Saturday, 29 November 2014

You hum it, we'll stitch it.

"Flowers, plants and fishes, beasts, birds, flies, and bees,
Hills, dales, plains, pastures, skies, seas, rivers, trees,
There's nothing near at hand or farthest sought
But with the needle may be shaped and wrought."
John Taylor, 1634

Bravo Mr Taylor, you've certainly got us lot sussed!

Is that a unicorn in your sampler or are you just pleased to see me?
Well I shoud hope so, because today's topic is
the wonderful, the magical, the mythical
 a motif which appears time and again
in samplers both ancient and modern.

Basically they represent chastity and can only be seen by
the pure in heart.  Don't squint Deborah.
They can only be captured by a virgin which explains
the scarecity of unicorns in captivity in my part of the
world and they are also a symbol of the moon,
silvery, crescent or gibbous it makes no odds.

Sometimes they provide a vital clue when trying to determine
the country of origin of an old sampler.  Unicorns often
appear on Scottish pieces as they are the two heraldic bearers
which flank the Royal Coat of Arms.
The horn itself was believed to have magical properties
and back in the days before television people believed
that the unicorn could purify water simply by making the sign
of the cross with said appendage.
"Dreams are the playground of unicorns"
I found myself at one point on a VERY dodgey site whilst
looking for little snippets for this post and would strongly counsel
you all to steer clear should you come across it.
The name is Unicorn Dating and claims to be the home of
hand embroidered, subsersive cross stitch samplers.
Take it from me - it is, and they are!
Let's end on a much lighter note with a mention of the
beautiful series of tapestries featuring unicorns called
the Dame a la Licorne.  They can be found in the Musee de Cluny
in Paris along with some other very fine needlework.
The series depicts the five senses and then finally love,
wonderfully entitled "A mon seul desir."
I have seen these for myself, they are utterly beautiful.
Apologies for the dodgey photography throughout.
It was David Bailey's day off.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Calling all boomers

Who's up for a laugh now in the autumn of our years?
No sex please 'cos I'm British but I'll join you in a beer.
Who fancies being naughty just like when we were sixteen?
I won't grass you to your children, where we've been or what we've seen.
Who wants to have that one last fling before our twilight years?
Before they pack us off to care homes, and treat us like "old dears".
Who wants to feel the earth move, stay out late and wear torn heans?
Just don't you leave it too long before rigor mortis intervenes!
Who wants to ride their bikes down hill, or fly a kite again?
Who wants to watch the stars come out, or get soaked in the rain?
Who wants to ride a whirlwind, here I am, so take my hand.
Who wants to just feel happy?  Come on Custer - one last stand!

If only .......

I have a horrible feeling I may have posted this
little poem of mine before
but I simply can't be arsed to wade back and look.
In which case do forgive me and I'd better get my skates on
- it's later than I thought! 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Pavo Cristatus

Peacocks to you and me.
They're everywhere - on advertising hoardings,
made into lamp bases, stencilled onto hessian bags.
Some young mum's even have their feather tattooed about
their persons as a symbol of protective motherhood.

Seems a bit extreme to me, but what do I know.
In my day if anyone posed a threat to my children
the look on my face would have been enough to deter
all but the most determined n'ere do well.
But how many of us, I wonder, even give a moment's thought
to the age old symbolism behind these beautiful birds
which have been used as sampler motifs over the centuries.
For instance, why do they so often appear in pairs?
Because it was believed that a pair of them guarded the
Gates of Paradise, that's why.  So now you know.
This morning I've been zooming round the lock-up with my
not-so-trusty Pentax in search of cross stitch examples
large and small to create a Long Dog "pride of peacocks".
Isidore of Seville's seventh century bestiary describes our feathered
friends as "a bird with a terrible voice and flesh too hard to cook"
which in a round about way echoes the belief that their flesh did not
decay after death, that it was incorruptible, and thus they
symbolised immortality.
The ancient Greeks thought of the peacock tail as the vault
of heaven and the "eyes" as the stars.
Resurrection and renewal are associated with pavo cristatus
because the birds shed their tail feathers annually and the ancient
Christians used them as church decorations on Easter Sunday.
Buddhists = wisdom
Native Americans = wholeness and dignity
Hindus = patience, good luck
Japanese = an emblem of love
India = their national bird
So bear these things in mind next time you stitch your way
across a peacock's tail or add those last little touches
to its beautiful head.  And say the word
"resurrection" to yourself as you unpick a feather that's
somehow ended up two holes down from all the rest.
This one can have the last word - it's a British Museum
reproduction kit which I stitched way back in the last century.
Perhaps "longevity and endurance" should also be added to
the peacock's list of attributes.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Swallow or spit?

There was an old Long Dog woman who swallowed a spider,
Which neither wriggled, nor jiggled, nor tickled inside her!
She swallowed the spider not to catch a fly
but because .......
.....she wasn't paying attention whilst drinking her early morning
cup of rosie and failed to notice, until well past the
point of no return, the submerged remains of a
medium-sized arachnid, that had somehow managed
to become incorporated in the brew,
and swallowed the damned thing whole!
I don't know why the fly was even mentioned
- perhaps she'll die!

