Friday, 29 April 2016

Time for a Rant!

The weather is awful here in Acle where the marshes kiss the sky.
It has been for days, weeks even, and I've got the right royal hump.
I want to go about my lawful business, walk the lanes, skip across
the water meadows and plant my French beans.

The weather must be bad where he is too.

I have stitched so much recently that my right hand seems to have
frozen into a perpetual needle holding shape and my poor bum has
spread at least another few centimeters from all this sitting down.

I get very crabby at times such as this and then I begin to reflect on all
the little niggles of life that really piss me off.  Today my bugbear is the
seemingly universal shortage of common courtesy and good manners
- the oils which keep the complex machinery of human relationships
running smoothly.  Please play nicely children.



Elton John reckons "Sorry seems to be the hardest word."

the Welsh village name which lends it's shortened form to the hauntingly
beautifyl (Welsh spelling) Long Dog design Spirit of Llanfair.
Available as a pdf download direct from me any time you like 24/7.


Please seems to be a difficult word for a lot of people.  
"Always speak with two words pet,"
"Please costs nothing."
Apologies for that disembodied interruption, my granny seems to
think I'm holding one of my seances and has decided to join us across
the ether.  But she's right, it's usage makes life that little bit sweeter and
can turn a blunt demand into a charming request all in the space of six little letters.

Pretty please? (or I will have to kill you).

Well that's the preamble over so now I shall cut straight to my
irritant of the day.  What has happened to "thank you"?
Has it been struck from modern parlance leaving a great gaping hole
where it should have been inserted?  Is it too difficult or time consuming
to write, can no one pronounce the th sound at the beginning?

They must have learned that at puppy training classes.  Good boys.

I may have to issue a small reward for it's safe return.
On second thoughts - please cancel that.  Thank you.  I have just spotted
a strange bright light in the sky and am hopeful that it may be the return
of the sun.  Quick, where did I put those seeds?  Perhaps they're in the
odds and sods drawer along with my "p's" and "q's".
Thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Mes Sourcils!

I have no eyebrows thanks to ongoing auto-immune problems and
for the vast majority of the time it matters not a jot.  The frame of my
spectacles covers the offending area and as they were never a prominent
feature at the best of times I tend not to mourn their loss - until today.

Those brows spoke volumes

Today I discovered whilst reading a magazine article that there is a
"language of the brows"  and therefore, because of my loss, I am unable
to participate,  I am "mute".  I cannot lower to express displeasure,
raise in surprise, cock in a quizzical manner nor flash a cheeky little
wtf a la Groucho Marx.

Don't look into her eyes.

What to do?  A quick trawl of the internet soon threw up as many
questions as it supplied answers.  Did you know that in the dark ages
women stuck on bits of mouse skin in an attempt to deceive, that
Queen Elizabeth I shaved hers off, that you can have them tattooed on
and that e-bay offers a whole range of eyebrow syrups for "every age,
race, sex, skin-type and occasion".  

Makes everything crystal clear

It was the last option that had me wondering - I've heard of come to bed
eyes but this is a step too far.  Amazon are even offering free and fast
delivery on "extensions" would you believe?  That certainly caused me to
raise the shiny, bald surfaces just above my eyes I can tell you, but no one
heard me cry out!

"Frozen" assets

Further painstaking research led to the discovery of waxing parlours,
the Asian depilatory art of "threading", stick on bling, a plethora of
cosmetic pencils and dyestuffs finally ending up with eyebrow art
in all it's myriad, and very alluring, forms.

Upon reflection I think I'll pass on them all, even "the allure", and just
keep my glasses on in the hope that no one notices.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

A bolt of textile artists for your delight

Textile sculpture is the bridge which supports the cross over
point between craft work and fine art.  These creations are in
a realm of their own with a foot in both camps and an 
undeniable appeal to collectors the world over.

More and more examples are finding their way into galleries
and exhibitions and attract the attention of critics and the
media alike.

Mister Finch is an English artist based in Leeds who specialises in
large scale projects such as insects and birds.

British folklore also features heavily in these creations so think crow,
think fox, think hand-dyed fabrics, think slightly on the dark side
- stop, you're there.


