Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Not the Browning version

With apologies to Robert Browning and Terence Rattigan
- sorry boys.
How They Brought the Good News from Acle to the Net!
I sprang to the wheel, just Jake, and me;
I steered, Jake gallop'd, we speeded, tee hee!
"What speed!" cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
"Speed!" echoed the walls to us hurtling through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight, we gallop'd our best.
What a load of old toffee Julia, all that digging you have been
doing must have dislodged your brain.
He's an old flame of mine.
"Nay, 'tis not true" I cry.  All this mad dashing about is just
a perfect example of my devotion to duty and desire to
please the ever growing, global army of Long Dogger's
constantly baying for something new to stitch (or stash).
Meanwhile, back in the real world ......
I here are a couple of tiny teasers which are guaranteed to
enliven your taste buds and get you all into a state
of heightened desire (please no photos).
You don't think I'm going to give it all away at once do you?
What better than a couple of little "amuse bouches",
a glass of chilled Chateau DMC 1996
and the first tantalising peeps of the new design to be
launched on Wednesday 8th April 2015
Acle Mean Time.
Bon appetit!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Spooky or what?

This morning, as it was coming down stair rods outside
and the wind was blowing a Force 8 straight off the North Sea,
I decided that I would give the digging I had planned for
Plot 6 a miss and seek alternative amusement indoors.
As it's been a while since I got around to backing up my
computer files that's what I decided to do.  I've got a nifty
little external hard drive which does the job and so I got cracking.
It's a pretty boring job and my mind soon started to wander.
I thought that next I might copy off some ancient happy snaps
from my husband's old hard drive; went to the book case where
it's always kept, and there it was - gone!

Not there.
It was at that moment that the first slight tinge of panic set in
as everything - and I mean everything - is stored on it.
Irreplaceable photo's, legal documents, accounts and all things
Long Dog, past, present and yet to be released.  Aaaargh!
A systematic search of the rest of the book case revealed nothing
followed by an equally unrewarding rummage in all the other
most likely places I might have absent mindedly stashed it.
Still nothing, this is getting serious.

Even the sniffer dog was baffled.
A police style, fintertip search of the entire lock-up ensued.
No cupboard was left unopened, no corner left untouched,
no drawer was exempted as being improbable and still no
bloody hard drive could I find.  I carried out a second sweep
which turned out to be equally abortive.  I even lifted the
sofa cushions in my desperation.
Having pondered the possibility of a resident poltergeist or,
worse than that, the malevolent presence of my late husband
still hell bent on causing me aggravation, I decided to get a
grip and deliver my new bean poles to the allotment even if
digging was out of the question.  A change of scene and some
fresh air was what I needed - fast.

My dream hat!
My trusty old wool hat always lives in the right hand side of
drawer two of my chest of drawers (nothing OCD about me)
which I had completely turned out only minutes earlier and,
sure enough, there it was still in its rightful place.  Ooooof!
Now here's where it gets really freaky,
Sitting on top of it, in plain view, was not only the missing
hard drive but also a ceramic coaster of a greyhound
which had been missing for some time too.

Looks like they started without me.
You've never seen a bobble hatted woman clutching
bean poles leave the lock-up so fast in all your life!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Would you like to see a Willy?

Don't be silly.  I know what some of you are thinking
and even I wouldn't push my luck quite that far.
A Willy Verginer is what I'm on about today.
Willy in his studio.
Willy was born on 23rd February 1957 in Bressanone,
in the Province of Bolzano, Italy but apart from that
I can tell you very little of his formative years and education.
What I can, however, show you is some of his beautiful
artwork.  Sculpture to be more precise.
I wonder if he uses masking tape to get the lines straight?
For the most part he creates wonderful, life sized figures from
solid pieces of linden wood in his studio in Ortisei, South Tyrol.
But what makes his pieces stand apart is that he doesn't just
carve them, he then goes on to pimp them up with the
rather peculiar addition of other materials and, almost always,
larges swathes of acrylic colour.  Not in a realistic way
but as if dipped into a huge vat of pigment.
Looks like selective jaundice to me.
Willy's figures can be isolated or in groups according to how
the muse takes him and it's not unusual for them to be in
bizarre poses or coupled with unrelated objects giving his work
a quietly surreal atmosphere.
Surely not the Von Trapp family strayed over into Italy.
One series of figures was given the Italian title
"a fior di pelle" which roughly translated comes out as
"flowers of the skin".  The models all have youth on their side
and appear to be emerging from a covering of blooms
like buds about to blossom.  Each represents in its own way,
and in his inimitable style, the poetic fragility of youth and
the ability to dream.
Pass the spray, I've just spotted an aphid.
 Seeing is believing.  Touching is exquisite.
A Willy up close and personal leaves no one indifferent
to it's charms (with or without hare)!
Let's not split hares, they always come in two's.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Car Insurance

Nothing is ever simply, straight forward or easy
where I'm concerned and car insurance is certainly no
exception to this rule.

