I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Sunday morning invitation




Every time I’ve hung the washing out recently, a couple of bits of “garden wreckage” have irritated me.  Not only did the things themselves irritate me, but also, my apparent inability to actually do something about them and clear that little corner up.  Having spent yesterday afternoon cleaning the garden furniture ready for the season, I decided that before I did anything else this morning, I’d clear away a few things.




So, with the soles firmly fixed on my Mahabis I went out into the garden before I began anything else this morning.  You might have spotted the adverts for these on facebook?  I did, so dropped hints around my birthday last year and sure enough, lucky girl that I am, a pair came my way.  They are comfortable and the detachable sole is a great idea but the quality of the felt doesn’t match that of other felt slippers in my collection and it has bobbled and pilled already. I’d give them 8 or of ten.




Anyway, spotting this little chap on the edge of the step, I grabbed my camera and having spent all of fifteen minutes dealing with the wreckage, I took a little walk around.




The advantage of having separate clumps of the same plant is that when some are past their best, there are still some in full flower.  I love the lily of the valley we have here and there.




My main reason for grabbing my camera was this iris.  I’d spotted it yesterday afternoon but the light was going and I decided to wait until today to take a photo.




The deep, velvety petals were what caught my eye but a closer look reveals the details.  Gorgeous.  What’s more, there are at least a dozen buds there, ready to bloom, too.




The “installation” created by my clever artist friend Paulene is continuing to disintegrate.




In places, it’s almost disappeared.




Other bits of garden wreckage are allowed to remain because they look a bit better than an old growbag!  This pot, made quite a few years ago cracked and broke in the frost, but the design still amuses us anyway.  So, it stays, upside down near the summer house and perhaps someone – something – has made a home inside.

I don’t look too closely Winking smile




On this fine, May morning, the valley is looking lush and green.




The great zoom lens on my camera means i can spy on the neighbours!  One of them is doing a bit of gardening, Cotswold style.  I can assure you, a garden spade is no use here and though a pickaxe will do, a little digger is even better!




Even so, the new rose planted recently is doing well and has the most glorious scent.




A well established rose isn’t doing so badly either.  It’s another one with a heady perfume but on this chilly morning, you’d never guess.




The newest rose of all needs a little time to get going. 

Just like my Hero and I it seems.  I mentioned that it took me no more than a quarter of an hour to clear that untidy corner, even though it has been a source of irritation for several months.  It seems I wasn’t the only one to find it irritating, either, since my Hero tells me he’d been meaning to do something about it as well.


\mathrm{Motivation} = \frac{\mbox{Expectancy × Value}}{\mbox{1 + Impulsiveness × Delay}}


We are both expert procrastinators!


Walk with us in the Square Mile


When a couple of dear friends from half a world away told us they’d be in London this weekend, of course, we just had to engineer a get together, didn’t we?  So it was that for the second time this week, I caught the train to Paddington Station, with time with my Hero by my side.



We caught my favourite #23 bus and nabbed seats upstairs, almost at the front.  The chap in front was fast asleep, so thankfully, i could still get a great view!




We like to meet people in memorable places and Eleanor’s Cross was mutually convenient if a little dangerous – who knew it was a kind of roundabout for taxis turning in front of Charing Cross Station? (My excuse for cutting the top off my photo)   As it happens, we didn’t meet there anyway, but bumped into one another in the station itself, by Caffe Nero.




After a bit of catching up – it’s almost a year since we last saw them – we jumped back on another 23 and headed up The Strand and beyond, getting off at The Bank of England.



A few years ago, I joined Mary, Diana and Kristy on a Photographic Walking Tour of this area, and I thought it would be a great foundation for a walk this morning.  So we began in the Royal Exchange and set off along Cornhill.  Are you with us?




I’d created a google map of a few places to head for, including the cream coloured pillar down there near the letter box.  It was blue when we were last there, and strangely, it’s blue in some of the google street views and cream in others!   The pillar itself is a water pump – but not any old water pump, needless to say.




