Saturday, 28 February 2015

Nashville Market

The Nashville Spring Needlework Market which
is being held between 27th February and
1st Marsh (living amongst the reeds is beginning to affect me)
 is an annual U.S. trade show.  This year it is
being hosted by Yarn Tree and Needlework Retailer.
This event attracts needleart professionals from all over
the United States and beyond.  It is a cash-and carry,
order taking show which gives shop owners a chance to
restock their shops for the coming season with all the
latest fibers, materials, accessories and designs.
A new Long Dog goes on sale at this event which, in itself
is nothing unusual, except for the fact that, for this one
occasion only, one of my designs is being marketed by Gentle Art
Sampler Threads (complete with thread pack if so desired)
and with all the proceeds going to a charity of their choice.
It is for this reason that with the exception of the design
and stitching process I will not be involved further
with the project and shall not be offering the chart
as a download so please don't ask.
I can however give you a look at the colourful little beast.
It's called Cardinal Points and is 225 x 225 stitches
in dimension.  I believe it's already available from Stitch
and Frog who are taking advance orders right now.
Just follow the link:

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Courtyard of a House in Delft?

Many, many moons ago when the world was teenaged
and I was about eleven or twelve years old,
"The Courtyard of a House in Delft" by Dutch artist
Pieter de Hooch (pronounced duh Hoke - rhymes with bloke)
was the first bit of printed canvas work I ever tackled.
Strange choice for one so young - weird even!
From early on I have always refused to start with something
simple and, as I recall, it was a real buggerbo to do
because it was nigh on impossible to work out where one
colour ended and another began.

Not a proper Dutch gable I grant you - but close!
The consequence of which was a very menopausal looking woman,
two slightly inebriated men and an emaciated child holding
what could have passed for a long dog puppy.
All in all not a bad attempt.
It hung for many years in my parents' breakfast room but
I suspect it left home at around the same time as me
because I haven't clapped eyes on it since.
I bet they'll start counting the park benches when
they spot this.

But why am I bothering to tell you all this?
Why, because it must have had a profound effect upon me
as I seem to be subconsciously trying to recreate the scene
here at the Lock-Up!

Water lillies all ready for the plunge.
Firecrest (right) and Barbara Dobbins (left).
Sounds like a name for a sampler.
Courtyard - tick.
For house read bungalow - tick
For Delft add also the words china galore - tick
Seating alcove change to wooden arbour - tick
Add a bench for good measure - tick
Still no drunken men or a lurcher pup but I'm working on it.

He looks as if he might have "green" paws.
The pond should be intrpreted as artistic licence on my part and
will, when it matures, I feel certainly not detract from the original.

Thank goodness I decided against doing
The Last Supper in glorious needlepoint as I shudder to
think where that might have led me!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Betes Noire and Mondegreens

What really gets you going but not in a nice,
hold me tight, sort of way?
Those bugbears to be avoided if at all possible, objects of
aversion; let's not hold back - the bane of one's existence.
Everyone has a word for it from the Danish banemand, through
the Swedish vildsvin, to the Russian zupel.  Even the Manx
language has the word ard-ghwoaieid the pronunciation of which
the inhabitants of the Isle of Man regard as their own anathema.

I've just spotted something worse than socks with sandals
What's yours?  Is it the chaos caused by screaming children as you
try to navigate the busy supermarket aisles on a Saturday morning;
the sound of nails scraping down a blackboard; the task of cleaning
out a litter tray (you don't get that with a dog); or could it be the
sight of your other half wearing socks with his sandals yet again?

My personal bloodboiler is people who use expressions or phrases
which they have obviously picked up somewhere along life's way
and got totally wrong - Mondegreens.

Will the real Lady Mondegreen please show herself.

The term is fairly new and was coined by the American writer
Sylvia Wright who, as a child, misheard the words of the Scottish
ballad "The Bonny Earl of Murray" which goes as follows.
Feel free to sing along if the fancy takes you.

Ye highlands - ye lowlands
Oh where hae ye been?
They hae slay the Earl of Murray
And Lady Mondegreen

The last line of which should have read "And laid him on the green"!


Good old George W. Bush was so adroit at this that
a whole new genre sprang up after him - Bushisms.
"They have miscalculated me as a leader"; "It will take time
to restore chaos and order." (maybe not that far wrong) and my
favourite "The law I sign today directs new funds to the task of
collecting vital intelligence on weapons of mass production."

During a popular television programme for foodies that I was watching last
night I had a really good squirm when the presenter glibly informed
us all that the dish she was preparing was totally "free of addictives"
instead of additives unless of couse she was knocking up a sneaky
batch of "hash-free" brownies.