Having recently become the proud owner of a set of wheels
I decided to find myself an insurance agent with a "real"
office which I could visit if necessary; manned by "real"
staff who I could speak to on a "real" telephone should the
need arise.  This seemed infinitely preferable to tiptoeing
my way through the minefield on online offers on price
comparison sites.
A charming and very helpful young man called Alex took my
metaphorical hand and led me safely past all the
obstacles and pitfalls along the pathway to comprehensive
motor insurance.
I had, at that point, no tangible proof of the no claims bonus
on my previous French insurance and, as I wasn't sure how long
it would take to materialise, we decided to start again from
scratch with the proviso that amendments could be made to
the policy as and when the French got their act together.

It's the only thing.  Poop, poop!
 I paid my money, I took my chance and I took to the road!
Poop, poop!
The French documentation finally rocked up a couple of days
back.  The lovely Alex received his copy and managed to secure
for me a rather pleasing £147 reduction in my premium.
Thank you Alex, job done, sorted - or so I thought.

What do you want us to do about eet?  Non!
What neither Alex, nor I, had foreseen was that the insurance
underwriters would not accept a document in French even
thought it's meaning was patently obvious.  Their in house
translators would have charged more that the rebate to do the
necessary, the French insurers were equally unhelpful and so
the £147 reduction was clawed back.
Then the bastards played their trump card.
They charged me another £120 on top of all this for having to
make an amendment to the policy and neither I nor poor Alex
had a leg to stand on - legally they were within their rights.

How very true.
 Which leaves me with just two things to say:
1.  Please learn from my mistakes and let sleeping policies
lie - you will never win!  And ...
2.  A pox on insurance companies and small print in particular!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Could it be that I'm an alien?

I'm certainly not normal, that's for sure.
This morning's routine visit to the local Health Centre
is a perfect example of what I encounter almost daily.

 Having received a text message saying would I like
to come along for a once over to check out things
like weight, blood pressure, cholesterol etc in the
hope of nipping any future problems in the bud before
they manifest themselves, I thought - why not?
A girl can't be too careful about such matters after all.

Wonder if he's afraid of needles?
Washed, ironed and slightly out of breath as I was
running late, I duly presented myself for inspection.
After a somewhat surreal half an hour chatting to the original
"painted man" (never before have I witnessed or, indeed,
conversed with quite so much subcutaneous ink on one person)
I was finally ushered into the cubby hole masquerading
as a treatment room/general store.

No it's not me, I had a cowboy outfit.
The little lass who greeted me looked as if she might be
wearing her big sister's nurse's uniform and I momentarily
wondered whether I might have wandered into the play school
next door by mistake.  How are we today, she enquired.
We are good, I regally informed her - so let's begin.
The weigh in took several attempts as no two readings came
out the same.  It would appear that I have the ability to
gain and lose weight in a matter of moments.  The blood pressure
reading went no better and a second meter had to be found
to verify the results.
No wonder it was on the blink.  That elephant in the
room gets everywhere.
It took poor nursie a while to decide where my waist actually
was before she could measure it accurately as I appeared to go
straight down from rib cage to hip bones with no visible dip
in the middle.  She finally decided to steer a course by
following the line of an ancient scar which runs diagonally
across my abdomen from left to right.  Or, indeed, right to
left should you so prefer.

She was recourceful, I'll say that for her.
The cholesterol test was the piece de resistance during the performance
of which her computer went down taking with it everything she
had entered about me and the telephone system decided to come
out in sympathy.  The test itself had to be abandoned after the
third attempt and a change of batteries because she had never
encountered anything "so weird" before.  Besides which my poor
fingers were at that stage refusing to yield any more blood to test.
It was at this moment that I became convinced that I am an alien
being who mysteriously breaks machines, gives out a force-field
that plays havoc with computers and inflicts unsuspecting
individuals with temporary OCD as they take and re-take tests
in a persistent, anxious manner punctuated with frequent hand
washing and under-breath mutterings.

