Monday, 5 August 2019

The Graduate

Has everyone got the tune Mrs. Robinson running through their heads? Excellent, as that little ear worm played constantly in mine last Friday when we attended E's graduation ceremony. It was the day after the really hot Thursday and the weather had, thankfully, cooled down a fair bit. Despite staying in a hotel in Bristol the night before, the morning itself was still a bit of a frantic rush. From the point that we sat down in the Wills Memorial Building, however, it was a wonderful day. Hats off to the uni for a magnificent ceremony that ran like clockwork. The speech was superb and we were actively encouraged to whoop and cheer as our loved ones went on stage for the official hand clasp ....... and whoop we did! R and I were bursting with pride and I may have shed a few, quiet tears! :0)
After the ceremony we had drinks and presentations in the Victoria Rooms, followed by the obligatory Graduation photo. Then we walked to the Koocha Vegan Bar and stuffed ourselves silly with the best Turkish mezze ever! 
That night, the 'childerbeasts' came home with us and then on the Saturday we drove into London to help L move into her new house, before L and E went off on a long awaited sibling holiday to Bruges.
Here are a few photos of E's big day:
Very poor photo of Wills Memorial Building:
Our view from the balcony - it was very warm and I pitied the poor parents of the students who had graduated the day before!
E changing into more suitable footwear for walking to Koocha!

Yum!

Other happies this month:
My anniversary present from R. I love dovecotes - probably as I have wonderful memories of a tea room in Devon which had one and the owners let the girls feed the doves with stale scones. Weirdly though, I have no desire to get actual doves! If any want to take up residence, however, (or any other type of bird!) I'll be perfectly happy. I just don't feel the need for any more dependent pets.

 Standing in the cold watching the lunar eclipse:
 My finished Camber dress with added pockets. It looks huge in this photo - I'm really not that big!
 Cutting out fabric for a Dress Shirt:
 The 'Up-beet' cafe at the Chesapeake Mill in Wickham. The mill is also home to various stalls selling antiques:
 Stocking up at the zero waste shop:
 Making a batch of apricot jam:
 Watching an open air play at our local Elizabethan Manor House - it was brilliant! It had poured with rain all day but miraculously stopped as soon as the play started.

 Same place 2 nights later to watch an outdoor showing of Mary Poppins Returns. I really enjoy this film (I also saw it on my birthday last December) and, with a couple of exceptions, loved the songs. Strangely though, the tunes never stay in my head. I can sing all the ones from the original Mary Poppins film, but these go in one ear and out the other!
 A trip into London to meet an old school friend, Z, at the V&A:
 Knitting J some 'Dustland Mitts' (pattern by Stephen West) for Christmas to go with the birthday hat that I gave him on one of the hottest weekends of the year! Here they are modeled by R:
This was a bit of a disaster. A while ago E found an old table base in a skip in London, Now that she has a garden, she wanted to take it to Bristol and so I lovingly made her a mosaic top containing some of the bits we had picked up on the beach in Burnham on Sea. Sadly, when R went to affix it, he discovered that the table was actually completely rotten, so the mosaic has joined the others on the outside of the garage wall in our garden.
Finally, a trip to the Watermill to see this:
It wasn't the best play we have seen there. It was all a bit last minute and I suspect it was some amateur dramatic group. The accents were, amusingly, decidedly dodgy American ones, but the highlight came when one of the actors couldn't turn off a torch and accidentally switched it onto flashing red mode. In a panic, she placed it on a nearby desk where it drew the eye nicely - but not as well as when another actor, trying to help, stuffed it into his trouser pocket, where it continued to flash rather alarmingly through the fabric until he practically threw it offstage!

Well, that's all for this week. Wishing everyone a wonderful, fun-filled summer.
Toodle Pip for now. x

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The Bits Inbetween Watching Wimbledon!

Hello there! Well, it's that time of year again when I become rather obsessed with the happenings in SW19. I missed most of the first week of Wimbledon as E was home and she isn't too keen on tennis. The one silver lining of her going back to Bristol is that I now get to spend most afternoons watching Murray et al hitting balls across perfect, stripy lawns. I whizz through all my jobs in the morning, saving the ironing, and anything else that can be done with half an eye on the screen, for after lunch. 

