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!










Aaaah, the memories.




Perusing the TV schedule last evening, a familiar name leaped from the page.  Could it really be that Gordon Ramsay was going to pay a visit to the Meson de Mesilla?  The origin of so many of our “travellers’ tales” and scene of one of our most memorable road trip experiences?




Indeed, he was.  We set the programme to record in case Mary couldn’t see it in the USA, then sat back and watched as it all came flooding back. 

We were there in June 2008, on our way from San Antonio to Santa Fe, and spent one night at the hotel.  At the time, I was having camera trouble, so didn’t take as many photographs as I would have expected and as a result, I made only a passing reference to it in my blog post.  Neither did we write a Trip Adviser review – how surprising, when there was so much to say!




I did, however, make reference to some of the individual idiosyncracies of the Meson in my journal.  Like the “evil woman manager” and the total lack of food on offer there that night.  Actually, that’s not strictly true, because we were offered tapas in the bar, which prompted a comment from my hero that he hadn’t  “driven eight hours across a b*****y desert to sit down to a plate of tapas”.  So there.  As recorded in the journal, we went out in search of food, eventually finding pizza in a nearby town because everything in Mesilla closes on a Monday!




What wasn’t mentioned last evening was the extraordinarily high beds.  We had a small step to help us get in, but dear Mary’s room was step-free.  This called for – shall we call it a helping hand? – from my hero and that particular action has been referred to as “the Mesilla Lift” ever since, proving useful on Swiss trains too.




The rooms were indeed beige and furnished in a peculiar style.  What concerned me most, however was the security of the place, because for all there was a standard, locking hotel room door into the corridor, there were also unlockable French doors onto the balcony.




The balcony which wrapped all the way around the building, and overlooked the car park.




Which was right on the main road from where any Tom Dick or Harry could have strolled in.




I think the swimming pool was possibly more secure than our room!




Breakfast was offered in a charm-free venue and was recorded in my journal in the form of a list.




We assumed that there was one other guest overnight, not that we saw them in person and the blue shaded box records my hero’s reaction to the offering.

He harrumphed.




We left.

Early Tuesday morning didn’t appear to be any better a time to find food in Mesilla than Monday evening and though we’d normally reject a place like Denny’s in favour of some cute coffee shop, on that particular morning, Denny’s hit the spot.  Whether or not Georgia the waitress recognised the work she had to to to lift our spirits or whether we were, by that time, responding maniacally to the experience we’d just had, I don’t know.  But it was one of the best breakfasts we’ve enjoyed and it continues to prompt an “Aaah, Dennys” comment when we pass one by, even though I don’t think we’ve eaten in one since.

So many memories – and we didn’t even hear Cher sing.


We live life to the full




It wasn’t really the dead of night when we arrived at the Bristol IKEA this morning, but just after 9.30am. 

(The car park is under the store)




We’ve been shopping at IKEA since the early 1980s, before their arrival into the UK.  Our dear German friends spoke enthusiastically about a new home store which had opened in their area, south of Frankfurt, and on one of our visits there we made it a family outing.  Oh my goodness.  It fitted our tastes (and our pocket!) perfectly and appeared to be targeted at people just like us – young, married a few years and ready to begin replacing the hand-me-downs we’d used to furnish our first home.  A trip to IKEA was a must-do whenever we were there!




Fast forward a few more years and the first UK stores were opening around the same time as we were building our current house, which wasn’t leaving us much spare money with which to fill it.  We made several trips up the M5/6 to Warrington in hired Transit vans and came home with beds, bookshelves, sofas, dining tables and chairs.  Gradually, however, we’ve moved on from IKEA and our visits have become fewer and further between.  These days, an IKEA trip is a rare event and something which needs careful thought and planning, because our patience and tolerance of that potentially hair raising experience isn’t quite what it was.

As can be seen from the evidence above, Monday morning is a very good time to go IKEA shopping!




