Thursday, 27 July 2017

Paddington, Pomfest, and Paint

Hello, my Lovelies! It's been a few weeks since my last post, so I thought I'd take a quick half hour and clear out my camera. 
A couple of weeks ago, I jumped on the train to London to visit Pomfest, a yarn festival celebrating 5 years of the delicious, yarny magazine 'Pom Pom Quarterly'. My train arrived in Paddington Station and, at R's recommendation, I went along to platform 1 to pay homage to author Michael Bond who passed away recently. Now, Mr. Bond, author of the well known Paddington books, was actually born in our little market town. Not that you'd know it from the lack of fuss made about him. You'd think they could stretch to a plaque in the library or something, but no. So it was rather lovely to see the bronze statue of Paddington on platform 1, suitably adorned with thank you notes, flowers, jars of marmalade etc. It brought a lump to the eye to read the cards and I, and another lady there, heaved a sentimental sigh and gave Paddington's nose a rub for luck. We weren't the first - if you look carefully at the photo, you'll see that his nose is shiny from such attentions!
Pomfest took a bit of finding. The nearest tube was Tower Hill and, with my usual lack of direction, I initially turned right instead of left which caused me much confusion. When I eventually realised my mistake, a closed road confused me further. The walk was nice though, taking me by The Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

I eventually found the venue and was rather surprised to see an enormous queue outside. Wondering that there were so many yarn enthusiasts, I joined the end and waited patiently. Half an hour later, the queue started to move and we shuffled slowly forwards. My first clue that something was amiss was when we filed straight past the opening to the venue and headed across the road. My second was when I glanced down at my neighbour's ticket and realised that it looked nothing like mine. It turned out that I was queueing for a concert! In my defence, they could well have been yarny types: there was some very nice summer knitwear; it was an easy mistake to make! Once I'd excused myself and returned to the correct entrance, there was no queue at all and I was able to walk straight in.
It turned out to be a lovely event. There were talks, a market place and a cafe and seating area for when you were overcome by the yarn fumes and needed refreshment.

Surprisingly for me, I was organized for once and actually went with a couple of projects in mind. I bought some yarn from the lovely Amy of the Stranded Dyeworks podcast. It's her 'Shiner' colourway and I want to make the Soiree Sweater by Emily Foden.
I also bought some yarn with the Campside Shawl in mind:
Usually when I have a trip to London, I meet up with R when he finishes work and we go out for dinner. That particular day, he happened to be working from home and so I was able to make an early return. It actually made a nice change from rushing to catch the last train.

A while back I bought a small sewing table from a local car boot sale. It belonged to somebody's grandmother and they didn't have a use for it, so, for the princely sum of £2, it was mine. I actually bought it to try out painting furniture. We have a lot of wooden furniture in our house and I've been itching to try my hand with a bit of Annie Sloan for a while now. The trouble is, I'm constantly vetoed by the rest of the family who like a nice bit of wood. They could hardly complain though if I tried it out on my cheap, water-stained table. So, on my recent visit to Oxford, I popped into the Annie Sloan shop in Cowley and bought 2 tester pots of chalk paint: duck egg blue and old white. I also bought a small brush and a pot of clear wax.
Here's the before shot:
.......  a few merry hours with a paintbrush, a soft cloth, and Classic FM to keep me company and Ta-Dah!
What do you think? I'm rather pleased with it. The whole process was brilliant fun. There is no prep required, just 2 coats of paint (it dries really quickly), then a quick wax, a moderate sanding to acquire a slightly distressed look and a bit more wax. I was worried how distressed R was going to be when he came home and discovered that I'd covered some lovely oak with chalk paint, but he didn't even notice - or if he did, he declined to comment! I'm now eyeing an old mirror with intent!

One final happy this week. This one doesn't begin with a 'P', unless I call it a Particularly Nice Day! I had a quick trip to Bristol to fetch E home and we had a lovely lunch out at Soukitchen, then a walk up Cabot Tower.
Our delicious drinks: Cranberry and orange blossom and Elderflower and rose.
Courgette fritters:
A mezze platter:
Garlic flat bread:
The tower from a distance:
A friendly squirrel:
.... and the view from the top:
I think I've mentioned before that heights aren't my thing, so I was rather relieved to get down again! I feel it's important to do these things - 'feel the fear and do it anyway' and all that. R thinks I'm a big wimp but I think I'm actually very brave!

