Monday, 30 May 2016

The Poorly Finger

It's not until you lose the use of something, albeit temporarily,
that you realise just how much you need it.  In this instance it's only
the index finger of my right hand but it's day two without his help and 
I already have a very long list of things that are totally out of the question 
or extremely difficult to achieve.

It all happened in seconds.  One minute I was simply trying to open a
door with a rather stiff handle and the next there was blood gushing
out of my finger and a slicing cut right down to the bone of my
knuckle and I still can't fathom exactly how I managed to do it.

So, what to do about all the runner bean plants that need to go in this
weekend; how am I meant to prepare carrots without
causing myself a further mischief; why is it so difficult to wipe your
bum with the left hand; squeeze and twist bottle caps you can forget;
picking coins out of my purse requires patience and even texting is
currently something of a challenge.

But do you know what is the hardest thing to put up with -
I   C A N   N O T   SEW!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Painted knitting?

Some people embroider, others quilt; some knit, others paint
but Pamela Swainson likes to mix her artistic metaphors
- Pamela paints knitting (but not exclusively)!

Pamela Swainson
Like so many creative people her heart lies in the countryside
as does her source of inspiration.  Her mantra for life is
"local livng and sustainability" all built upon a bedrock of the
quiet growing of the trees, sunrise, sunset and a menagerie of
furred and feathered creatures.

Pamela's free range chooks
Pamela lives with her partner on a small farm in the Cobequid Mountains
of Nova Scotia, Canada although originally from Manitoba where she
was born to second generation Icelandic immigrant parents.

Her work has been exhibited in a number of local shows in the region
including Tatamagouche and Truro both solo and alongside other 
artists.  Her portfolio is certainly eclectic and she has in her time
painted everything from figurative work to landscapes, streetscapes
and, of course, knitting.

A knitted landscape painting?
To see more of Pamela's work visit

This one's my favourite - do you knit in bare feet?
I wonder if my LNS has a pattern for a waterfall?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

This and that ......

Where to begin, what to tell you - today I really have no idea.
I've been writing this blog since 2012 during which time I have
written 527 separate offerings ranging in subject from my flight
from France, life with my much missed long dogs Geordie and
Mouche, strange French customs and new designs to
English churches, talented craftsmen and women and life's
general buggerations which visit themselves upon me with
boring regularity.

This is the "lock-up" and the place which I currently call home.
Admittedly not so grand as Chateau Long Dog but sometimes small
can be good - less housework, less room to lose things and a good
reason to only keep those things that you truly treasure.

The countryside around here is beautiful and very varied.
Within fifteen minutes you can go from walking beside the sea
on a pebble beach, to wandering the marshes in all their
windswept desolation, to dappled bluebell woods full of
heady perfume and the hum of insects.  Not to mention the
odd midge bite or two as well.

My allotment is my pride and joy and as you can see
from the photo I have already put my mange tout peas to bed.
I even tucked them in and have promised to read them the tale
of the Princess and the Pea when they get a little older.

Fairhaven Water Gardens are just ten minutes down the
road from the Lock-Up and are where I take myself off to
when I want to daydream and forget about the world.
They're Norfolk's answer to the Everglades without the crocs.

This is Astrid my friends black lab and just one of the many
local dogs I have come to rely upon when in desperate need
of a big wet kiss and a bit of a cuddle.

Mr & Mrs Mallard who trashed my pond last year popped back
to say hello recently but thankfully they didn't stay for long and
they seem to have learned some garden manners since their last visit.

And that's about it really.
I shall try to come up with something rather more cerebral for
my next offering and - don't forget - there's an enormous
new 20th anniversary Long Dog getting itself ready for rehoming next month.
I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Step away from that cake

I will personally disown the first Long Dog stitcher I catch
attempting to ice a giant tray bake with motifs from Mouline Rouge
because things are moving on apace in the sticky, edible world
that is cake craft.

Just when you thought that the genteel art of cake decoration couldn't
possibly take a new turn along comes a bend in the road and a whole
new horizon opens up to greet you.

No further need for piping bags and a box full of nozzles to create impossible
swirls, drooping swags or thin precise lines.  Forget the edible glitter,
ditch the sprinkles and give those Disney cake toppers the elbow.  No more
sugar work flowers or squiggly chocolate writing; simply get yourself a brush,
some food paints and a plain iced cake and what you have the potential to
create will be limited only by your imagination.  How exciting is that?

No need to start big, take your time until you get your eye in.  This one looks remarkably like a Van Gogh.
Perhaps the artist was having a bad paint day.

A stained glass effect looks very stunning but I'd hate to have been
the person who had to finally cut it.

Now this is a cake that looks like a stack of beautiful cake tins bought
as a souvenir from Monet's Garden or perhaps it is cake tins
sitting patiently in a stack trying to fool everyone.

