A Quick Update

Several of you were kind enough to wish my son well in his attempt to buy a cottage at Auction. The rules of buying in that way are that once your bid is accepted you are legally committed to go ahead and buy the property – contracts have been exchanged and you have a brief time to hand over the money. He immediately applied to increase the mortgage on a house he owns and rents out in order to have funds to cover the bid he planned to make. As he had overpaid the mortgage for a long time he was assured there would be no problem but the paperwork confirming that his request had been approved did not come through in time so he dare not bid. He is being pretty philosophical about it and will keep looking. With the funds p[resumably available soon he can move immediately if another auction comes along or as a deposit on a private sale.

Thank you all for your support and I know he appreciated it too. If he finds somewhere else I will be posting about it.

Adventures

It has been a busy couple of weeks packed with adventures of various kinds.

My son came down to look at a cottage (read about it here https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/2022/04/21/a-day-out/ ) and stayed on to work on his campervan. He wanted to build some big drawrers on heavy duty runners to slide under the bed and make the storage there more accessible. I helped and his Savannah cat supervised,

Next up was the culmination of a process which began last Autumn. In a newsletter, my bank, Triodos, asked if any customers were willing to share why they had chosen that bank for their savings. It would involve an interview and having some photos taken. They would reward me with vouchers to spend or a donation to charity. Since I was very clear why I had chosen to bank with them it sounded easy and something that would be fun to do. Because of my hearing the ‘interview’ consisted of a series of questions in an email to which I sent in answers. Their PR chap, Joe, then edited them into a piece which was emailed back to me for approval. I mentioned in the answers that I was treasurer at Dyfed Permnaculture Farm and Joe looked up their instagram feed (I had no idea we had one!) and asked if the photos could be taken there. The management committee were happy with that, he chose a photographer and we found a date that suited everybody. So I spent a day being photographed; digging out weeds, tickling sheep, carrying hay and then logs, admiring Phil’s garlic and just generally standing around. Tess, the photographer, also took some shots of the roundhouse and barn as a gift to the Trust for our own publicity. She was such a lovely young woman and I really enjoyed meeting her. A few days ago the photos came through – an awful lot of them and sent via a file sharing site I had never heard of. Another new experience! So for those of you who like to know what other bloggers look like here are 2 of the ones she took. I have no idea which ones Triodos will pick for their use.

Barley saturday ia an annual event in Cardigan, a show involving competitions for horses and vintage vehicles in the morning and they are then all paraded along the High Street in the afternoon, which involves closing the roads in the middle of the town. I have been to it a few times – it is quite a spectacle when the stallions are run to show off their paces! When I discovered that my friend Lindy had never even heard of it I decided to take her to this year’s event. You can read more about it here (https://www.cardigan-bay.com/whats-on/events/barley-saturday/ ). Because I knew that town would be very busy and all the car parks full I chose to start our outing in Cilgerran, a village 2 or 3 miles from Cardigan and walk to town through the Teifi Marshes Wildlife Reserve which includes part of the track of the now defunct Cardi Bach railway making a good, level, tarmaced path. Find out more including pictures here (https://www.welshwildlife.org/nature-reserves/teifi-marshes ). Just as the horses started to pass where we were waiting at the end of the old bridge into town a wedding car came over the bridge on its way to a reception in the Castle and had to wait quite a while until a pause between the horses and tractors allowed them through- the happy couple and their guests got a huge cheer from the assembled crowds!

Then I went to visit my daughter who lives in Basingstoke and since it was a Bank Holiday weekend and there is very little parking available near her I decided to go by train. I bought my ticket online and discovered it was an e-ticket to use on my phone! I was chicken and printed it out onto paper just in case! However it all worked fine and was much easier on my brain than driving. On the Monday she, her new partner and I went to London for the day, again by train. We had coffee in Covent Garden, explored China Town and had a delicious lunch there, then walked to Tower Bridge, over the river and back along the other bank to Waterloo for the train home. Both of them had pedometers on their phones – one said we walked 9.5 miles, the other that it was 10 miles! With stops for coffe, lunch and a glass of wine on the way back we all managed it with no ill effects. On the Wednesday evening my son was supposed to join us and take us out for a meal but the M3 was completely closed by an accident. He realised that if he came he would arrive just as we were all going to bed! So I took us out instead and my daughter suggested a restaurant recommended by some friends of hers – The Olive House (picture below right) and it was excellent – Turkish food, family run and packed out on a weekday night. A lovely end to my stay.