They still look quite addictive to me.

The all-time best Biblical squirm comes from Psalm 23 in the
shape of the misquoted line, "Surely good Mrs Murphy shall follow
me all the days of my life."
I will leave you with a childhood error of my own;
The very mangled words of a popular war time song
oft sung by my mother as she buffed up her brass.

Mersey does and docie doe's
And little lambs eat ivy.
A kiddley divey doo
Wouldn't you?

Having a break in between verses.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Give 'em the bird!

It was my dear French friend Francoise' birthday
recently and, as it's such a faff trying to exchange gifts
by post. we tend to go instead for "interesting" cards.

Francoise is heavily into her birds as anyone who has ever
driven past her gaff will testify.  Clouds of them flit in and
out of her hedges, flocks of them roam her enormous garden
and, at times, it's difficult to see the water in her small lake
for the sheer number of water birds floating on it.

Hard hats are strongly recommended for anyone attempting
to approach her backdoor for fear of nutting themselves
on one of the multitude of bird feeders which festoon
both sides of the pathway up to the porch.


This year I chose one of a goldfinch from the RSPB range of
musical cards.  Pricey but it fitted the bill, or should that be beak?
There are literally hundreds of these little buggers around at the
time of her anniversary and they always remind me of her.

What I had failed to take into the equation was dear old Ulysse
her beautiful African grey parrot.  I love that bird - he once
bit my husband!

The boy Ulysse as opposed to Hylas, boy Hylas but that's
another story.

The moment Ulysse heard the birdsong as the card was opened
he became transformed and has apparently been strutting
his stuff in an amorous way ever since.

He is also a marvellous mimic and the sound of fake and incessant
goldfinch song from morn till night is beginning, I gather,
to wear a little thin.  Who's a pretty boy then?

The burning question now is what should I do about the
card I bought at the same time for her husband Jean-Pierre who's
birthday is in a couple of weeks time?
It could well put a strain on Anglo-French relations for a while
if Ulysses gets so much as a sniff of it.

Known to the French as "le cuckoo"

Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo!
What the hell - I'll send it anyway.

Friday, 20 February 2015


WARNING:  Contains material of an adult nature
as well as traces of peanuts and gluten!
Tread carefully Julia, best behaviour.
How to define lust without getting sidetracked or giving
offence that's the rub if you'll pardon my Shakespeare.
Here goes ....... coming, ready or not.

I see the censor's already been at work.
It's the feeling of wanting someone up against your skin and
lips so badly that it makes you hurt inside.
I've definately been on my own too long, I feel a cold
shower coming on.

Lust has overcome me - I'll take them both please, please, please.
Very much a sin of the flesh, an intense desire of the body for
knowledge, sex or power.  Christianity regards it as
inappropriate and undesirable (as did my mother),
while Buddhists describe it rather more charitably as a
suffering and for Hindu's it's a gateway to hell.

Paganism isn't just about lust, they like a good bonfire too!
As for the Pagans, it's simply a case of each to his own.
"An it harms none do what ye will".
Our old friend Thomas Aquinas (the one who catalogued
six ways to commit gluttony), on the other hand has
rather a lot to say about lust which even I don't want
to touch upon.  However, for the super-curious who
lust after information, what you Google in the privacy
of your own search engine is no affair of mine thank goodness.

I wonder if he's found them yet?
The Marquis de Sade, sexual libertine and pornographer,
knew a thing or two about sin and once said
rather heatedly, "Lust is to the other passions what the
nervous fluid is to life; it supports them all, lends
strength to them all.  Ambition, cruelty, avarice, revenge
are all founded on lust.  Now where have you hidden
my handcuffs bitch?"

I don't get many party invites these days.
If the Catholic Church had had it's way he would most surely
have been smothered in fire and brimstone by a blue cow.
For all I know, may be he was.
Do you feel proud of your finished Long Dogs; get
green-eyed when you spot someone with a chart you don't
have; angry when there's not enough time to stitch; lazy
when there's a long and repetitious border to do;
keep adding more and more to your stash; buy far
more thread than you need; lust after the latest design?
Congratulations - you've committed every sin in the book!

Don't dither, buy it!
Welcome to the Long Dog House of Sin ....

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Let's get ashed

Ashed Mrs C. not lashed - what are you like?