Emilie Faif has a unique approach to fabric using fans to air
fill her beguiling installations.


Sadie Brockbank isn't afraid to mix her media.  Her paintings are three
dimensional with animals and birds rising from the canvas and more
often than not finished off with a final layer of patterned or textured
textile for good measure.


Nameless Wonders is the umbrella which covers an entire menagerie of
hand-stitched critters.

You can see the joins, you can see the stitches.
They're stretched, pulled and pushed.  They're unique.
A sort of green taxidermy as no creature suffered in the making.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Hoddyman Dod

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that my train of thought
tends to wander off down some of the less trodden paths of life
bordering, at times, upon the realms of pure fantasy.  Well today,
you'll be pleased to hear, is no exception.  I'm into toes but not in
an unsavory, fetishey sort of a way because all I'm concerned with
is their names.

Over the years, and much to the delight of my youngest grand-daughter
with whom I once shared this information, I've managed to name some
but not all of my toes.  The smallest on each foot rejoice, purely because
of their shape, in the name of tortoise toes.  The two either side of the big
toes are not only Celtic because they are longer than any other but also
known as diver toes because of their uncanny resemblance to diver's
helmets.  And no Camilla, there's nothing remotely rude in that.

Hairey horse "toes"

The big toes are the King and Queen just because I say so and the third
and fourth on my right foot are horse toes because they were squashed
flat by a prancey equine way back in my youth.  The remainder are
anonymous as they lack the shape, character or misfortune to justify
a name of their own.

Happy feet, I've got those happy feet!

I was a peace with the status quo until today.  Whilst researching the
origins of "hoddyman dod" (a word found in the old Norfolk dialect)
I came across a charming little "telling" rhyme used by generations of
East Anglian mothers to give identity and titles to their ickle cherub's
tiny pink toe-toes on their tiny pink tootsie wootsies.

Fearless Hoddyman Dod meets the Marsh Snapper

I should just mention, for what it is worth and in case you were wondering,
that a "dodman" or "hoddyman dod" is the vernacular word for the
common, or garden, snail.  To continue, here comes the Norfolk toe jingle:

Peedy Weedy
Pally Ludy
Lady Whistle
Lody Wassel and
Great Big Hoddyman Dod!

The famous Orkney "toe" stones

However I then discovered that in Orkney folklore they have a finger verse
which goes:  Toomikin, Loomikin, Langman, Lickpot and Peedieman.
Whilst in Norway their fingers are called: Tommeltott, Slinkepott, Langeman,
Gullebran and lille Petter Spilleman.

Norwegian "toe warmers"

Norwegian toes are also named:  Lilletaa (little), Tatilla, Tillaros,
Apalfru (Lady of the Apples) and Store stygge skrubbehester i skogen
(big, ugly horsey thing in the forest).  Whilst on Orkney their weird, horsey
thing is the fourth toe and "old madam" is the big one.  What do you call yours?

Acle Marshes - a dangerous walk after "tea time"

And finally, today's Norfolk dialect word of the week just has to be "mirackled"
as in "I think I've mirackled messel."  (I think I have done myself a mischief by
falling into a dyke due to one too many "cups of tea".)  We make a powerful brew
here in Acle where the marshes kiss the sky, and we've got an awful lot of dykes
too so "Mind how yer go now bor!"

Monday, 18 April 2016

Suffering from blackouts?


The ancient Celts moved across western Europe reaching the
British Isles around 400 BC.  The Iceni were the tribe who settled in
my region of East Anglia; their queen Boudicca being one of their
best known warrior leaders.  Body art was an integral part of their
culture and permanent body painting was carried out with the locally
grown woad leaving a blue design on the skin.

Tattoo's, certainly when I was a child growing up in London in the
1950's, were the trappings of criminals and sailors and not something
that a nice little girl should concern herself with.  But, even so, they
fascinated me - must be the woad in my blood.

I wonder if he'd ever ventured "down under"?

You could always tell where a sailor had been by the inks on his body
or the rum on his breath - a turtle for crossing the equator, an anchor for
crossing the Atlantic, a dragon for crossing the China Sea and a black
eye for crossing a shipmate (back to the rum again)!