This area is full of history and though we didn’t want to linger too long, it was fun to spot a few landmarks, such as the site of one of the coffee houses.  Having seen the grasshopper on the top of the Royal Exchange, we began to spot the motif all over the place, too.




We wandered through the alleys to Lombard Street and dropped into the church of St Edmund for a few minutes.




I mean, could you have passed this by?




All the time, we were looking up, enjoying the contrasts between the very old, historical sites around us and the towering modern ones above.  Looming especially large was the Walkie Talkie which has acquired the nickname of the “fryscraper” as a result of the solar glare caused by the curved glass panels.




Though we’d intended to make a left turn through an alley back onto Cornhill, we found ourselves distracted by the Monument.  Of course, we needed a closer look, though none of us felt like a climb!




Retracing our steps then, back to the alleys and in particular, to St Michaels Alley, where George and the Vulture is to be found.




We couldn’t resist a peek inside the church of St Michael, another Wren masterpiece with significant input from his colleague Nicholas Hawksmoor.




Our next stop wasn’t quite the same haven of peace and tranquillity but by now, we were feeling in need of a short sit down and a little refreshment.   The Counting House fitted the bill perfectly!




By now, we were nicely settled into our groove.  “Oh yes, there’s another Wren church…” “of course, there was the great fire, wasn’t there?”  “Hmmm…oh look, there’s the Walkie Talkie again”…  But we had a little gem up our sleeve which was just around the corner.  We waited for the reaction of our friends…




Oh wow!  Leadenhall Market never fails to amaze.  Just around the corner from all the commercial HQs, on this Friday lunchtime it was buzzing.

We love it.




It’s here where the contrast of old and new is really apparent.  The Lloyds building is immediately outside the market and comes as quite a surprise!




There’s steel and concrete and glass by the ton, and there, peeping from behind the curved glass wall, is the Gherkin.




Even so, the history is never far away.




Mixed opinions on the Lloyds building, though I think it’s worn well; better than the Centre Pompidou, perhaps?




Just across the road there’s the cheese grater




But the Gherkin remains our favourite!

We made a little side trip to take a look at Konditor and Cook whilst we were here, though I can’t say it was as impressive as the website and reputation had me believe.  Oh well…

From here, it was just a short, unremarkable walk up to and along Bishopsgate and a right turn into the new Spitalfields market, confusingly referred to as “old” Spitalfields Market.




Plenty to do and see here, of course, but you know, we were starting to get hungry!




We snooked into the top of Folgate Street to take a quick look at the exterior of Dennis Sever’s house before heading back to Spital Square and lunch.




From the outside, it doesn’t look much, but believe me, Galvin La Chapelle isn’t one of our favourite restaurants for nothing!  On this Friday lunchtime, it was buzzing and with Chef himself in the kitchen, every plate was a delight.  Not only that, but Edward was there to meet us! 

After a couple of hours of good food, lively conversation and the best of company, we just had to ease ourselves out of the comfy chairs and resume our peregrinations.




We couldn’t be in this area without showing our friends another equally fascinating side to this part of London, so retraced r steps through the market and out to the old Trumans Brewery site.  Always visually exciting, there’s usually something different to see and yesterday was no exception.  But we were getting a little footsore, so we mooched on through to Brick Lane, where the invitations to step inside every curry house on the street for lunch were coming thick and fast!




So we turned right into Fournier Street and admired the fine houses on both sides, yet another side to this fascinating corner of the city.  Well, not “The City”, now, of course, because we are in Tower Hamlets, but we’ll use the term loosely!




Who lives in a house like this?  (Someone with bottomless pockets, I imagine, for these houses must be incredibly expensive to buy, to restore and to maintain)


Fullscreen capture 23052015 165202


With a final short stop at the Superga store in Spitalfields market to buy a pair of silver sandshoes for me, our afternoon was drawing to a close.  We made our way back to Liverpool Street station and the #23 bus stop to begin our journey home.