Aliens are everywhere.  Don't look into the eyes.
They're going to phone me later when they've decided what
to do next.  Oh goody!  Next patient please.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

This 'n that

I would, first of all, like to introduce you to
my new set of wheels.
Not the best of photo's but you get the gist.
He's called Jake and he's a three year old Renault Clio estate.
He's automatic, nips along at a very respectable
turn of speed and already I don't know how I managed
without him.
The world is beginning to open up to me again
and the prospects are endless;
car boot sales, trips to the seaside,
visits to friends and sufficient room in
the back should I decide to do a spot of wheelie dealing.
The Lock-Up in Naughty Corner
I should also like to show you my latest bargain
which is a little bay tree the flower man at Acle
Sale let me have at a very special price indeed.

One of 12 Eleanor of Castile crosses which mark the
resting places of her coffin en route for London in the 13th century.
The downside being that I wasn't travelling
in Jake at the time I bought it and had to lug it
home as best I could making more stops
than Queen Eleanor's coffin on the way but without
the erection of any kind of monument to mark the route.
It was delicious if not very filling.
As for Plot 6, let me introduce you to my first tiny
blister following the first piece of honest toil I've
done for ages and the fruits of my labout -
one tiny spud which I had for my lunch.

Does your mother know you've gone out
dressed like that?

And while I'm on about this 'n that may I also
introduce you to my grand daughter
Jasmine Leoni who is currently touring
with Cirque Normande in the south of England
and of whom I am immensley proud.
Hang on in there girl!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Keep calm and keep stitching!

We certainly live in interesting times and this week
promises to be extraordinary at the very least.
On the 17th the last of seven squares between Uranus and
Pluto took place (no, I didn't feel a thing either Camilla)
only to be followed on the 20th by not only a "Supermoon"
but also a solar eclipse and culminating in the
Spring Equinox on the 21st.  What changes and
challenges could this little lot mean lies ahead for us all?

It doesn't appear to feature on sat-nav's
For those of you who have no idea what the seven
squares are all about, I will endeavour to explain.
Pluto and Uranus only align in a tense square every
eighty years which means that this most significant and
challenging planetary influence generally only occurs
once in a generation.
It began in June 2012 and as the planets move slowly and
undergo retrograde phases the squares are repeated seven times
in all leaving us all living through a major generational
upheaval with the focus being on evolutionary change.
Uranus symbolises change, invention and revolution and its
effects are shocking, unpredictable and erratic.  Pluto stands for
globalization, destruction, transformation and renewal  and its
effects are ruthless and extreme.  They are non-personal,
emotionless planets yet nevertheless their effects can be
dramatic and deeply felt.

Now that's what I call a super moon.  Boys will be boys.
 As if this wasn't enough for most of us, we then have the
"Supermoon" to contend with.  The term was coined by astrologer
Richard Nolle in 1979 and these events happen about 4-6 times
a year influencing our behavious and emotions.  Everything is
stronger and more deeply felt and severe weather events are
often experienced around the same time.  So get in touch with
your feminine side, strap on a life jacket and prepare for a
tidal wave of energy and the opportunity for growth.

Going, going, gone.
Two down, two to go.  The total solar eclipse takes place in
Pisces and it's effects can last for as long as six months afterwards.
This is a moment when matters come to a head and the change
that is brought about can be very positive.  The nature of the change
depends upon which house of your natal chart it falls within.
This particular solar eclipse is all about new beginnngs which will
require a certain leap of faith to bring about, it will test our beliefs
and demands imagination and intuition if you really want to
enjoy the fulfilment of your dreams.  There is, however, a price to
pay in all this and something must end before another new chapter
can begin in earnest.  It's the moment to take a break from routine
and daily pressures, to be a bit more laid back and in less of a hurry.
A time to let go!

Time to do something about your "hare"
Are you still with me?  We've only got the Spring Equinox to
get through and we should be home and dry.  Equinox -
equal night and equal day; the beginning of a new season and
the start of the new astrological year.  Fresh starts, new endeavours.