Because my daughter was working from home during the day I got a lot of knitting done and finished a pair of socks from Kate Davies’s book ‘Bluestockings’. I learned how to cast on at the toe, turn the heel in a new way and do stretchy cast off! It was also the first time I had done pattern stitches on a sock.

I have enjoyed it all immensly but I think I could do with a few days (weeks?) of being quiet now! However today the installation of my new woodstove is beginning, Ted has been to see his bees and Openreach are trying to fix the fault on Laura’s internet!

A Day Out

A friend sent me a photo of a property advertised in an Estate Agent’s window which she thought might appeal to my son. His home is a terraced house in Luton with noisy neighbours, on a busy street and with very few green spaces or views. His job is stressful and he loves spending time at my place where it is quiet and he is surrounded by trees, the sound of the stream and birdsong. For some time he has been looking for somewhere small near me; somewhere with no neighbours or road noise. It has proved elusive! The place Rachel had spotted was down a long track in the middle of nowhere – a renovation project which had halted when the owner died and certainly looked promising.

The agent’s details gave confusing information about where exactly it was but I thought I had located it on the map. I passed the information to my friend Lindy who, in her teens, used to be the retrieve driver for a group of hang-gliding mates and LOVES locating hard-to-find places. She came up with the same location but also found images on google maps and that it had failed to sell at a previous auction. So of course we had to go and have a look and a day out exploring the neighbourhood.

And we found it. Over the Easter weekend my son came and had an official viewing. It will be sold at auction in a few weeks time so now he just has to work out how much he can afford to bid.

Meanwhile having seen the place, Lindy and I drove on to find a Church we had seen marked on the map (or rather the churchyard as the church was locked).

It too was in the middle of nowhere and seemed to serve a huge parish judging by the gravestones. We had a picnic then a walk down a footpath to a bridge over the river.

And finally home by a rather circuitous route and another walk along the river at Cenarth on a newly constructed walkway which gives pushchair and wheelchair access.

Christmas Past and Present

A few days ago I had a real ‘Bah Humbug’ day when I just couldn’t be bothered with all this Christmas Malarkey. What was the point? A lot of work for not a lot.

It was partly because I had a streaming cold. Or was it Covid Omicron? Apparently the latter looks very like a cold to the naked eye and only a pcr test can tell the difference. The NHS website told me I should do a lateral flow test and, if it was positive get a pcr one before self isolating for 7 – 10 days (rules vary between England and Wales with Wales sticking to 10 days). But to get a lateral flow test I would have to go into a pharmacy and risk infecting others or wait for some to be sent in the post. To get a pcr test I needed to drive to Carmarthen where there is a test center. Driving with one hand fully occupied stemming the flow from my nose and catching sneezes didn’t seem a good idea either. And asking a friend to take me, cooped up in a car for over an hour seemed rather silly. Even if the test came back negative did I really want to give someone else a bad cold? So I cut the process short and have been self-isolating. I will continue until Boxing Day.

