Sunday, 31 May 2015

What's everyone else been doing

I have just been down to water my runner bean plants
as the rain that was promised failed to put in an appearance.
So I thought that whilst no one
else was around I'd take the opportunity to
take a few sneaky snaps of what's been going
on around the allotments.

Some, like the one next to mine, are absolute perfection
with everything in neat, straight lines, not a leaf out of
place and not an aphid in sight.

These guys must have heard that I was about and have
taken the precaution of covering everything up.
Where's the fun in that?

A shed - that's what I've got on my wish list.

I'd like a bench too if anyone has the pattern for one.

An old cane chair would be equally as acceptable
although they do leave such awful marks on your bum
which as you grow older take longer to fade.

Some have obviously given it all up as a bad job although
there is talk of a wild beast which comes in with the
mist from the marshes and preys on unsuspecting gardeners
who fail to close the gate before they leave.

This one's my favourite and wins the Long Dog prize
for Bird Scarer of the Year.
I wonder if it would work on ducks?

That's my bean teepee there and a miracle it's still
standing really after all the gales we've been having.

Damn and blast - I can't remember if I shut the gate.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Sea Fever Part II with apologies as before.

I must go down to the seas again, it's the call of the running tide
To stand in the waves with your socks off is something which must be tried.

Can you smell the ozone?

The beach at last!  The sun had disappeared for the foreseeable future
behind a bank of low, grey cloud and the wind was freshening as I kicked
off my shoes and ran the last few yards into the gently ebbing waves.

All in all a bloody freezing but exilirating experience which definitely
had hit the spot.  However, in my unstoppable desire to paddle with all
possible expediency I had completely forgotten to bring a towel with
which to dry my tootsies so consequently my toes ended up completely
encrusted with sand as I made my way back up the beach through all
the bits and pieces that has washed up on the last tide.  Hey ho!

Surely not Sherlock Holmes?

Another of my great pleasures when at the seaside is pebble collecting 
so having paused to admire some pebble art left by the unknown "Holmes"
some time this year, I proceeded to fill the two back pockets of my elastic
waisted jogging bottoms to capacity with said objects.

No wonder they came down.

I was still quite some way from the car when the sheer weight of pebbles
combined with the force of gravity began to lower my trackies to well below
half mast and so with only the Owl Meister, the trannie and half a dozen
sleepy owls to bear witness to my undignified moon I said a hurried farewell
to Caister-on-Sea and sandy footed it back across the marshes to the Lock-up
and a nice hot cup of tea.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Sea Fever Part I with apologies to John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a transvestite and an owl to steer him by.

Don't you just love wind turbines?

There are times when a virtually irresistible urge comes upon me to
not only see but also to dip my toes into the waves and I cannot rest
until I have done so.

On other occasions I am prepared to move heaven and earth to have
a cuddle with a giant, hairey running do or to bury my face in a
horses' neck and breathe in the whole heady experience.

Definately for those in peril on the sea.

This afternoon at round about 14.30 it was the sea that called to me
and as I'm only about ten minutes by car from the coast I was off and
away without stopping to wash the dishes from lunch.  I can be such
a slut when the mood is upon me.

Seaside shabby chic.

In next to no time I rocked up in the rather tatty car part behind the
Caister-on-Sea Lifeboat Station amongst the tractors and fishing boats
and owls.  No Alice dear I haven't just said the wrong word for seagulls
because there I was in the middle of some bizarre "owl fest" run by a
scrawney little Owl Meister complete with obligatory inkings of said
creatures about all visible parts of his body and a burly, transvestite
chum wearing a rather fetching paisley print shift dress.

As usual when I find myself in a slightly surreal situation like this there
wasn't another living soul about so, armed only with my camera and a
broad grin, I approached the "elephant in the carpark".

Now you see him .....

Turns out the pair run an owl sansctuary nearby and were on a fund
raising mission but had grossly underestimated the numbers of
tourists they had expected to find at the beach during half term week.

..... now you don't.

Before proceeding on over the dunes to the beach I made what I
considered to be an appropriate donation to their funds in return
for a couple of snaps of their extremely sleepy and bored looking charges
who every time I went to take a shot managed to turn their heads away
at the last moment.

He just would not smile.

Never work with children or animals, still it was
all a bit of a "hoot" I suppose. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Ducks by Frank W. Harvey (excerpts from to illustrate a point)

From troubles of the world I turn to ducks
Beautiful, comical things;
Sleeping or curled ,
Their heads beneath white wings,
By water cool or finding curious things to eat
In various mucks beneath the pool
Tails uppermost.

Aaah! how sweet, I hear you cry.  We love ducks.
And so do I in the right setting however, the tiny courtyard
garden at the back of the Lock-up most definately is not a good venue.

