boring. Believe me it was. And to make things worse by 10 am I was usually done for the day as far as work went. Home time was 5pm. The only job in which I was literally bored to tears. I swore after that never ever to have a job which kept me in one place for eight hours, and I never did.

Such is the nature of the work I imagine happened in the office in the book. All four characters are approaching retirement, all live alone, two in houses and two in bedsits. They are polite to each other, they are all lonely, life for Edwin the widower centres around the churches in his neighbourhood, he attends the one with the best service, for one of the women Marcia, her recent operation and her surgeon Mr Strong are her mainstays, Norman is curmudgeonly, and Letty is full of vague regrets that she has just missed out on life. I’m not saying anything else, but if you like well drawn characters in ordinary settings you will enjoy Barbara Pym.

Imagine my delight when I discovered Ms Pym retired to Oxfordshire. I visited the church in which she is buried, but failed to find the grave. Not to worry I’ll find it one day. Here’s the church anyway.

More info here-https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/jun/29/a-small-simple-stone

Maya Angelou- Letter to my Daughter– I had been looking for this book in the library for ages, under biography. Totally surprised to find it eventually in the Poetry section. Well goodness gracious me. Maya Angelou writes a series of short essays to an imaginary daughter, explaining the life lessons she learned and her personal philosophy. If I’d had a daughter I’d have given her this book for her 18th birthday. As it is, I found it an interesting read that gave me insight into the life of this incredible woman.

So there we are for the books I read in June. I have some corkers lined up for me for July. And then I shall be looking for the perfect holiday book, what would you recommend to me please? I’ll kick off with Evening Class by Maeve Binchey- wonderful feel good read to my mind, and forever assciated with family holidays in Spain, in a tent when the boys were littles.

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