Sitting by the fire feeling sorry for myself and all negative about Christmas set me remembering Christmas’s past. When I was a child my parents ‘did’ Christmas but with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. Mum thought a real Christmas tree made far too much mess – all those needles to clear up. So we had one of the early artificial ones which was a number of dark green bottle brushes arranged in circles around a plain wooden dowel. On it were some fairy lights (about 10 in a string I think) which looked just like the Meltis fruit jellies which Mum liked and always made an apearance at Christmas too. There were some uninspiring baubles, some blobs of cotton wool as snow and a small fairy doll for the top. I honestly believed that the whole thing was put away each January with all the bits still in place because I could detect no change from one year to the next. It was still making its annual appearance at my last Christmas in th family home in 1970. I have a vague recollection of making paper chains with my Dad and even balloons in the corners of the room but that must have been when I was very small. I suspect they were banned for collecting dust. So the only other decorations were some ‘yule logs’ – small logs decorated with polyfilla snow, a red candle, a small sprig of Holly and maybe a plastic robin. They were deemed tasteful. Christmas dinner was a roast chicken (turkey would last too long) nicely cooked but not really different from any other chicken dinner. Christmas was OK and I got nice presents but Oh! how I envied friends who had a real tree, exuberant decorations, a big family gathering and loads of fun!

Fast forward to the Vicarage years. Christmas was a frenetic dash to an exhausted finishing line. As well as working effectively full time and organising the family Christmas there was the ‘Vicar’s wife’ bit to do. I bought industrial quantities of mincemeat and made mince pies in batches of 6 dozen to take to various events. There was ‘Candles by Carolight’ (a spoonerism stuck!) to help organise – boxes and boxes of candles to put in holders for people to carry without burning their hands and others in foil dishes to go on the floor and vats of mulled wine to brew and remember to get some of those mince pies out of the freezer to take. Something for littlies to do at the crib service, the youth group party, Christmas Eve morning spent decorating the Church which involved me filling the car with greenery from the vicarage garden and therefore having to be the first to arrive. Then midnight service, home at 1am, put the turkey in, get up early for John to go and do Matins, have breakfast and let the kids open their stockings, back for the family service, home to finish our dinner and, finally – fall asleep as soon as our bums hit a comfy chair! Of course there was fun too, we had a great team of people who all did a lot. And there were good memories of that time too of massive Christmas trees, of winding greenery and ribbons through the banisters of the vicarage stairs – an Edwardian Villa has great potential at Christmas! But it did give me considerable ambivalence to the whole Christmas thing.

It was those memories that came to the front of my mind when I was low. I had to remind myself of the other Christmasses. The ones in the early years of our marriage when we had ridiculously big real trees in small rooms dripping with decorations, of small people with bulging stockings, of creating family traditions. And latterly of experimenting with diferent ways of celebrating, of allowing ourselves the luxury of a whole day in front of the fire with a good book.

So I gave myself a good shake and decided it was down to me to choose if I wanted to be cheerful or miserable. I made a wreath for the front door, decorated the big mantle piece, hung baubles and stars over my worktable and put up the Christmas bunting in the kitchen.

The day before my cold started I had gone for a walk on the beach with a friend and she had got the cold too so there was no point in isolating from her! We cheered ourselves up with a solstice fire. She had found a ‘Christmas tree’ in her loft given to her by someone in her village and which she never used so she brought that and we ceremoniously burnt it as symbol of letting go of what was no longer or value to us. For me that included half-hearted or overwhelming Christmasses.

I wish you all a very Merry time whatever you celebrate, whoever you celebrate it with and however you do it. And I look foward to hearing about your adventures, highs and lows in 2022. As they say it here

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda – literally ‘A full Christmas and a good New Year’

Full Circle

It is ages since I last posted, not because I have been idle but because there has been nothing that felt important enough to interest you all or the photos were rubbish or there were no photos because the weather was awful. However this last week has been special.

If you have been following this blog for over 3 years you may remember that my Grandson, Sean, my son’s son, chose Swansea University to do his degree in Computer Studies. I joined the family for the Open Day (read about it here https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/?s=batty+in+wales+all+change) and later they stayed with me en route to installing him in his room in Halls so I was there too when he began his student days. Towards the end of that year I joined him and 2 of his friends to look at houses they might rent for their second year (his Dad wanted my opinion on the various options). Then the Pandemic struck, the University switched to on-line teaching and Sean and his friends left their house and went home. They never returned to study here but continued on-line until the course finished this summer.