Our goodbyes were said on the bus, somewhere along the Strand.  Our friends had tickets for the theatre, we had tickets for the train.  We’d had such a lovely day in their company and look forward to more days with them later in the year, when we’ll go on a bigger adventure together. 

There might just be more than a little craic to look forward to!


What a show!




I was mixing with the fashionistas yesterday.  They’re not my usual crowd, but hey, what an inspirational bunch they are.




I’ve written before about the collaborative project which has been going on between the students of Kingston University and a group of expert WI craftswomen.  Yesterday was the start of the grand finale; the end of term show at the university and the chance for everyone involved to see what these clever women have created.  We gathered in the Fashion department amidst photographers, press, proud family members and the artists themselves and awaited the show.

It was rather exciting!




I chose a seat at the end of the back row amongst my friends and colleagues, thinking that I could stand and take a photo without impeding the view of anyone behind me.  But then, a bunch of students arrived and squeezed in to stand behind us – oh oh.  Thankfully, one of them accepted the offer of my camera and I gladly handed it over to her – leaving me to focus fully on the exciting things which were happening!




The music began – full volume – and the first model hit the catwalk.


Though I’ve been to fashion shows, they’ve usually been to showcase ready to wear clothes on sale somewhere and though some have used professionals to show their garments, I probably wouldn’t have described these people as “fashion models”.   But yesterday afternoon, we were treated to the real deal.  The professionally gorgeous, impossibly slim, remarkably confident and extraordinarily aloof models that I would only associate with Vogue or similar.

Oh my.




The first creations we saw were the main collections designed by the eleven fashion knitwear students who have been working on the project.  These were solely the responsibility of the students themselves and each collection of six outfits had to fulfil the particular brief of the syllabus as part of their final degree project.




Though their creativity had been taken to the limit occasionally, there were many garments that we’d have given our eye teeth for – not that everything would necessarily have been totally practical for shopping in Waitrose, of course.




After each student had shown the individual garments, the collection was shown as a whole to much enthusiastic applause.  I can only imagine the roller coaster of emotions these young women have experienced in the last few days and know that at least one was finishing into the wee small hours in order to be ready.




Though all the participants were women, two of the students chose to work on menswear.  This particular collection had a theme of shopping (surely not inspired by WI members?)  The fabrics had been printed with store logos – ASDA in the case of this jacket and an all over print of TESCO on the trousers.




Who says fashion can’t make a statement, too?




Finally, there was the eleven collaborative garments to see.  Each student had worked with two WI members and utilised their technical handwork skills to develop their concept further.  The results were altogether amazing.  Sadly, it was only at the end of this part of the show that Kate told me the battery of my camera had died, so these last few photographs are quick snaps taken on my phone (because I just couldn’t resist taking pictures!  Just as well perhaps…)




This is the resulting garment designed by the student whose inspiration came from the button man, shown in pictures here  (third and fourth picture down)  Featuring a collection of hand made Dorset buttons and embroidery, it was clear that this concept had been successfully followed through to conclusion.




Here is the original design sheet from an earlier meeting, which I didn’t feel able to share before.  Isn’t it interesting to see the finished garment?




I realised too, the importance of styling and wonder whether the Aran knitters quite expected their garment to be modelled with such spirit?




One each garment had been shown, the students each came down the catwalk with their model and in a spontaneous demonstration of the links which have been forged between students and members, they sought out their partners and grabbed them by the hands, culminating in the most amazing, emotional finale imaginable.  I am sure it’s something none of them will ever forget.




And it’s only the start, too.  Next month when the WI comes together in the Albert Hall to celebrate the centenary of the organisation, there will be another chance to see the collection modelled and I, for one, can’t wait to have another look (and hopefully get some better photos!)  Then, the work will be on show at the Centennial Fair in Harrogate in the Autumn and once again at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally (and maybe beyond?)