The nation on alert, scanning the heavens for a first sighting.
 And what has all this got to do with Long Dog and cross stitch?
Well everything of course.  It's written in the stars that
a new design will appear in Aries on 8th April
but it's still not quite visible to the naked eye so you'll
just have to find some of the patience bestowed by the solar eclipse
and finish off something in your stash in the meantime.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


As I go through the rather slow business of getting my body kick
started for action each morning, a vital component of the whole
routine is reading The Mail Online on my trusty tablet
while I am still buried deep beneath the duvet.
I like to check out whether we have gone to war with anyone
while I slept, who's been doing what to whom, and whether
cerise has become the "new black" overnight.
Now that's one male I definately wouldn't mind going online with!
The Mail somehow never seems to let me down.
It's guaranteed to play up the latest health scare, remind me
that an asteroid the size of Venezuela (I think that's the
first time I've ever written that word) will pass dangerously
close to the earth next July and update me on just how safe
it is for a woman to be out alone after dark in our towns
and villages along with the black spots to avoid at all costs.
Courageous researcher conducting some field worl for the articles.
There has been a series of articles recently in the Fe-Mail
Health Section pondering the average size, when fully extended,
of the male member.  Not a burning (perhaps an unwise choice of
word) issue that I can honestly say has troubled me over the years
but, nonetheless, I read on as I had suddenly become curious.
The first article posed many questions but gave no answers.
Neither did the second but the final piece in the series came straight
to the point, so to speak, - 5.5 inches, that's official
They've just heard the next question.
I duly filed this new found piece of fascinating information away in
the "may come in handy at a dinner party/pub quiz" part of my
brain and thought no more about it.  That is until today!
I was idly washing a courgette that I was going to prepare for my
lunch but I won't take you through my actual, rather shameful,
thought processes but suffice it to say that I nipped off into the
office to fetch my trusty old school ruler as I needed to get to
the bottom of all this once and for all.
It doesn't take much imagination to see what set me off.
The proud, green specimen measured an eyewatering 5.9 inches on
the Richter courgette scale which I deemed to be a quake
of some significance.
After lunch, which by the way way delicious, I sat quietly reflecting
and came to the conclusion that having been married twice coupled
with a fair bit of practice in between times, all in all,
I had gotten off very lightly indeed.
Sometimes less can be more (than sufficient)!
Rude girl Julia, go straight to your room.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Hold the headlines

As the days lengthen and the mornings become lighter
I seem to be getting up earlier and earlier
only to wonder how best to fill this new found time.
Which is why I was to be spotted yesterday
down on the marshes just after sparrow fart
digging away on Plot 6.

Not mad March hares - mad marsh horses instead
 It was a beautiful early spring morning;
Yarmouth way on the horizon was still shrouded
in sea mist; the birds were all singing;
you could see the horses' breath as they grazed
the hillocky grass and I was as near to being
at peace with the world as I will ever be.
That is until I spotted the very unnerving and rather
unkempt figure of a man climbing the fence into
the allotment gardens.  It was at that moment when the
phrase being at "one" with the world took on a new
and slightly sinister meaning.

Sort of like this but not tooled up.  At least not from where I was standing.
 I was "just one", all alone in the middle of nowhere,
feeling slightly rattled by this unnown man
behaving oddly to say the least.  What's more,
he appeared to be coming my way.
Flight would have been futile so I prepared for fight
instead and grasped the handle of my lovely new
fork with both hands until my knuckles turned
white and gleamed in the sun.
Nearer and nearer he came, stumbling occasionally
on the uneven terrain, the tails of his shabby tweed coat
flapping in the breeze.  Cue music from Jaws -
dah dah, dah dah, etc ......
He was, by now, no more than a few feet from me when
his face suddenly lit up with a cheery grin and in a very
posh voice he said: "Morning m'dear, Friday the
thirteenth you know.  Never take the car out on that day
so I'm taking this shortcut to the garage on the
roundabout as the wife's run out of bread again."

I must see what the committee think about putting up a sign.
 And then he lurched on by still following his diagonal route
across the allotments until he came to the boundary fence
which he also climbed but with less alacrity than the first.
Breathing a huge sigh of relief and having reprimanded
myself for being so jumpy I continued on with my deep
digging.  I also mentally deleted the headline I had imagined
adorning the front page of tomorrow's edition of the
Eastern Daily Press:
You can fill in the blanks.  I think the asterisks made
it just a tad more sensational.  With a lurid imagination
life can never, ever be dull!

I wonder if Colonel Sanders knows anything about this?
 Tomorrow "Genetically modified chicken attacks tourist
on Gorleston seafront."