On Thursday there was the graudation ceremony. So once again the family came down. Sean is now working as a junior software developer and of course his Dad and his older sister are working full time too. So they arrived late Wednesday having driven here after work and set off early on Thursday to give plenty of time for the robing and photos before the ceremony.

With his very proud parents!

Unlike his sister’s graduation where my son was able to get 3 tickets so I could attend, (read about that event here https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/?s=batty+in+London+) Sean was limited to 2. However it felt important that I was involved so it was arranged that I would follow them into Swansea and join them for lunch. Shorna, his sister, was unable to get a day off to come so stayed home with the cat!

My friend Lindy very generously offered to drive me but declined to join us for lunch, preferring a picnic at the beach as she had had a rather draining week and thought being sociable with strangers would be too tiring. We arrived early and the graduation over-ran so we had time to spare. Plan ‘A’ had been to park on the waterfront and enjoy the view but it was pouring with rain and the view was – er – limited! So we found a gravelled patch off the road to the Amazon distribution warehouse with a few truck fronts parked in it and sat chatting waiting for a message that the family were on their way to the restaurant. We got a bit worried when a man appeared taking photos of the vehicles – were we illegally parked? – No. His hobby was truck spotting!

The lovely view as we waited!

Then it was off to the restaurant for me. We were joined by one of Sean’s housemates who has stayed on to do an MA so is still living in Swansea. The restaurant was Persian and the food lovely. It was great to share the day with them all and an extra treat to meet Shimon again

Meanwhile Lindy went to Caswell bay to have her picnic (in the car because of the rain) and took this photo of the debris left by the 2 recent storms.

Amazingly the cafe was open.

It was a strange day, not quite according to plan but such a joy to see another of my grandchildren celebrate a successful launch into the adult world.

Two Big Beasts

A couple of weeks ago I had a message from my son – could he have the use of a space 3m x 3m in my workshop? He had put a shipping container on the garden of a house he owns and rents out in the same road as his home with the intention of using it as a workshop. But the a neighbour complained to the Council who told him it was ‘not in keeping’ and must be removed. That left him with all his tools stored in a small shed in his own smaller garden (which already houses his office) but nowhere to use them. Of course I said ‘Yes’ and by rearranging my stuff created the space he needed.

So a flurry of parcels and packages arrived and he sent me a list of materials he wanted me to order from the local Builders’ Merchant. Then they were followed, last Monday, by the man himself plus his cat. Not your average moggy, not even a pedigree cat. This is an F3 Savannah Cat, at least twice the size of my more humble ones. But a lovely softie who acts more like a dog in many ways and obviously thought that my garden was Heaven! He did give my dogs and cats a bit of a shock though – not quite sure what sort of big beast had entered their domain!

Odin explores this new territory

My son is a software developer but, like his father, my father and my paternal grandfather, loves making things in wood. It transpired that the workshop space was needed to build a computer controlled wood cutting machine thus combining his two passions. He has a small one at home which can cut things about the size of an A4 sheet of paper but having seen its potential he wanted one which could do handle anything up to a full sheet of plywood – 2.4m x 1.2m! Hence the large area of floor space required.

With intermittent help from me to ‘hold the other end of’ and a couple of trips out to get things he hadn’t realised he would need, he built the worktop the sheet of wood will sit on. It is 2 layers of heavy ply with framing and 2 sheets of insulation between them to stop it flexing.

The cutting head has to move in 3 dimensions – up and down the bed, from side to side and deeper or shallower, so he also needed a gantry which travels along the sides of the bed (the x axis)) with another piece which moves side to side (y axis) and can also raise or lower the cutter (z axis). The gantry and other wooden parts run on small wheels on tracks and are pulled into position by motors which have thin rubber tracks around a cog wheel – think caterpillar tracks. The motors are controlled by the computer.

This bit travels from side to side on the gantry and the top part raises or lowers the head

By Friday evening the thing was built and he had wired up 2 of the 4 motors but ran out of time (he had to drive home early on Saturday morning) to connect the other 2 let alone test it all and make something. He will come back as soon as he is able to finish it and then we can start playing with it! As you can see it is pretty massive – definitely a big beast!