There have been a few happies in between:
The bad mother duck has had a second clutch (is that the right word?) of ducklings. She started off with 10 and the number has gradually dwindled to 3. To give her her due, a light seems to have gone on in her little, ducky brain and she is actually taking quite good care of the remaining 3. She has stopped abandoning them to follow the male and no longer pushes them out of the way to get to the food. In fact, she will chase away the other ducks until her ducklings have finished eating. With the hot weather I have the patio doors open most of the time. Whilst cooking the other day, I heard a commotion in the dining room and went in to find the mother and ducklings pottering round, having a good nosy. They have since made rather a habit of this. There have been no ducky accidents of the poop kind yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time!
Another talk and walk at the museum. This time, it was all about swifts and it was really fascinating. We already have a swift box at the back of our house, but the West Berkshire Ornithological Club are giving away free boxes to local residents in an attempt to boost numbers. I have applied for another one and may even try their recording of swifts calling to attract them - not sure what the neighbours will make of that!
 Making lavender cookies:
It was a friend's birthday a couple of weeks ago and so a few of us took her out for lunch at a local gastro pub. After lunch we went back to another friend's house for coffee in the garden. J's house is a picture perfect cottage, complete with thatched roof and a garden to die for. I am green with envy! In her paddock she has a grass labyrinth that they designed and created for her youngest daughter's wedding last year. We had fun walking it - it didn't look huge on first inspection, but it was so intricate that it took a lot longer than you would think.
 R and I took a trip to Mottisfont Abbey. We have driven by here before, but this was our first visit. We were about a week too late to see the roses in their full glory, but it was still lovely. R was a little confused initially as there were lots of dead heads on the plants. Then a sign informed us that many of the old fashioned roses only have a single flush of blooms and they leave the dead heads in order to get the hips in autumn.




I moved E into her new flat in Bristol. Her room is lovely and is the only one in the whole house with access to the garden - I don't know if that means that she will have to tend it! After humping numerous boxes, unpacking and risking life and limb climbing on the furniture to put fairy lights around the room, we treated ourselves to dinner at Falafel King. It was also a bit of a celebration as she had just found out that she had got a First in her degree. Very proud Mummy moment!
L's boyfriend, J, has a birthday coming up soon. L had told me that he had lost his hat recently so, despite the fact that his birthday is in August, I knitted him a new one. My reasoning was that if I waited until Christmas he would have had cold ears for a good couple of months! I plan on making him matching gloves for Christmas. We are having a 'Recycled' Christmas this year. All presents have to be either homemade or bought from charity shops, car boot sales etc.  I'll let you know how it goes!
A trip to the Watermill Theatre to see Sir Ian McKellen. He is doing a tour of the country to celebrate his 80th birthday. We were very lucky to get tickets. Initially we missed out as they all sold within the first 3 minutes of going on sale. They put us on the waiting list and we were thrilled when we received a call saying that someone had dropped out and would we like 2 tickets. YES, PLEASE!
He was absolutely brilliant and you would never believe that he is 80. He also stood at the exit with a collecting bucket at the end of the show to raise money for the Watermill's charity of choice this year.
 I've picked numerous posies of sweet peas for the table:
 .....and admired my geraniums - or are they pelargoniums? I love the smell of these; they remind me of my Mum who always used to grow them in her little lean to. One of the buckets I bought at a car boot sale. The other 2 we found on a walk when we came across a pile of rubbish that people had dumped near a river. L bravely climbed over the detritus to get to them and R braved the funny looks as he carried them the rest of the way home!
I finally got around to making bunting to go on the shed. Amazingly, R doesn't mind it too much! I also planted up an old sink with alpines. I'm hoping it will get enough sun where it is.
Finally, I tried my hand at rag rug making. I like how it feels underfoot but am finding it tricky to know where to increase at the ends. Knowing that I was going to be doing this, I collected together some old pillow cases and also bought an old sheet from Oxfam, thinking that the colours would look good. It was only when I got it home that I noticed the strong smell of moth balls! It has been washed twice but there is still a faint whiff of naphthalene. I'm hoping it will fade with time.
Well, that's all for this week. I'm just off into town as there is a pop up zero waste shop happening today and I need to stock up on sesame seeds and nuts. I can't be too long though - that tennis won't watch itself!

Toodle pip for now. x

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

2 Get Wet in Somerset

It's become a bit of a tradition that when exams are over, we try to get away for a couple of  days to celebrate. Nowhere exotic, just somewhere relatively close, preferably by the sea. Last year E and I visited Weston Super Mare, the year before that it was Hastings. This year, following her finals, we decided that Burnham on Sea was the place. I'd never been before and it was chosen because I looked at the UK map, thought I could pick her up from Bristol and let my eye travel down the coast; it wasn't too far. 
Lily (my car!) had been making a funny noise. R had already replaced the front nearside wheel bearing (remember that!) but the offside one was now playing up. He had the part and said that she would be fine and he would do the work the following weekend on my return. So off we set.
I had booked a small B&B called Bramley Cottage on the outskirts of town. The owners were lovely, it was spotlessly clean and considering we were their first vegan guests they did brilliantly. We had a whole vegan breakfast menu to choose from, including a choice (note choice!) of 2 different vegan pancakes (the owner had been practising!).
Burnham on Sea itself was, if I'm honest, a bit of a disappointment. It had a beautiful sandy beach, which I'm sure is lovely if it's sunny, but we had wind, cloud and rain. There was a slight air of rundown retirement town about the place. We cheered ourselves up with chips on the beach and a trip to the cinema to escape the rain. The Ritz was a highlight - a tiny cinema, £4 per ticket and, after we had watched the trailer of forthcoming events, a man appeared with an usherette's tray and asked if anyone would like an ice cream;  it was adorable. Here are some photos:
The view from our room:
Walking into town along the estuary:

The beach. You can just see the baby pier in the distance. It held one of those amusement arcades that somehow always make me feel uncomfortable and depressed:
A brilliant idea - making beach litter picking fun:
So cute!
On our second day, we decided that we had experienced all that Burnham had to offer, so drove to nearby Glastonbury. We had been before and seen the Abbey and climbed the Tor, so this time we just pottered around the town itself. At one point it was warm enough to actually remove our coats! There were some beautiful, old buildings: 
......and lots of yummy food:

Tofu hot dog:
If you've been to Glastonbury you will know that it's all a bit hippy - E was in her element and bought a rather glorious pair of trousers, some pick and mix incense sticks and some colourful acrylic yarn (she really does do the whole vegan thing!) to make a long cardigan. I bought a remnant of fabric from the same shop. 
Then it was back to Burnham for the evening. The following day, we had breakfast, checked out and had planned to visit Brean Down (which is supposed to be lovely) on the return journey. Unfortunately, we had to get back to Bristol earlier than planned - E received a message from her tutor who wanted a meeting to discuss her masters options for next year and could only do midday. The aim had been for E to have her meeting, return some library books and then she would come home for a few days. She came out of her meeting looking a little pale faced - they had loved her final year dissertation, wanted her to publish it and she had a meeting with RH the following week to discuss Masters dissertation ideas which she could possibly extend to a PhD. Needless to say, she had to hit the library instead of coming home. 
Disappointed though I was, it turned out to be very lucky that she wasn't in the car on the way home. Driving along the M4 in the pouring rain, I had got used to the noise from the wheel bearing,when suddenly the steering wheel developed a tremor. It was only minor initially, so I kept to the inside lane and carried on. Suddenly the shaking became a lot worse and I was just thinking that I should pull in at the upcoming services when the front nearside bit of the car dropped down dramatically. Easily panicked, I was amazed at how calm I remained - braking gently so as not to skid, I hit the hazard warning lights, indicated and moved onto the hard shoulder where we came gracefully to a standstill. This is what I saw when I got out:
Now, I'm not much of a mechanic but I knew it shouldn't look like that! I called the AA and stood in the rain on the other side of the crash barrier waiting for them to arrive. The wheel was nowhere to be seen - I assume it had bounced over the barrier and is now lying in the bushes somewhere near Swindon. Lily and I came home on the AA truck - she was very excited! The AA man spent the journey telling me that I was lucky I wasn't killed and that someone was obviously looking out for me. I didn't tell him that I thought it was Lily. I was actually very proud of my reaction - you can see the mark where we had scraped along the road and it was a beautiful gentle curve onto the hard shoulder. Had E been with me though, I think I may have panicked more. Ringing R when I got home I asked him which wheel he had been working on. Yes, you guessed it, it was the front nearside one. We can only assume that he hadn't tightened the bolts enough. I won't be going skydiving any time soon!
Aside from the delights of Somerset, there have been a few more happies this month:
An evening talk with a local bat expert, followed by a walk along the canal at dusk to see and hear them:
 A brilliant bat detector allowing you to tune into their echolocation frequencies so you could hear them as they flew over the water. Different bats have different frequencies. We saw and heard Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Daubentons. It was magical.
A trip to Stratford Upon Avon to see this:
 
It was brilliant and their portrayal of Hymen was a triumph.



My hands have a tendency to develop eczema and I can usually only use boring, non-perfumed soap. I have used goats' milk soap in the past, but it tends to be pricey and doesn't really fit with the whole vegan thing. Then I found this - it smells lovely and (touch wood) so far, no eczema:
 Making another hanging basket! L came home for the weekend and she is making one too!
 More rhubarb and ginger jam:
 A trip to Oxford:



 Getting my fused glass back after firing. I've realised that my rainbow is actually upside down as I didn't want to put the wire hanger at the end with the glass tubes in case they rolled out. Never mind - at least the tubes did actually turn red in the kiln!
  Attending a mosaic making workshop at a nearby town:
The green bits of glass were some that E and I collected on the beach at Burnham. Now I just have to hang it:
 Making more energy bites - I haven't made these for ages:
Cutting out fabric for a dress. I'm not the world's best sewist and I have to take things very slowly:
 
Finally, I'm just off to finish making a loaf - it's so cold this morning (call this June?!) that I had to sit the dough on a hot water bottle to get it to rise properly!
Well. that's all for this week. Wishing everyone (especially those in Glastonbury!) a happy summer solstice on Friday.
Toodle Pip for now. x