Friday, 21 November 2014


That's right, you didn't misread it - TITS!
Here at the lock-up command centre we have tits galore.
Great tits, blue tits (well, it's been a bit nippy recently),
coal tits and, it's even been said, that mine
aren't too bad for an old bird.  Lift and separate and
you won't go far wrong I've always found.
Nice pair of tits.
We've also got robins, wrens, ringed doves,
a magnificent male blackbird and more starlings than you
could shake a stick at which brings me,
at long last, to the point.
Quick shake the stick, they're fighting again.
They all need feeding.
They stand in huddles in the early morning gloom
awaiting sustenance, peering forlornley through the
conservatory windows willing me to arise and spread
my largesse.  The last occupant has a lot to answer for
leaving me with the responsibility for this motley crew
of dependent little beaks to nurture and support.
Can you hear us?
They sell a wide range of wild bird food at the Post Office and I
opt, as a rule, for the song bird mix with added meal worms
and suet surprises.
Not to self:  Do not store near the mueseli in future.
It is all too easy to confuse the two and a mouthful of suety
mealworms doesn't get the day off to a good start.
The neighbours really appreciate my bird feeding activities.
The new postmistress is a jovial sort of woman, so when I
presented my exhorbitantly priced purchase at the till for
payment I jokingly said "Feed the birds tuppence a bag."
and placed a shiny, new 2p piece on the counter.
She replied with a smile, "Dream on Mary Poppins, that
will be £2.99.  Will there be anything else?"
"Yes" I replied, quick as a flash.  And here's where my day
became even more surreal than normal.  "I'd like a selection
from The Sound of Music" and to my utter amazement she
struck up with Climb Every Mountain.
Feeling it might have been rather churlish to let her struggle
on alone, I joined in followed swiftly by every other
customer in the shop.
Choir bombing strikes again!
I just love Acle, they're all as mad a I am here!
Have you eaten all our mealworms again Julia?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Land of the Boiled Sweet

After years spent in exile with only the occasional slice of
Tarte au Citron or a couple or three small squares of
artisanal dark chocolate to satisfy the cravings of my sweet
tooth (or should that be dentures), I am now back in
the land of the boiled sweet and I AM IN HEAVEN!
My darling Acle, next the marsh near the sea, boasts not one
but two fine emporiums almost solely dedicated to the
desires of lifelong sweetie addicts like myself.
Well, when there's no sex, drugs or rock 'n roll
going down a girl has to take her pleasures where she can.
Candy Corner is no more than a five minute ride by turbo-charged
zimmer from the lock-up and the Post Office Stores offers
oodles of off road parking for both dogs and mobility scooters alike.
Their shelves are packed to bursting with sherbert lemons,
aniseed balls, winter warmers, cough candy twist,
cola cubes and Tom Thumb mix
(you could eat these is class without anyone ever knowing
although they did dye your tongue a wonderful shade of green
if you OD'd out of boredom in double Latin on a Friday afternoon).
My suck of preference is the pineapple cube although if you
scrunch too vigorously it's very easy to lacerate the
insides of your cheeks.  But, for the most part, I'm prepared
to risk minor injury in order to get my daily fix.

Don't leave them in the sun, they'll go all sticky.
However I spotted a new line in barley sugar walking sticks
being delivered yesterday and am seriously considering switching
brand even though they do taper to a dangerous point if
held in the mouth for too long.
Certainly not one for the fainthearted or, indeed, clumsy!
Fly you buggers!
And as for Christmas, I've already put in my order to avoid
any possible disappointment - six giant gobstoppers,
300g flying saucers and plenty of "bah humbugs",
Life is sweet(ie)!

Monday, 17 November 2014

And you thought Long Dog's were big .....

The Sistine is a large and famous chapel in
the Apostolic Palace.
The Palace is the official residence of the Pope in
Vatican City and contains many beautiful frescoes.
Probably the best known of which is The Last
Judgement by Michelangelo.
So where's all this leading us?
Why to this of course.
Canadian born Joanna Lopianowski-Roberts
who now lives in California was 36 when she embarked
on her project.  It measures 40" x 80" and
she did the whole thing on her lap.
At the stitching rate of at least one hour per day it's now finished.
Eight years it took her which is longer than old Michelangelo
took to knock off the original laying flat on his back,
pressed to the ceiling.
Joanna is now 44 and has finally got a life!
She could probably complete Tyler's Lion in a couple
of afternoons so long as she didn't stop too
often for a cup of tea.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

It's showtime!

All can now be revealed after months of secrecy and
intrigue.  The world may not be ready for this
- but here in my tiny lock-up it's all systems go for

Comes in any colour your little heart desires - the choice is yours,
and yours alone.  How intimate is that?
Please don't answer with your mouth full Camilla.
It really is the height of bad manners.

Seen here sprawled on my bed.
Big designs tire very quickly you know.