Now all I have to do is tidy up the rest of the workshop!

My reward is that I will be seeing my son more frequently and can ask him to programme the machine to cut wood out for me and drill the holes where they should go – a sort of ‘made to measure’ IKEA in my garden 😉

Over the border!

I have been quiet for a while, not because I have had nothing to write about but because I have been too busy to sit down and type about it all!

Now that restrictions are easing and I have had both my Covid vaccinations I went to visit my daughter for a few days. Some of you may remember that she works as Learning Support Assistant in a primary school and it is easiest for her if I visit during the holidays so I went for part of half term.

As you can imagine it was wonderful to see her especially as the last time was August! We packed a lot into a few days. The lease on her rented house was coming to an end and although she could have renewed it she was considering moving. She has made the house into a lovely home and has some fantastic neighbours but the landlady is very reluctant to spend money on maintenance and repairs. Last winter the badly fitting, single glazed windows and lack of loft insulation meant the heating was not up to the job and the house was very cold. Then 2 neighbours (both in rented homes) announced they were moving – who would come in their place? It seemed sensible to look at other houses to rent. So once again I found myself viewing properties with one of my children! Front runner was a very similar house to the one she was in, on a quiet estate within walking distance of the town center, but with a slightly different layout of rooms and much better maintained. As in many towns and cities, especially those built in the 60’s and 70’s the suburbs are arranged around roads which radiate out from the center of town and the buses run along those radial roads, So to visit friends a couple of miles away in the next ‘village’ means a bus into town and another out, or using the car. So paradoxically living near the center should help her kids’ social lives! After a lot of weighing up the pros and cons including the hassle of changing her address on everything, dealing with the benefits system and packing everything up, she decided to move and we set the wheels in motion.

Two viewings of the place on different days meant we were in town so I hit the charity shops to replenish my wardrobe after being unable to do so through the Covid restrictions. I had noticed that another aspect of my rut was that every morning I pulled on jeans and a t-shirt type top, the only decision required being short or long sleeves, then a fleece hoodie. Sometimes they were clean and tidy clothes suitable for being seen out in and other days they were gardening wear with stains and holes but that was the only difference. It was so long since I had worn earrings that the holes had almost healed over and I abandoned my watch when the battery ran out. By going into ALL the charity shops we found a skirt, a dress, a pair of smarter trousers and several tops in my size.

A selection of my finds – some are in the wash!

And as we were out and spending money (It hardly hurts at all to wave a plastic card over a machine which beeps its thanks!) we had a pub lunch one day and ate out at Wagamama another evening. If any of you know of a good cookbook or website that would introduce me to cooking Japanese cuisine (bearing in mind that my local supermarkets have limited ranges of ‘world foods’!) please tell me. What we had was delicious but very new for me. The pub lunch included a particularly nice relish which I managed to re-create at home – recipe below.

Red Onion and Red Pepper Relish

Sweat half a kilo of thinly sliced red onions slowly until beginning to soften, add one and a half red peppers cut into short thin strips and continue cooking until everything is soft and starting to melt. Add salt, pepper, a generous slug of balsamic vinegar, a desertspoon or so of dark muscovado sugar, a heaped teaspoon of grain mustard and a splash of blackcurrant vinegar (or pontack sauce or red wine vinegar). Continue to simmer for another ten minutes or so stirring frequently for the flavours to mingle. Check the taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Either pour into a jar and store in the fridge OR pour into a bottom lined cake tin, top with a circle of ready rolled puff pastry and bake at 200 deg for 20 mins then invert onto a plate as a tart for a delicious lunch. I made it when friends came and they asked for seconds so it must have been OK!

There are at least 2 more posts about my activities in my head and I will try to get them onto the screen soon!

Ker-ching! A Penny drops!

There were some lovely comments on my last post about the blanket I was making to use up those little balls of wool that every knitter accumulates. The ‘granny squares’ are not all the same size necessitating strips and stripes and extra rounds to make them fit together and the colours are multiple and varied – yet the effect is cheerful and lively and most of you loved it as do I. Why?