Anyway, that's all for this week.
Toodle pip for now. x

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Basket Weaving and Kayaking

Good morning all! I hope you've been enjoying the sunny weather that we've been having in the UK this week - it's been just perfect for Wimbledon fans like myself, although the garden is desperate for a bit of rain. I keep tapping the barometer hopefully and occasionally it does swing temptingly towards change but, apart from one day of light drizzle, there isn't the longed for downpour.
I admit that I have spent most afternoons this week glued to the sofa cheering on Konta and Murray, but there have been a couple of outings at the weekends that I'd like to get down here to remember:

The first was a basket weaving workshop at our local nature reserve. I have made a couple of woven baskets in the past - my initial wonky one sits in the hall, full of winter gloves and my log basket (a bit of a personal triumph!) is in constant use in the colder weather. I do love making baskets but I find that they are a bit tough on the hands. I remember after a weekend spent making the log basket, I was barely able to write out a birthday card to my friend! Anyway, this was a one day workshop to make a small round basket and here are my photos of the day:
The view of the lake from the studio:
 Different colours of willow:

 I'd like to say that these were all my own work, but they were made by the tutor! She had a photo album of her pieces, which included a dog basket commissioned as a wedding present for Will and Kate.
Here is the base of my small basket - I tried to do a striped effect with the different willows:
....... and here it is at home:
I really enjoyed the workshop - lunch was included which was yummy and I met some really lovely people. I would love to do some more (once my hands have recovered!) but, unfortunately, this particular tutor is moving to Devon.

At Easter, L and J had come to visit and we called in at the sports shop Decathlon near Oxford while dropping them back at their flat. We went to buy a few bits and pieces for our sailing holiday but, whilst we were there, L and J impulse bought a 3 person kayak! Their current flat is beautifully situated on the banks of the Isis (the bit of the Thames that runs through Oxford). They keep the kayak inflated in their garage and when they feel like a paddle, they can just walk it to the nearest jetty. Keen to try it, R and I went to Oxford last Saturday. I had a wee go at paddling, but have to confess that L and R did most of it while I sat admiring the scenery and taking the odd photo. In my defense, there were only 2 paddles!

 The cows in Christchurch meadow: 

 Wildflowers on the bank:
 The back of the Botanical Gardens:
 Magdalen Bridge:

 L's legs, showing how snug it was: 
It was a beautiful few hours, some bits were busy with people punting, but the parts where we had it to ourselves were lovely. My favourite bit was floating gently in the sunshine and listening to the church bells peel out a celebration of a wedding. You do get absolutely soaked though, so we collected J and then had to change before going for a well earned pub lunch.

Other recent happies include:
A trip to Bristol to help E move out of her Hall. She and 3 friends are renting a sweet, little house together next year and R and I helped to move their stuff across. It was a little sad as their Hall was fantastic but their new place is down a quiet crescent, close to the uni, shops, cafes etc. I think they will love it.
A squirrel in the Hall car park with a bread roll raided from the bins!
The Old Quad:

One of the ducks has started bringing her duckling to the back door to be fed. L has named him (her?) Timothy:

Wimbledon watching and sock knitting:
The finished socks - just a plain vanilla sock in 'Peppermint Swirl':
Well, that's all for this week. I'm just off to clean the bathroom and move a bit of dust around, then I've got a date with a sofa and Johanna Konta's semi-final this afternoon!

Toodle Pip for now. x

Monday, 3 July 2017


Ahoy, me hearties! Well, we're home and our sailing holiday was ......... not as bad as I was expecting. Is that damning with faint praise? Probably. It was during the Easter holidays that R first expressed a desire to go sailing. The rest of us were decidedly underwhelmed by the idea. R has in the past done a 2 day sailing course on a dinghy to learn the very basics. L, E and I were absolute beginners. We had several reservations about the plan - mine were more related to the actual boat, more specifically the bathroom arrangements. The thought of a pump toilet that couldn't handle anything that 'hasn't passed through your body', filled me with dread. E's concerns were based more around the fact that R would start bossing people around and shouting at our incompetence. Of the 3 of us, L was the most optimistic. We suggested other holiday ideas but R threw a strop, said it was the only thing he wanted to do and so, of course, we signed up. He later tried to pass the whole idea off as being 'for the girls'; sailing apparently being a life skill (?!) which would stand them in good stead. You can stop laughing now! We pointed out how it was funny that the learning of 'life skills' didn't extend to skiing (which R refuses point blank to try) but that fell on deaf ears.
So, we set off on Father's Day (appropriately enough, as it was after all entirely for him) for Preveza on mainland Greece. Our tour was of the North Ionian Islands: beginning on the mainland, moving up the coast to Parga, then Sivota Mourtos, crossing to Lakka then Gaios on Paxos, Emerald Bay on Antipaxos, Petriti on Corfu and then back to Preveza. 'We' were a small flotilla of boats with an assigned lead ship of 3 crew - Cookie the engineer, Emily the hostess who told us where bins, tavernas and supermarkets were situated at each harbour and Callum the sailor, who was there to sort out any difficulties with the sails etc and to help us to moor. Each morning we had a meeting at about 9:30am, where we were told the day's destination, wind speeds, any potential hazards and what time to be in the next harbour. We then had until that time to make our way there, stopping to swim, have lunch etc. on the way.
Here are just a few of the many photos that were taken:
Our home for the holiday: Panopeus.