We had one thing on our list.  Well, TWO things on the list – a pair of Alex drawers, one to sit by my sewing machine and the other one to sit on the opposite side of the table by my papercrafting table.  We chose the grey colour, checked they were in stock and our mission was accomplished.




I couldn’t help but take a little look at the £45 sewing machines!




Neither of us could quite believe that we’d managed to stay focused, get around so quickly and still have the store almost to ourselves.




So it was really rather funny that our trolley looked like this when we checked out!  Well, that’s the IKEA magic, isn’t it?  Coathangers, plastic boxes, crispbreads, a plant and two warm cinnamon buns…but no chest of drawers?




For the first time, we had to drive to a different location to pick them up, just around the corner.




Oh yes, this is where the queue’s going to be, isn’t it?




Ermmm…………..no.  Not here, either.




And what’s more, when my Hero put the first one together just now, all the pieces were there  (and I don’t think there was anything left, either).

The IKEA experience just isn’t what it used to be, is it?


That’s it for another year




It’s hard to imagine that it’s more than twelve months since we shivered in Cheltenham with Mary and Ellis, watching Giffords Circus 2013 show.




But last evening, we were back in our usual venue, sitting on Minchinhampton Common, drinking Pimms with our friends on what should have been a glorious summer’s evening.





Never mind.  The exuberance, the skill and sheer silliness that makes this particular circus so special isn’t dependent on the weather and of course, we had a great evening.  Well, have you ever seen a turkey in a circus before?




As always, Brian the goose received a round of rapturous applause – or was it as a result of Toti’s refusal to remove his shirt and tie when wearing his Greek tunic?  Whatever.  All our favourites were here: Bibi and Bichu, the Russian acrobats, Tweedy, Nancy and Myrtle the bear plus a few new introductions including the most amazing contortionist.




We had a great evening and were sorry to wave goodbye for another year.




Though actually, the show wasn’t over yet – after dinner in Circus Sauce, the kitchen crew appeared at the window with a surprise puppet show, bringing the evening to a suitably quirky end.

(Marco Pierre White had been cooking there last week and had left his pinny hanging on the nail)


Tea and Textiles




When I was WI County Chairman, I organised events like this regularly and would have thought nothing of gathering a couple of hundred women together for an afternoon.  But a few years later, I don’t do this kind of thing so frequently and it’s surprising how out of practice one gets. 




I’d forgotten how much work is involved.  I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s easier to get such things done without too much help and would much rather get on and get it done in a small, focused team who know what they are doing.  So it was just Marion, Pat and I who arrived around 10.30 yesterday morning with three cars full of display equipment, boxes of treasure and of course, comfortable shoes!




It was lovely to see one or two old favourites appear from the layers and layers of tissue paper.  Mrs Winsome-Douglas’ beautiful cushion is such a treasure (well, we assume it’s her work but can’t be 100% certain) and each time I see it, I think how well it represents the heritage and development of hand embroidery in this country.  Simple, confident, graphic design, exquisitely executed in basic, traditional materials.  No tricks, nothing fancy or showy; just handcraft skills of the highest quality.



One by one, the boxes were opened and the contents displayed, ready to have their stories told.  The smocks, large and small, always attract the attention and in particular today, there was the chance to have a good look at the Corrie family pallbearers smocks, with the embroidery on the inside of the shoulder; the kind of detail it’s not usually possible to see in a “do not touch” kind of exhibition.  Here was an opportunity to look more closely, to handle and admire and of course, to learn.




It was a chance to find out more about of the Needlework Development Scheme, for which a couple of the concertina folders were created; to hear about Olivia Pass and her enthusiasm and promotion of the Dorset Feather Stitch of which the WI archive has a huge collection of aprons, samples, and other related material and also to hear the story of how we found three pieces of Mrs Archibald (Grace) Christie’s work.  She was an early editor of Embroidery magazine, author of several essential references for hand embroiderers and the creator of these three exquisite pieces on the table which were not only illustrated in her books but also appear in the copy of Embroidery magazine from 1909 which was sitting alongside them.