Zoom in, it's under the bracelet.

What they never told me was that during the late Victorian/Edwardian
period the "blue art" had an aristocratic moment when even the American
Jennie Churchill (Sir Winston's mother) bore a snake on her wrist usually
discreetly covered in public with a diamond bracelet.

When it was finished she said "The worst is all behind me now!"

One of my favourite chroniclers, good old William of Malmesbury,
when describing the Brits on the eve of the Battle of Hastings (1066)
said: "The English at that time wore short garments reaching to mid-
knee, they had their hair cropped, their beards shaven, their arms laden
with gold bracelets, their skin adorned with tattooed designs.  They
were accustomed to eat till they became surfeited and to drink
till they were sick."

Friends said you could read her like a book.

No change there then.  Scroll forward a milennia and the picture is much
the same today in any of our big towns and cities on a Saturday night
when the clubs turn out.

A little black number.

But just when it seemed that the tattooist's art had reached it's natural
limits with virtually every inch of flesh fully "illustrated" along comes
BLACKOUT!  Goodbye dolphins, roses and hearts - hello arms, legs
and even torso's inked solid black.

Gives "black leg" a whole new meaning.

I have a theory that this style might have got it's name not from the
blanket nature of the genre but from the reaction of the recipient's
mother upon first viewing of her offspring's latest exploits.  I have
only to cast my mind back to when my own mother viewed my first
piercing to support this hypothesis!

My mother always one to over react.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

What is that smell?

I have just returned to the Lock-Up in a state bordering upon
euphoria probably induced by over exposure to perfumes
But I'm getting ahead of myself which makes a pleasant change
from my normal digressions.

Lautrec sums it up perfectly

I beam like a Cheshire cat and smell like a couple of whores on
a night out as almost every inch of visible flesh has been anointed,
sprayed, daubed, splashed and smeared with an assortment of
perfumes ranging from the sublime to the headache inducing.
I am borderline embalmed.  I have been to the perfume department
of Roy's of Wroxham - and I lingered.

Roys of Wroxham back in the day

I blame the weather.  There was a steady drizzle coming down and not
a chance in hell of getting anything done outdoors so I thought I'd
take a leisurely tootle over to Wroxham.  Admittedly the purchase of
a small bottle of perfume was my intention as Roy's prices are
unbeatable, even on the Internet, and I'm almost down to my last
squirt.  So this was not to be an indulgence but a necessity 
- like toilet rolls or a pint of milk.    If it hadn't been for Helen!

Lalique - not a perfume but a famous glass maker

It's amazing when you think about it the way all our lives cross and all
the interactions we have with each other day by day, month by month,
year upon year.  And every so often we encounter someone who will
stick in our minds and not be forgotten - Helen is one such person.

Good enough to crosstitch

She popped out at me from behind a Dior display just as I was about to
administer my first squirt of the outing and I knew instinctively that I
should have left the plastic at home.  Her enthusiasm for her subject was
that infectious.  What that young woman didn't know about perfume just
wasn't worth knowng - history, suitability, "notes", ingredients.  She knew
it all - or did she?

I should never have read the label of Ange ou Demon by Givenchy out loud.  
All right Annie, I admit I was showing off just a teensie bit but the words
were no sooner out of my mouth than a deluge of assorted bottles and
atomisers were produced for me to say the names so that she could learn
the correct pronunciations, such was her dedication to her work.

Helen, I salute you my woman and award you the title Miss Perfume
2016.  I am also now the proud owner of a rather larger than planned
bottle of Estee Lauder Youth Dew, a vaporisateur of Eden by Cacharel
(special price), an English lavender cologne stick (it reminded me of my
Gran) and more testers and free samples than you could shake a stick at.

I do hope it doesn't rain again tomorrow, this could become expensive.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Paper of Pins - join in if you know the words

You may have noticed that currently I'm rather into the origins of old
songs and nursery rhymes with even the most tenuous of connections
to the Gentle Art (who incidentally make very find hand-dyed threads
- see below) of Needlework.