My mother was quite athletic in her youth until her
addiction to pancakes took its inevitable toll.
Step away from the fridge, not even a tiny sliver of pancake
may pass your lips now for today is the day of ashes
- Ash Wednesday and that's when it all stops
for Lent is with us again.
Ashes made from last year's palm crosses. 
The portions are getting smaller every year.  Bon appetit.
It's no good you putting your hand up like that Naomi,
you should have gone for it when you had the chance.
Yesterday, Shrove Tuesday, was when you could eat
and indulge until you dropped.  Yesterday we could merry,
merry be but today we are not only sober but entering a
rather long period of abstinence.  Hey ho.

There was a larger turn out than usual for this year's
Mardi Gras Carnival in Acle.  They came in flocks from far and wide.
The French call it Mardi Gras which I always thought
sounded rather romantic until I bothered to translate it into
 English when it becomes Greasey Tuesday and far less
appealing.   Yeuk!
How fabulous is that? 
One of the most famous celebrations takes place in Venice
where they have been holding a carnival since 1162
after a victory over the Patriarch of Aquileia, old Ulrice
de Treven.  I don't know what he ever did to them but they've
been putting on masks and generally having a good time
ever since.  Finish your pasta while I continue.
See, I didn't make him up, here he is in an
early stained-glass mugshot.
One particular mediaeval Welsh custom which is not widely
known about, unless you happen to be an historian and
avid reader of Giraldus Cambrensis' weighty tome catchily
entitled "Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales",
was the "eating of the tail of beavers" which were very
abundant in the principality during the dark ages.
The mind boggles, the imagination goes into overdrive
but I shall refrain from further comment on the subject.
Neither could I find a suitable illustration!
I lied - nice beaver!
It's traditional to give up a luxury or a vice during Lent
and as I enjoy so few and partake in so many I'm
finding it rather difficult to make up my mind.
However, feeling suitably shriven and repentent I have
decided to put aside all pleasures involving "beaver"
and not to touch another sherbert lemon until
chocolate eggs are on the menu once again.
Roll on Easter.

Monday, 16 February 2015


The time honoured punishment for gluttony which is the forced
feeding of rats, toads and snakes, sounds surprisingly
like a bush tucker trial to me so don't be afraid, at any point
along our merry way, to cry out,
"I'm a crosstitcher, get me out of here!"
and your ordeal will immediately be terminated.
I see you've already done it.  Thank you.
You will, however, be required to feed the Tamworth while you
wait back at camp for the others to return as this wondrous
creature personifies in one go not only gluttony's associated
animal but it's allocated colour as well - an orange pig!

The cautionary tale of Monty Python's Mr Creosote.

From the Latin, as are so many things, gluttive means to
gulp down and swallow.  It's over-indulgence, over-consumption
to the point of waste, over the top.  In fact it's over the teeth,
over the tongue, look out stomach here it comes!

Thomas Aquinas - see what I mean?
Thomas Aquinas, who seems to have been a rather picky killjoy
of a man actually went to the tedious lengths of preparing a
list of six ways to commit gluttony:
1.  eating too soon
2.  eating too expensively
3.  eating too much
4.  eating too eagerly
5.  eating too daintily
6.  eating wildly
If only he'd made a list of ways to leave your lover I
could have referred to him again when we get on to lust,
but maybe I will anyway.  Can't wait for that one.  Steady Suzie!

You have been warned!
My gluttony quote of the week must come from Jenny Coogan,
the author of Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe, who said,
"I have a head for business and a body for sin.
Unfortunately, the sin appears to be gluttony."
Way to go girl!
Now prepare to fill your boots, waddle over to the Chez Long Dog
Emporium and shop till you drop.  Chef''s dish of the day is
All Thigs I.  Just change the words and instead of that old school
assembly favourite you have the Long Dog "Hymn to Gluttony."
All things sweet and sugary,
All gateaux great and small,
All things made from marzipan,
I love to scoff them all.
Each tiny little cream cake,
Each chocolate eclair,
Great swirls of royal icing,
I pig out - I don't care!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

I am with pond!