Friday, 13 March 2015

Georg Jensen 1866-1935

I have just happened to notice that Fellows, the auctioneers,
are having a sale today of Vintage Jewellery & Accessories.
Nothing particularly unusual in that, auctions are taking
place all the time, but on this occasion they have
a couple of brooches by Georg Jensen going
under the hammer and that's more than enough to
grab my attention for a while.

Today's caption competition, answers must be in Swedish!
 For those of you not familiar with his work, Georg was
a Swedish designer of ceramics, sculptor, goldsmith
but perhaps he is best known for his silver jewellery.
Amongst his contemporaries were Charles Robert Ashbee
and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, all three of them key names
in the Arts & Crafts Movement.

This one's in the auction today.

 In line with current thinking Georg's desire was to make everyday
objects not only beautiful but affordable too which is rather an irony in
view of the prices his work fetches at auction today.

Iron and silver brooch
During the First World War his company created the now
famous "iron jewellery" in an attempt to safeguard the
dwindling stocks of silver and this is avidly sought out by
collectors the world over. 

Deer and squirrel - key components of many Long Dogs
but that's where the similarity ends.
Georg died in 1935 but the company has continued in his name
and is still producing beautiful work which bears his
signature to this day.

Arts & Crafts at it's finest.
History lesson over, the auction starts at 9.30am
and as I seem to have left it too late to register
there's no fear of me getting into a bidding war with
some other determined admirer of Mr Jensen's
fabulous creations.  Saved from myself again! 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Plot No. 6!

I may not live to regret this but first let me explain.
Way back in the depths of winter during one
of my better, and more optimistic, spells healthwise
I was idly flicking through our little quarterly
village magazine when my attention fell upon
an article about the local allotment association
exhorting like-minded people to put their names
down for a plot.
Oh goody - I appear to have a composter!
I am no stranger to the lure of damp compost,
sturdy wellingtons and rows of neatly regimented
crops quietly burgeoning with a promise of even
better things to be had with just a litte care.
So what did I do?  I think you might just have guessed.
Like an idiot I dashed off a request for my name to
be placed forthwith on the waiting list and thought
no more of the matter.
The full enormity of it all.
That is until last night when I received a phone call to
say that, like scum, my name had risen to the top
of the pile and that I was to present myself at 2.30pm
sharp today at the allotments off  Boat Dyke Lane
when I would be shown my allotted plot  and duly
welcomed into the family of allotmenteers.
Coming, ready of not.
More will follow on this subject!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Acronymous Long Dog

No, it's not the second cousin twice removed of
Hieronymous Bosch, although I must admit it sounds like it.

Do not scrunch or use a frame for these!
Today's title is yet another example of the growing mound
of totally useless work that the Devil keeps thinking up
for my idle hands.  Or should that be brain as my
hands are never idle and generally to be found full of
crumpled Aida and a needle.  I'm such a scrunchy,
bottom left start, look no frame sort of a girl.
Who else walks on the wild side of the selvage edge?
 Now tell me this.  What do these words conjure up for you:
Lovelly, outstanding needlework.  Great designs.
Over generations samplers acquire much prestige
linking each relative's story .....

Ackworth squirrel without NUTS! and from the rear
too if I'm not mistaken.  Either that or this kid's
sewing really was rubbish, Ackworth or not.
Are they the opening paragraph of a book on samplers through
the ages; a small ad in an antiquarian textile magazine
for an ancient Ackworth sampler or just me attempting to
keep the dreaded dementia at bay, as they keep telling us
silver citizens, by keeping our shrinking brains active.
How well you begin to know me.
Take another look, this time at the first letter of each of the
words and you'll quickly discover that today my questing
little beak has been thrust into the ant's nest of acronyms
and mnemonics; the former being an abbreviation formed from
the initials in a word or phrase and the latter a formula
or rhyme to assist memory.

Don't drive too close - this one may not bounce!

Examples are all around us.  SWAT - could be a special
weapons and tactics squad but, in my case, is more likely
to be a scientific wild ass guess.  Or the mnemonic for
remembering the lines of the treble clef (EGBDF)
-elephants go bouncing down freeway/every good boy
deserves fruit.

And as I keep telling small, alien life forms when they get a
little too close for comfort to my designs -
Look Only,  No Greasey
Dabs On Granny's Sewing.

What did Grandma just say?
Step away from her sewing!

Ah la la poo poo ah la la!
Neither an acronym, nor a mnemonic, I just like saying it.