I had only popped out for a few minutes and upon my return was
greeted by two beaks and four beady eyes peering at me through
the convervatory window.  Quick, I thought, I must get a photo
of this before they fly off.

As it turns out there was really no need to hurry as 48 hours later
they're still with me and showing no signs of a pressing
engagement elsewhere either.

The blackbirds are truly pissed off with the ongoing state of affairs
as all bird feeding has been put on hold for the duration
and I'm convinced that the increased aerial bombardment of
my jam jar by the starlings is as a direct result of the embargo.

The interlopers did at one stage fly off and I heaved a huge, and as
it turned out premature, sigh of relief.  Dusk crept upon the land
like a velvet blanket and when I went to let down my bedroom blind
there they were settling down for the night beside my tiny pond.

When night has fallen you creep up to bed,
But drakes and dillies
Nest with pale water-stars,
Moon beams and shadow bars
And water-lilies.

Daybreak and they're still there!

The bastards were still there the next morning taking advantage of the
facilities having a bath and when I surreptitiously turned on the
fountain this only seemed to enhance their bathing pleasure.

WHAT TO DO?  I've spent considerable time, effort, not to mention
money on creating for myself a little oasis of calm and
tranquility and in the space of a short few hours it has been totally
"enmerded" (a rather apt expression I picked up in France) by a couple
of ducks.

The water-lilies have disappeared from view, the fountain has been
knocked sideways, my hand-picked, ornamental stones are covered
in nasty, sloshy poo, several plants are already badly damaged and
yet somehow Drake and Dilly have become (hopefully not
permanently) a feature in my chaotic life.  Well things had been
running suspiciously smoothly of late.

Time for a dip.

Back to the poem - skip to the end:

All God's jokes are good, even the practical ones!
And as for the duck, I think God must have smiled a bit
Seeing those bright eyes blink
On the day He fashioned it.
And He's probably laughing still 
At the sound that came out of it's bill.

All Things I

Am I laughing as I draw your attention to All Things I 
which is just a quick click away and extremely apt for
this situation don't you think? 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Death of a Needle

Last night's television viewing became tinged with sadness when
half way through the last episode of George Gently my trusty
needle finally broke his neck.

He's the one at the top.

It was all over very quickly and I don't think he suffered although
his head had been at a funny angle for some months ever since an
unsuccessful attempt at beading had left him looking like
an upholsterer's tool.  Arthritic twinges quickly ensued and,
although he never complained (stitching was his life), he was
never quite the same again and very difficult to thread.

Needle had been with me for several years and together we'd
stitched through Strictly Come Dancing 2012, 2013 and 2014.
We'd shared a couple of Chelsea Flower Shows (this year was
our third but sadly he never got to see who was awarded best
in show), eagerly awaited a Royal birth and even crossed the
Channel together on my escape from France.

Shiny new apprentice commencing his training.

He was the needle who stitched Do Different and Kell's Eden
together with many more, as yet unpublished, projects who's
secrets he took with him.

Goodbye old friend - RIP which in this case has nothing to do
with unpicking.  His little broken, silver body now rests in
the dead needle tin in my workbox along with others who have
gone before.

Tissue anyone?

Rose Madder and the Norwich Shawl

In the 1870's you just weren't a lady unless you had a shawl,
(and a pair of drawers of course), and the very best of the former
hailed from Norwich.  Many still survive to this
day and some beautiful examples can be seen in the
Norfolk Museum's collection at their Textile Study Centre
in the heart of Norwich.

The much lusted after Kashmiri shawls of the 19th century
used to take up to three years to make using the wool of
Himalayan goats but the Norfolk copies, made on foot operated
machines and not by hand, took only weeks to produce
and quickly became the shawl of preference.
These large squares of material were either fringed with patterns
or patterned all over,  Queens, princesses and the social elite
wore them.  You had to be wealthy, important and usually both
to be the owner of a pukka Norwich shawl.
The plant Rubia tinctorum (rose madder) was once a classic
element of the Mediaeval garden and grows well in the Norfolk
countryside.  It was a popular dye plant who's roots were traditionally
used to colour the cloth for the uniforms of the English "red coat"
soldiers and used to be sold in great quantities at the
Madder Market in Norwich which exists now in name only.
Madder red and Norwich were synonymous thanks to the efforts
of Richard Stark who worked in the City between 1811 and 1831.
He was able to perfect the colour matching of both the silk warp
and wool weft threads to exactly the same shade which
produced the distinctive true scarlet red often to be found in the
stunning drawloom shawls of Norwich.
A typical Norfolk sampler
Some of the motifs found on the shawls can also be seen echoed
in the distinctive Norfolk samplers from which the recent
Long Dog design called Do Different draws it's inspiration.
The fabulous Do Different in madder rose look
Here comes the hard sell at last.  This chart can be yours almost
 painlessly at just the click of a mouse, follow the link
to stitching heaven:
and demand your copy today.  You know it makes sense.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A bit of doggerel

by Julia Line, Head Gardener at The Lock-Up
The colours are loud
- the brighter the better.
They should watch out at Chelsea,
I could be a trend setter.
I just mix and I match,
I don't give a toss.
If it doesn't work out
Who cares?  I'm the boss.
A geranium here,
Two heucheras there.
A hop on a trellace,
A lupin so fair.
It's all muddled up,
Not quite right, but not wrong.
I do love my wee garden
I must write it a song.