Looking around my home and at the assorted handmade blankets in my cupboard I realised that the pieces I like best are the scrappy ones – the patchworks (usually fairly random) and the multicoloured. Partly this is because they will fit in with any colour scheme, adding both pattern and a hit of colour to the space. So in that sense they are very practical – change the decor? No problem!

Musing during a dog walk (as you do!) two memories from childhood came into my head.

The first concerned my childhood heroine; the woman I wanted to be like when I grew up. My Mum’s eldest, and much older, sister Aunty Nan. Nan and her husband Francis were childless (not by choice – as she said ‘In our day if it didn’t happen it didn’t happen and there was nothing you could do about it’) which meant that she had not given up work to raise her family. By the time I was old enough to remember them they were both lecturers at Alsager Teacher Training College near Newcastle-under-Lyme and lived in half a very long Nissen hut on the campus left over from World War 2. Francis headed up Rural Studies and Nan taught Craft. I found Francis slightly intimidating and when we visited he and my Dad would talk bees which they both kept. Nan would always find something crafty for me to do so that she and Mum could cook and talk. Later they bought 3 adjoining building plots where a new estate was being developed and had a bungalow built. Nan was furious that the architect would only talk to Francis even though she was the more artistic and better at design! She was even sidelined during the discussion of the kitchen! It was a beautiful home, very up to date in its furnishings and, of course, with Francis being an expert gardener, set in a fabulous garden. But what I really loved was their very early VW Dormobile.

Francis’s passion for bees meant he was not content with keeping a few hives of honey bees. He was really a thwarted academic and one of his good friends was Alan Gemmell (If you are old enough and live in the UK you may remember Professor Alan Gemmell of Keele University from Gardener’s Question Time. Prof’s passion was potatoes). So every summer he and Nan would spend the long vacation travelling Europe so he could collect wild bees and identify them. He had a cabinet of shallow drawers in his study with serried ranks of bees filed according to their latin name.

To make these expeditions easier, especially when he had exhausted Western Europe and started exploring behind the Iron Curtain, they got the Dormobile. To me it was a playhouse on wheels! And in it were blankets made by Nan on those journeys. She would take a pair of double pointed knitting needles – the short ones used for socks – and odd balls of wool so that she had some knitting to do in the evenings or while she was sitting in a field somewhere half watching Francis stalk his prey. Squares were easy to carry around or store in the van. Some were plain but lots were stripey or half and half. Sometimes the wool was thinner than she would have liked so she would use 2 colours together making a tweedy effect. Those blankets were part of the magic of the van for me. So very different from the contents of her house or of any of the other houses I knew.

The second memory was of a couple whose names I cannot remember but they were members of the Manchester and District Beekeepers Association, of which my Dad was Treasurer. The Association met once a month for most of the year. In the winter they rented a room somewhere for an evening and had ‘talks’ about bees and related subjects. But in the summer there were ‘Apiary visits’. One member would host the rest for an afternoon wherever they kept their bees. One of the more experienced members, often my father, would go through the hives explaining what they were doing, what they were looking for and why. If the bees needed extra space or a super full of honey needed to be taken away then that would be done. So winter was for theory and summer for practical. And on Apiary visits families were invited along too. There were a couple of single women who kept bees, a couple who did it jointly but most of the keepers were men. So the families consisted of wives and a few children who would sit around on deckchairs as far away from the hives as possible and chat. Everyone would take a picnic tea and once the hives were safely put back together again the beekeepers would join us and the host (or more usually the host’s wife!) would make cups of tea. It was a nice way to spend a summer afternoon and most of the gardens were delightful.