Gentle Art Sampler Threads (GAST to you 'n me)

Paper of Pins is one of those songs that would crop up now and again in
the sixties when folk clubs were all the rage and Aran clad youths clutching
acoustic guitars and banjo's would cup one ear as they leaned into a
microphone to rail loudly about the injustices of life both past and present
or love lost, found or coming rather nicely to the boil (preferably tonight).

Those were the days.  His Aran's in the wash.

I must admit that I don't always pay proper attention to the actual meaning of
the words being sung.  For years I thought the hymn "Gladly My Cross I'd Bear"
was not all about personal suffering, pain and redemption but instead a cheery
ditty about a cuddly, cross-eyed bear by the name of Gladly.

So the first verse, sung by the ardent young swain goes:  I'll give you a paper of
pins, If that's the way that love begins, If you will marry, marry, marry, marry.
If you will marry me.

His first offer!

It's small wonder that she turns him down.  A screw of paper with a load of pins 
in it is most certainly not the way love begins.  I wonder if that's where
that charming old expression "Fancy a quick screw darling" originated.
I know how it ended up.  How dare he, the cheapskate.
A few Vodka shots and a fish supper at the very, very least my lad!

Always check silver love spoons for
hallmarks girls.

It's all too easy to let the words slip by with no thought for what's actually going 
on.  So not being one to give up our young Jack the Lad up's the ante a bit and
sings:  I'll give to you a silver spoon, Feed the baby in the afternoon, If you will
marry etc.  Still not good enough.  Doesn't he know you have to clean silver
and who said anything about kids?  On your bike mister.

The golden balls of "Uncle's".  I wonder if they'd
advance him anything for his silver spoon?

Now at this stage it is unclear if the youth has been smoking illegal substances 
but forgive me for being suspicious of his next offer:  I'll give to you a golden
ball, To bounce from the kitchen to the hall. If you will marry etc.  Well something
should certainly bounce at this juncture.  Probably a pair of them and not
necessarily golden ones unless he's a footballer.

In one last desperate bid to hook up with the young lass he decides to go for broke
and offers her:  The keys of the chest and all the money that he possesses.  And
wouldn't you just know it, she says YES!  Crafty little baggage.  But here comes
the sting in the tail.  He says:  You love my money but you don't love me.
Withdraws his offer.  End it.

Well if it isn't Sally Free and Easy.

That is until now as I've just written a post script to this tale.  The swain (or should
that be swine?) spots little Sally Free 'n Easy (but that's another song for another
day) across the meadow, puts his paper of pins back in his pocket (also for another
day) and sets off in hot pursuit as he knows a winner when he sees one.

The moral of this tale is that a paper of pins in the hand isn't always necessary for a
quickie in the bush.  Happy stitching and beware of boys bearing pins.

Saturday, 9 April 2016


The clarinetist, sax player and composer Sir John Phillip
William Dankworth CBE was a jazz man through and through,
and a very great one at that.

Sir Johnny

Better known to his audiences simply as Johnny Dankworth,
he played with all the greats from Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong
and Duke Ellington to Sidney Bechet and Zoot Sims.
He married jazz singer Dame Cleo Laine in 1958 and
together they really rocked.

The price of chips if you're interested.

Well that's all very nice Julia, but where is all this going?
It's got nothing to do with cross stitch or the price of chips.

An artist's impression of Dankworth

But that's where you'd be wrong.  Johnny's band was loud and
magical so what better moniker than Dankworth could I give to
the latest fabulous band sampler to join the Long Dog stables?

The real thing having a lay-down in my conservatory

The brassy young Dankworth measures 125 x 254 stitches
and comes with DMC and Gentle Art conversions all for the
very foot tapping price of £9.00.  It would be so cool, and
possibly even groovy,  to add it to your stash ......

Wednesday, 6 April 2016


Take a quick look and commit the following to your
memory immediately because you never know
when the Spoiler Police will demand that these
pictures are taken down.

I can tell you that this is another wonderful
Long Dog which will be coming your way sometime
on Saturday 9th April (British Summer Time).

I can't be more accurate than that because a great
deal depends upon what time I get up and that depends
on either where I went the night before or whether
there was a good late film on the Drama Channel.

Now clear off and let someone else have a peek,
you've all got to play nicely and share.
We may not have long.  See you Saturday!