I love the Dorset buttons which are so beautifully presented and was delighted to hear about the second frame containing a more recent acquisition of a card of hand worked samples.  Coincidentally, the maker’s name on the label just happened to match the name of the woman who wrote the leaflet which has been in the collection since it was published.  What treasures…




Of particular interest to the audience yesterday afternoon was the tiny baby’s gown, displayed on a table alongside the exquisite tea cosy so admired by Queen Mary at one of the early craft exhibitions.  The little gown was also shown at one of these grand exhibitions in 1932 and was made by a Gloucestershire member, Mrs Hillman, of Kemerton WI.  Having been awarded a rare Gold Star (the only one in the county!) it was kept as part of the “loan collection” of needlework before being returned to her family some years later.  Thankfully, Mrs Hillman’s daughter (a WI member herself) shared both the story and the gown with the archive and needless to say, yesterday afternoon it proved to be the star of the show.




Mrs Hillman’s exquisite handwork was admired and acknowledged in the days when needle skills were taught and practised more widely than they are today.  Yesterday afternoon, they received even more admiration from women who were lost for words to describe the dexterity and attention to detail which makes this little gown such a treasure.




What made the afternoon unique was having some of our local textile heritage alongside these pieces of national importance.  Marion had selected a dozen or more tablecloths from our local archive to bring along, including this one from Painswick, which had been part of the National Textile Treasures exhibition a few years ago.  As you can see, my ironing left a little to be desired Winking smile




A small but significant display of typical “Loan collection” items which would have been available for members to borrow and study proved to be of great interest. The gloves in particular attracted the attention of many as a result of local history.  One member of the audience recalled her mother sewing gloves at home for Dents and being paid 7 1/2d per dozen – pairs, I assume. 




It proved to be a really successful afternoon and hopefully, has inspired a few to pick up their needle and sew.  A couple of hours afterwards a few still lingered, taking their time to look and admire and recognising the beauty and significance of what was on the table.  As a result, it was gone 6pm when we finally closed the last box, took once last look around the room to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything and left the hotel staff to do the washing up.

Did I say I’d forgotten how tiring it can be whilst having fun?


At the Festival of Quilts


I’d been dithering about whether to go to the FoQ this year or not.  To begin with, it was a must-do; before I bought my new sewing machine, that is.  Then, the main purpose of going was no longer an issue.  But when my friend Pat asked if I’d give her a hand on her stand on Sunday, my mind was made up.

Yes please.




Of course, the huge advantage of going to a show like this as an exhibitor is that I could get in early and see the main attraction before everyone else got there.  (The disadvantage was that I had to drive through an ex-hurricane to get there)




Anyway, I was curious to see what was awarded the “best in show” award and even more curious when I found out.




Right up my street in so many ways: smallish, meticulous and combining the best of hand stitching and machine work.  Clever use of colour and texture, too. 




I loved it.  I was surprised it beat some of the others to win, but fully agree that it is (they are?) a stunner.




I could have brought this little gem home with me too – the winner of the miniature section, depicting a rainstorm (I think – my photograph isn’t clear enough to check).


I had a lovely day, chatting with friends and catching up.  I couldn’t quite believe that I’d been standing next door but one to Maggie and Clive Grey all day and yet only spotted them as I was leaving.  It was good to see Maggie and her daughter Sam too and to have all kinds of Bernina related questions answered by the experts.  Other lovely surprises were finding Ann Johnston and her inspiring work.  Ann and I met years ago at a European Quilt Symposium in Rolduc and subsequently when she and Jim spent a sabbatical year in Cardiff (which explains why a couple of my Olfa rulers have “Johnston” written on them Winking smile ) Then, just as I was leaving, there was Heide Stoll Weber packing up her beautiful dyed fabrics.  She too was another Rolduc attendee and I have a few treasured pieces of her work – adding another one as I left, celebrating Farbstoff’s 20th birthday!




A lovely day, then and of course, one of those days when, having spent hours in the company of creative people and being surrounded by so many inspirational things, I couldn’t help but see things in a different way.