And now for the vital statistics.
360 x 338 stitches

And all for just 20 euros. 
Think of it this way, if it takes you a couple
of years to stitch it will cost you less
than a centime per day.
Where else could you get so much fun
for such a small outlay?
Don't even go there Ginger!
It will be pure and utter indulgence on your part, but listen to your
inner voice - you know it makes sense.
You may not need it but can you live without it?
That's the question to which the answer is -
"I cannot possibly exist a moment longer without this
exquisite creature nestling in my stash.
I must contact Julia immediately before stocks run out."
Never fear, I shall be here at the ready just waiting to
minister to your every need.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Naomi's tah dah moment!

Naomi, like her mother before her, is a good girl.
No - not that sort of a "good girl", I have every confidence
that she can be as naughty as the rest of us on her
days off.
What I mean is that when she says she will do something,
then she does.
"I will send you a photo of Les Cerises when it's all finished
and framed." she said and here it is.
Doesn't it look simply magnificent, you'd never
believe it's the first cross stitch she's ever done.
Now all I need to figure out is whether those two while
blobs in the middle are my fault of hers.  Whatever next?
Rumply, scrumply Do Bears? that's what she's onto next.
At this rate of progress she should have it finished
and framed by Easter at the very latest. 
Did I say which Easter?
Come on the rest of you miserable sinners, send me your
WIPs, ILTO's (I love this ones) and FINISHES (self explanatory)
I need stuff.  No Alice dear not stuffing, that's something
totally different and best left for another time to explain.
Here's a bigger lump of Do Different just to sustain you a little longer.
Come back tomorrow when I promise to show you
the full frontal.  Might even give you a flash of Do Different
too if you're very good.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Deviants follow me

 It's time for another little tease before Saturday.
Now look what you've made me do.
I've gone and given away the release date
of Do Different.
Octagons or should that be oblongs - do different!
There will be throngs of paparazzi jostling outside
the lock up again in anticipation of a quick
glimpse of my "launch outfit".
Gumboots and waterproofs are making a comeback
again this year I've heard for ladies of a certain age,
 and that's only the slumberwear range!
I shudder to think what's going to be hot to party in
although they do say Damart undies can induce quite a glow
in the nether regions.
Chevrons, but where do they go and what is their purpose
and is all exactly as meets the eye?  Course not.
Have you noticed?  Even some of my little teases are
done different this time.

If it isn't the bird of paradise just raring to fly up someone's nose
- flower 'n all.
That's simply to keep everyone
guessing right up until the very last minute.
And to stop the Russians and Chinese
flooding the market with cheap counterfeit copies

There's lots going on in this one.
See you Saturday and don't be late.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A history lesson about things to come ....

They say you should always be careful what you wish for,
(and I'll tell you why in a moment), 
but if you screw up your eyes really tight and then look
way off to the horizon you might just catch that
first, fleeting glimpse of a brand new Long Dog about to be
let off the leash to amaze and delight you.

Typical Norfolk sampler
And why do I advocate care and caution with your wishes?
Because it's a whopper.  It will take over your life.
The desire to own and stitch it will be impossible to resist..
So don't look into it's eyes if you don't want to become lost forever.
You have been warned, read on if you dare!
As I've said before, Norfolk is a county in the east of England
where I now live. It’s a very special place with a language,
way of life and humour of it's own. The motto on the coat of arms
of Norwich (the county town) is Do Different which is a shortened
version of the very aptly coined phrase -  People in Norfolk dew
 things different- and I can certainly vouch for that.
Types of octagon fillings
Norfolk, as you might expect from the foregoing,
 also had its own style of sampler in the 18th century. The design
 featured a very large, central diamond cartouche made up of saw toothed
lines often divided into three sections containing alphabets,
a Bible verse and linked octagons filled with deer, lions or dogs standing
on hillocks surrounded by trees. Some even had side panels (ears) filled
with an urn and flowers. Then, as if that were not enough,
 the whole thing was encompassed by an exuberant, free-style floral
border in each of the four corners. Magnificent.

Mad flowery corner
Never one to shy from an obvious challenge, Long Dog has taken the
old traditional components and given them it‘s own interpretation.
It has dared to take the old saying to heart and has decided to Do Different!

Very early 18th century Long Dog  (now discontinued)
fondly known as Norfik because of the old verse in dialect
All that, and the only thing I've given away so far
is the name.  Repeat after me "I should like the chart of
Do Different for Christmas please.
I have worked hard all year and deserve a treat".
In certain cases the second sentence may not apply
but there's no harm in saying it any way so long as you
cross your fingers, as well as your stitches, first.

And if you're a seeker of wisdom and truth you could do far worse
than order yourself a copy of Imitation & Improvement:
The Norfolk Sampler Tradition by Joanne Martin Lukacher
published by In The Company Of Friends
and read for yourself the real history of the Norfolk sampler.

More teasey bits to follow later this week
before the big launch next Saturday with trumpets,
flash mobs and fireworks all at no extra cost.