But really, how lucky was I to be in on the whole shebang, from start to finish? And though that’s the conclusion of this particular collaboration, who knows where the next one might take us?  One thing is sure, I’d love to be in on it!


The answer to finding my mojo


is to spend money on fabric.  But then, that could be the answer to so many issues, couldn’t it?




Since we finished Edward’s room, we’ve recognised that there needs to be a bedhead of some description there.  The Aerobed is terrific and works perfectly.  Both users have reported it super-comfortable and it’s quick and easy to get out and put away.  However, a fixed bedhead would look odd when there’s no bed there and having thought about cushions and other solutions, I came up with the idea of making a quilt/wallhanging.

The room is plain white with dark grey curtains and just a flash of colour in a couple of cushions.  I took one of them with me to Higgs and Higgs yesterday to choose some fabrics.




At this stage, I had a better idea of what I didn’t want than what I was really looking for.  I didn’t want flowers, didn’t want anything too geometric that was going to reveal my inability to piece precisely and was hoping to avoid anything too kitsch.  Fortunately, there was a collection of Hemingway fabric there which fitted my brief perfectly.

(Except the price)




Bearing in mind this wasn’t intended to be a work of art (!) but a simple, practical solution, I didn’t dwell too long on design and concept.  I drew a few rectangles on a piece of paper, scaled it up to the right proportions and cut a few pieces of fabric. 




I’d like to say that the slight wonkiness here and there is simply the single layer of fabric slipping on the wooden floor.  But it isn’t.  It’s the bit of quirk that comes with a hand made item.

Isn’t it?


Has anyone seen my mojo?


I’m finding it difficult to complete my latest travel journal.  I know from experience that unless I get on with it during or immediately after the trip, I’ll find it hard.  But in spite of good intentions, here I am again, trying like mad to complete it before I move on to the next thing.




I got off to a reasonable start, recording all of those small details which tend to get forgotten or overwritten by events.  I spent time in Hong Kong drawing the framework so that I could do a bit of colouring in when I had an odd five minutes and of course, waking up early is a good time to sit quietly at the desk and draw.




I managed to keep it up for a few days in Myanmar, relying on my favourite ways of incorporating a wealth of ephemera – yes, the turkish map fold appeared about four pages in!




But as soon as we embarked Ananda and began a tight schedule, following a daily programme of activities not to mention enjoying the company of our fellow travellers, we were simply doing too many interesting things to keep up and the result is a few blank pages.




A lot of blank pages, in fact.  Because once I’ve let it go, it’s doubly hard to keep up.  After all, do I work on today’s page or return to the last one I was working on? At the end of another busy day, with my head buzzing full of the most recent experiences, it’s hard to think back.  So, I focus on my blog and keep that up to date as much as I can, so I can rely on that to remind me when it comes to creating the journal page.




At least I scribble in a few topics for the day and on this occasion, I printed out some page titles too, which means that I can dip in and out when I come across something which can be stuck in there.




So when we had a sea day and I wanted to have a quiet hour or two, I could complete a day or two in the middle, knowing I was on the right page, if you see what I mean.  But there remained quite a few empty pages to fill.




I’ve tried to tackle the project methodically, so began in Bagan (isn’t that a song title!?)  After a few short bursts of drawing, painting and sticking, I’ve moved on a bit and have completed several pages.




This morning, I made a page about the Bamboo workshop and used a photo to record the journey.  No prizes for identifying which one!  I don’t have that much ephemera to fill the pages though, so the pages are quite sparse.




Not quite as sparse as this one though.

Perhaps that’s the answer for getting it done?




Anyway, in between visiting classes (three this week – should have been four but one was cancelled), writing reports and attending meetings, I am making a real effort to fill some of those empty pages.  After all, soon, we’ll be off on the next trip!

(no, not that soon, really)


In the meantime, if you should see my mojo, please box its ears and send it home.




I wonder if it got packed up after last weekend’s show?