What's that flower called - it's white?
Why do some plants hold tight?
Did they say it might rain?
Blast - I must water tonight!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Tailored mosaic

Being someone who is often to be found lacking in sense,
of either the common or dress variety, I have been a little
tardy in my discovery of Dolce & Gabbana's Milan
Winter 2014 collection - Tailored Mosaic.
I shall, however, be keeping an eye on local charity shops
from now on for when the Acle fashionistas decide to
weed out their wardrobes with a bored sigh of,
"This mosaic look is so yesterday."
I wonder if it would go with wellingtons?
These extraordinary creations were inspired by the ancient
mosaics of Monreale in Sicily, a city which blossomed in
the 11th century with the arrival of the Normans.
 The beautiful cathedral was built at the behest of King William II
of Altavilla circa 1180 AD along with the archiepiscopal
palace and cloister.
Amongst the art treasures is a series of golden mosaics one of
which depicts the crowning of William II by Christ and another
the dedication of the church by old William again.  I suppose
 if you're the patron you can, in theory, appear in the finished work
as many times as your budget will allow. 

The standard of
workmanship was the finest money could buy and craftsmen
came from as far as Venice and Byzantium to help realise
this striking work of art.
Dolce & Gabbana have also employed artisans of the highest level
to create their own mosaics in fabric, painstakingly adding each
tiny piece of material stitch by stitch to adorn dresses,
shoes and bags alike.
The entire collection is Byzantine with a capital B
and really quite wonderful.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Rings that tell a tale

I was having a rummage through my drawers this morning,
as you do when you're sometimes a bit bored and wondering
what to do with yourself, when I came across this little, battered ring
that's been in my possession since I was a child and which
sadly broke after all these years while I was trying to photograph it.

Nora's ring with hands closed.

It was given to me, after the family had cleared the house of an old maiden aunt
who had recently died, as no one else seemed to want it.
And I just love it - if only it could speak.  Why had Nora never married,
who gave it to her, what happened him, what was their story?
Alas, I shall never know.

Nora's ring showing the two poor battered old hearts.

But what I can tell you is that it's called a "fede" or "faith" ring.
It's a group of three rings in one - two hands clasped over two hearts.
This style can be dated back to Roman times and it's where
Claddagh history begins.  The Claddagh ring is a unique version
of a fede ring and has been the traditional Irish wedding ring
since way back in the 17th century.

Early Claddagh ring

The Claddagh is an ancient Gaelic symbol of everlasting
love (heart), loyalty (crown) and undying friendship (hands)
who's motto is:


It's a ring that sends it's own message with no questions asked.
On the right hand with the heart facing out then the young lass'
heart has not yet been won.  Still on the right hand but facing in
then some young man has definately turned her head.

On the left hand facing out then she's got herself engaged to her
young man and finally, facing in her heart has finally found a
home in marriage.
Victorian version
Claddagh history merges with tales of the sea in the town of Claddagh,
which is said to be one of the oldest fishing villages in Ireland.
For centuries, fishermen from the area took to sea with the Claddagh crest
on their ships and sails. The crest was used for identification
 - fishermen from outside the area fishing in their waters were chased
away or killed. So the Claddagh ring is also an original symbol of the
"Fisher Kings" of the Galway town of Claddagh, Ireland.

Also available as a brooch.

A dark chapter in Claddagh history, but one in which the Irish eventually
triumphed, was the Great Famine in the mid-19th century.
As thousands fled their beloved land to escape starvation, the Claddagh ring
was often the only thing of value they owned. Sometimes it was their only
inheritance and the only reminder they could keep of the land they loved.

She's found herself a rich one!

As the Irish settled throughout the United States and Canada, the Claddagh
ring became a stunning testament to Erin and the proud heritage of her people
all over the world. It became quite honorable to be a Claddagh ring bearer.
In fact, it was the only ring Queen Victoria ever wore that was made in Ireland.
Later Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII followed suit and became
Claddagh ring bearer's themselves.

When love comes knocking - don't answer, it may be the rent man!

Throughout Claddagh history, the ring has been handed down from mother to
daughter with the saying, "With these hands I give you my heart and I crown it
with my love." There is no traditional age when the ring is supposed to be handed
 down. Each mother determines when her own daughter is ready for
this special family heirloom

Sorry Nora - yours ended up with me.