 These rubber shoes were brilliant - non-slip for on deck and waterproof for swimming, making pebbly beaches easy to navigate. Notice E's photobombing sandal!

  Despite the heat (although we managed to time our holiday to coincide with the heatwave in the UK - we had temperatures of 29 degrees on one day and it was apparently 33 at home!), the Greeks are brilliant gardeners, managing to grow plants in any available space:
 Dinner in a lovely taverna in Parga. We did have to do the 'Drunken Triathlon' to get back to the boat - navigating down the hill, along the beach, then finding our tender and rowing across the harbour, all in the dark and after a moderate skinful!

 Getting up at 4:45 to watch the sunrise at Lakka. This was my favourite anchorage - we anchored out in the bay and it was peaceful and utterly beautiful.

 Emerald Bay on Antipaxos - the water was so clear that it was like a swimming pool:

 Our trusty little inflatable tender. You could pay extra and hire an outboard motor, which in retrospect would have been very worthwhile. R and L took turns rowing and it was quite fun pootling across harbours balancing on the sides:

 The lead boat, Kallamas:
A bit of sock knitting may have happened on deck. I did a bit more on these socks yesterday and the wool smells of suncream and the sea!
Sunset on 'Make a cocktail' night. There were a couple of get-togethers in the evenings. Our cocktail comprising Gin, Prosecco, Pomegranate juice, Peach juice and a lemon actually came second. We were so proud!
That's all for the photos. Would we go sailing again? R would at the drop of a hat, but probably not with a sailing company. We have never been on a package holiday before, ie. one where you are forced to stick to a strict timetable, and there were quite a few places where it would have been nice to stay for longer to explore but we couldn't as we had to move on. Also, the winds tended to pick up during the afternoon and were at their best for sailing just as we were expected in the next harbour. Having said that, I found it comforting to know that the lead boat was on hand in case we got into any difficulties. We didn't, thankfully, but one family we spoke to managed to trap one of the sails and Callum was there in no time to sort it out.
The girls quite enjoyed it - L more so than E, who found it a bit boring at times being constantly out at sea. She adores Greece, but would have been much happier, I think, staying in one place and having a chance to explore and spend more time snorkeling.
I found it a bit too much like being in a floating caravan and certain things started to irritate me towards the end: the men who took the radio far too seriously. R, who because we managed not to sink the boat on calm, non-tidal Mediterranean waters, thought he was Ellen MacArthur. I swear if he'd said 'Well. that's what happens at sea' (accompanied by a knowing nod of the head) one more time, I'd have hit him with a fender. Most irritating of all though were the boatload of Australian students who treated everyone in our final harbour to loud music, drunken tuneless singing and foul language until 1am in the morning. Unfortunately, we happened to be moored next to them and sleep was impossible. It was made more annoying by the fact that we had to be up at 5am to clean the boat and pack for the flight home. The final straw came when we got up to discover that they had thrown all their rubbish (bottles, cans etc.) onto our deck. Unfortunately, their passerelle (gangplank thingy) was up, so I was unable to hammer on their door. I was tempted to heave all our rubbish (bathroom bin included!) onto their deck but E stopped me. Furious, I grabbed the deck cleaning brush, leaned over the side and hammered on their deck until they emerged sleepy and cross, before tearing strips off them for their inconsiderate behaviour. It wasn't my finest hour but the thought of an irate English woman facing down a boatload of drunken Aussies whilst wearing tartan pyjamas still makes me laugh. I don't think that my family are going to let me forget that little incident in a hurry!
Anyway, that's all for this week. I'm just off to do the supermarket shop and then I hope to catch up with everyone's lovely blogs later in the week. Enjoy the sunny weather.

Toodle Pip for now. xx