My Dad when he was young with his bees

The couple I am thinking of hosted a visit every year but not in their garden – I never knew where they lived in winter. Every summer they would decamp to a field where he kept his bees and where they had 2 old railway wagons. One was where he stored all his bee equipment and extracted his honey – a dim space which I always tried to get into at some point to enjoy its scent of wood, wax and honey. The other was where they lived with two single beds arranged in an L shape at the end furthest from the door, each covered with a multicoloured, home made blanket, a small table and 2 hard chairs and a rudimentary kitchen with a camping stove. Outside was a compost toilet and another table with a washing up bowl on it and a tap on a post behind it. The field was on a hill and there was an amazing view over the valley. I knew of no-one else who lived like that – it was like being in a story!

One huge granny square!

I suppose that from those 2 experiences I came to associate blankets like the one I am working on with a simple life, being unconventional, having adventures but also with being cosy and self-sufficient. No wonder I like them so much – by making them I am constructing my very own magic carpet of the imagination, opening up possibilities of adventures and new ways of living!

Things are looking up

A fairly disastrous start to my garden had me feeling rather dejected but at last the sunny days/ frosty nights weather has given way to the usual ‘chilly with varying amounts of rain’ variety. Not nearly as nice for working in but better for growing.

I brought the trays of tender seeds indoors and put them on the living room windowsill. The window faces due South and there is a radiator underneath. At last some have germinated.

these are cucurbits of various kinds and peppers – sweet and hot.

I planted a net of first early potatoes – some outdoors and some in large pots in the lean-to greenhouse on the South wall of the house. The outside ones have kept trying to send up shoots and been nipped by frost despite a heavy mulch of paper so none have shoots more than 2 inches tall. In the greenhouse they are almost ready to flower!

Last year I ordered some plants and when they arrived a free gift of a few dahlia tubers had been included. I was hesitant because in the past slugs have munched every dahlia that put a shoot above the soil. But they were free so I put them out in pots and they came up well. In the Autumn I brought the pots into the lean-to greenhouse, stood them on bubble wrap and tied more round the pots then added a layer of shredded paper to the top. They have come back well.

Everything will be late but there should be some things to eat from the garden!

Indoors I have been decorating my bedroom. In this slightly weird old cottage that meant doing the stairs as well – we knocked 3 small bedrooms and the landing into one generous room so the door is at the bottom of the stairs. I didn’t realise that DIY stores were fully open (in my world they are useful but not essential) so I ordered paint online for collection. I knew that the colour I saw on my screen was not accurate – would I like it when I saw it on the walls? Should I order tester pots first? Since Carmarthen is 20 miles away I decided to risk it. It is paint. If I didn’t like it I could buy another can in a different colour and go over it again. I did however invest in some good quality paint that promised to cover any previous colour in one coat. So

From this

To

One friend’s reaction was ‘Oooh! You’ll have to be properly grown up now!’

I thought the pale colour would be a lilac grey and it is bluer than I expected but actually I am happy with it.

On the rut jumping front I have continued trying to expand the range of foods I eat. Yesterday I picked a large handful of ‘greens’ which included old favourites chard and wild garlic, shoots of asparagus kale which I grew for the first time last year and have been picking leaves from all winter, but also dandelion leaves and vine leaves. I had thought that dandelions had to be blanched under a flowerpot but Carolee (https://herbalblessingsblog.wordpress.com ) assured me they didn’t. I chopped all the leaves and sauteed the whole lot in a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and they were delicious. Today I have made Soda Bread (from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking), Blinis (from Michael Mosley’s The Clever Guts Diet) and Oatcakes (from The River Cottage Handbook No 3 – Bread by Daniel Stevens).

On the crafting front – wait for Scrap Happy!

At long last we are able to start meeting up with friends, have workdays and non-essential shops are open. Yesterday I met friends in Cardigan to have coffee. As it was fine there were more people out and about than usual. We cannot yet go inside but the Council has reduced the High Street to one lane allowing cafes to put chairs and tables out on the pavements and spill onto the side of the road. It wasn’t ideal with delivery lorries trundling past but a big step towards normality!