As with everything in my transition from France to England
I have gone from large to small in one fell swoop.
Chateau to lock-up; space to sleep a small coach party
to one bedroom; a hundred plus oak trees to three
beautiful camelias, and the same rule applies to water.
I don't do anything by halves!
First clear away all the old crap so you can see what
you're doing.
Once the proud owner of a huge, well-stocked carp lake
together with woodland and a fishing lodge I am now the,
even more proud (if that's possible) owner of a 6 foot x 4 foot
x 3 foot pond!
Then get rid of the old monstrosity with puny
little "water feature".
While I can't claim to have clawed it out of the earth with my bare
hands I can admit to being the brains (and cheque book)
behind the entire operation.
Find yourself one of these - I had three eventually!
There is something about a the ownership of a pond which is
very difficult to explain to anyone not bitten by the bug.
Wherever I have lived I have always felt the need for an expanse
of water - large or small.
Clear the decks - we're ready to rock!
As a small child I constructed my first waterhole behind the
tool shed from an old washing-up bowl and a lot of imagination.
Each year I would seek out some frog spawn and each year
would take the same small pleasure in watching the tiny tadpoles
hatch and week by week morph into tiny froglets.
Coming along nicely until we struck the water pipe!
Nothing much has changed in the interim really except that I now
have my sights set on some modest goldfish with whom to get
acquainted and have already ordered a couple of water lillies
to give the whole enterprise yet another dimension.
All done, complete with fountain and
adjacent pergola.

The view from my office window is now just perfect!
My intention has always been, and still is, to attract
wildlife - dragonflies, amphibians and the like
so you can imagine my surprise just five minutes ago
when a bloody greart ole harnser (Norfolk for heron) descended
from out of nowhere to give it the once over.

Flaming cheek. 
 Now bugger off and don't pierce my liner!
Thank goodness I haven't bought my fish yet or it could
have been roast heron for tea!

Thursday, 12 February 2015


Greed is a sin of excess.
It's a sin that inspires actions such as scavenging,
hoarding, trickery and manipulation.
Erich Fromm (remember him, I think he was in Train Spotting)
said greed was "a bottomless pit which exhausts the
person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without
ever reaching satisfaction." which pretty much sums it up.
Now that's what I call a slice.
If greed is the excessive desire for wealth then bring it on!
Who doesn't fancy a huge slice of the cake for themselves?
It seems that old Erich was not alone and that everybody who
was anybody had something to say on the subject.
Let me guess.  You want a piece of cake too.
Tobias Smollett coined that catchy phrase *greedy as a vulture"
and Bertold Brecht, who was probably quite pissed at the time
and obviously not following the plot said, "Sucked him
dry like a raw egg." which was most enlightening.

Moi?  Greedy?  They were on special offer.
Now not many people know this (any excuse to quote/show
a picture of Michael Caine) - when a ping pong game is
really close "getting greedy" refers to taking huge risks to
gain a point.  But did you know that Caine is an anagram
of cinema?  Michael told me that himself just the other day.
Well, if I'm totally honest, me and all the other thousands of people
watching his recent TV interview.
Light it again Sam, I think it's gone out.
"Don't Bogart that joint, my friend, pass it over to me."
That's the latest street talk about being greedy. 
That's cool.

Repeat after me - I'll take two of everything.
I know it will come as no surprise when I say that over at the
Long Dog web site greed is not only positively encouraged,
it is also rewarded so anyone ordering fifty or more designs
in one go will receive one free as a token of our appreciation.
You won't find another offer like that in a hurry.
Anyone found time wasting will be boiled in hot oil,
painted bright yellow and turned into a frog.
That's the rules for greed.
GLUTTONY is only a mouthful away,
so please don't attempt to speak - just keep chewing.

Monday, 9 February 2015


I thought we might take time off from our sins today
as I wanted to give you a progress update of the
remodelling of the lock-up.
Floor plan
As you can see from the plan, it's certainly bijoux, to use
estate agent parlance, and if I'm perfectly honest it's
pokey in the extreme.  But it's MY pokey -
and that's what really counts.
Conservatory - before

 I'm also coming to realise that pokey has some very definate
advantages - less to clean, less to heat and less to worry about.
Mains drainage is an absolute bonus after years of terrible
pongs from a very dodgey septic tank, roof tiles that
don't rattle and threaten to fall off in even the slightest breeze
have to be an improvement and no more strange scrabbling noises
coming from the grenier causing the lights to flicker has to be
a relief. 

Conservatory - after

I am particularly pleased with the way the bedroom has turned
out as it's quite a difficult shape to furnish effectively.

Blurry bedroom at the time of the previous owner.

Now all I need is someone to share it with - occasionally.
I'm not sure I have the stamina or the inclination for a full-time
playmate anymore.  By that I mean one that doesn't
have fur or a wet nose.  Although, come to think of it, that
description could quite easily fit a few of the blokes I've  known
in the past so I think I'll move on swiftly from this line of chat.

Bedroom now in my sticky little hands.
 All in all I am content with my lot.
I might even go so far as to say I'm rather happy.
An excstatic rating, however, could only be achieved with the
addition of a dog!