The other thing that has lifted my spirits is that my son plans to move nearer to me. He no longer needs to be able to commute to London every day but instead will be working from home most of the time. His job in IT is stressful and his health is suffering. Moving out of an urban environment should help him relax. His wife, who has very little experience of living in the country, prefers to stay put so for now he will buy somewhere small, but big enough for her and their adult children to visit, and split his time between here and there. That way she can try living down here (very different from staying with your M-I-L!) and see if she likes it after all. I have been helping him house hunt and he has made an offer on a place he saw the other side of Carmarthen from me. Of course there are many things that can go wrong between offer and moving in but knowing that he will buy that or another place soon and I will be able to see more of him is lovely.

Back to the Beginning

Embroidery? Well, yes, I learned to do it as a child. I had no choice. My Paternal Grandmother won prizes for her needlework. Her daughter, Aunty Megan, embroidered tablecloths and tray cloths and such like. On my Mother’s side of the family it was more utility sewing. Her Eldest sister, Nan taught crafts at a Teacher Training College but was more into weaving and bookbinding than sewing. However the next eldest, Buff, had trained as a Tailoress and by the time I was a child was teaching dressmaking at evening classes and looking after their father who was bedridden (by choice – but that is another story) and Peggy, the third daughter, who also still lived at home, made soft toys for the Sale of Work at the Church. So yes. I learned to sew and do embroidery.

There were three types of embroidery in my world. The one everyone did most of was to buy a pre-printed cloth, with or without the threads supplied as a kit, and follow the instructions. Painting by numbers with stranded cotton. A slight variant, mainly used for hankies, was to use iron on transfers to provide the outlines. The only creativity involved was choosing whether the flowers would be pink, blue or yellow.

The second was drawn thread work. Mum had done that at least once but the cloth was so precious it was never used. The third was cross stitch using either painted canvas (Does anyone else remember getting a Penelope kit for Christmas?) or working from a chart on Aida fabric. Painting by numbers again.

Mum had a set of books of traditional embroidery designs from various parts of Europe complete with traceable patterns but I never remember her using them. I have them still and I have never used them either!

I inherited more than enough embroidered cloths to have no incentive to make any more. And although I admired the skill that had gone into them and understood how many hours of work they represented I was never all that keen on them. I have, from time to time embroidered small items but again it has been ‘trace a pattern and colour it in’

In my teens I had an idea to create a picture with embroidery but it stayed as an idea and never got made. I just did not have the confidence to have a go and had a sneaky suspicion that asking for help would just cause problems. Then life got busy!

Over the last few years I have become aware that creating things from a pattern or kit is not the same as ‘being creative’. Not that there is anything wrong with following a pattern – the skill required can be considerable and the effect lovely. But I am ready to spread my wings and move up to ‘being creative’. I am exploring several ways to do that and one of them is to resurrect that idea of making pictures out of fabric and threads using techniques that come under the general heading of ’embroidery’. I want to have a go! Now I have cleared some wall space and am really enjoying having John’s pictures (and some of mine) up I want to create more but in different ways.

I started sketching some ideas but realised that my stitching skills are rusty and my repertoire of stitches limited. Then I came across the site Pintangle (www.pintangle.com) and Sharon’s Take a Stitch Tuesday series. So I went back to the beginning and am re-learning stitches I have known for years and lots of ways to elaborate them plus some which I have never tried before. Each ‘lesson’ I do on a square of fabric then glue it to a piece of file paper so I can write on what each stitch is called. Her instructions and pictures are wonderfully clear and her stitch dictionary is a revelation to me! From time to time she also posts about a stitch which is not part of the ‘course’ and I try those as well.

As with the boro bag and mat (read about them here https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/2021/02/15/scrap-happy-february-2/) I have learned that my straight lines are not very straight and my stitches not always as even as I would like! I have bought some of those pens which have ink that disappears with water and some fine Aida to practice with. I also now know that whilst I have stranded cotton in a range of colours and one hank of perle I need to buy some more interesting threads! Meanwhile I am learning, stretching myself and enjoying the different effects I can create. I can already see some possibilities for elements of the designs I have in mind. Watch this space – but please don’t hold your breath – these have been incubating for 55 years and don’t look like hatching just yet!