I think this one takes the biscuit so to speak.  It's my favourite
so far - but I'm still looking.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016


"Town centre" watch out for horse and carts.

It was a rare and lovely afternoon, much too hot to work on the
allotment, so I decided to skive off to Ludham, a village just eight miles
or so from Acle and only ten minutes away by car down windy country lanes.

The hammer beamed roof in all it's glory.

It stands at the end of a dyke leading to Womack Water and, although small
in size, it has a history dating back over a thousand years to the days of
King Canute (the one who wanted to control the tide - and failed) circa 1016.

The hanging - zoom in, the detail is quite something.

The first place to begin any exploration is the church.  St Catherines is
full of wonderful, historical stuff - a fifteenth century font, an oak
hammer beam roof with the wheel of St Catherine carved into every
second spandrel, a magnificent painted rood screen and a rather special
crucifixion painting above the nave.

All very standard fayre for one of the hundreds of mediaeval churches
scattered across the region but what did if for me was the Ludham hanging
- a map of the village recently made from a patchwork of scraps of material,
wools, felt, sparkles and the love of the present day villagers who
stitched it all together.

Look - there's the windmill

They even remembered the cows

The detail is quite amazing - fields and pastures, woods and waterways,
tiny cottages exact in every detail, there's even a three dimensional
windmill that stands out at a jaunty angle in gravity-defying majesty.

Milk and two sugars please

Then just a quick hop and a skip saw me over the road and into the
Alfresco Tea Room with it's bone china cups and saucers, sugar tongs,
tea strainers (which I forgot to use), dainty table cloths and best of all
- home made cakes and scones.  

The perfect end to a delightful afternoon playing hookey!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Matthew 19:24

"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of
a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

Breathe in - Willard Wigan MBE knows the camel trick .........

Willard was born in Birmingham in 1957 and almost from birth he had a
penchant for creating tiny things.  When he was five he entered the property
market building affordable homes for ants.  But did he stop there?
No of course not - he made them all hats and shoes too.  Well he would,
wouldn't he?

The four seasons

Things have moved on just a tad from those days and now this fully
fledged micro-sculptor has gone beyond visibility with the naked eye and
has entered the realms of microscopy.  To enable him to work at this
intense magnification Willard slows his heartbeat through meditation
thus reducing hand tremors then with the aid of tweezers he
sculpts between heart beats.

Thank goodness Alice survived

During a recent appearance on The One Show he admitted to accidentally
inhaling Alice in Wonderland when he got too close to his work and
breathed in at the wrong moment.  I bet Alice thought 
"Here we go again ......"

Willard's work has been described at the eighth wonder of the world
and his patrons include HRH Prince Charles, Sir Elton John, Mike Tyson
and Simon Cowell.

Probably Willard's most prestigeous commission to date is the minute
Coronation Crown requested by HRH Queen Elizabeth II to mark her
Diamond Jubilee.  However no mention was ever officially made
of a teeny tiny pack of Welsh Corgis!

Bird on a wire

Now I must get on with my sewing if I can ever manage to thread my
needle.  It seems to be blocked by something.
How wonderful if it was a tiny wee Long Dog.

He does pinheads for a change

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


I'm in a strange sort of mood today which I'm hard pressed
to describe.  But that's what I like about the English language;
all it's twists and turns, subtleties, nuances and shades of meaning.

It must be here somewhere

So many possibilities to consider and options to eliminate in the
quest for that perfect assemblage of vowels and consonants that
says exactly what you're trying to convey
- the right word!

Come back later when I need cheering up

It's raining which I think is partly responsible for my current 
malaise.  I'm certainly not depressed in either the clinical or
over used sense of the word.  The black dog has most certainly
not been shedding his hairs at the foot of my bed - well
not recently anyway.

The Black Isle - feel the tingle?

The rather mournful, keening Celtic music I was listening to on
the way back from the supermarket has also got a lot to answer
for.  Runrig playing An Sabhal Aig Neill is guaranteed to make
the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention but what else
would you expect from a girl who's father hailed from the Black Isle?

Sorry you can't all stay - I want to be alone.

Are you lonely Julia?  No, I don't think so.  Quite frankly I've
got so used to my own company now that anyone else around
full time would only get in the way and clutter up the place.

Hendricks of course but not just now thank you.

Am I coming down with something?  Do I need vitamins,
feeding up, calming down, a quick shot of gin?

What's he laughing at?

Now hang on a minute, I've found the word.  It's wistful.
I am full of wist and vague, regretful longings.  And, what's
more, I think I know why.  When the lines on your face are
still making you smile long after something has ceased to be funny
that's when you suddenly realise that the thing that comes to all
of us has now come to you - I'm getting old!

Have you got any Earl Grey and can I warm my tartan slippers please?

Someone stick on the kettle I need to snap out of this fast.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

I'll knit you one

If asked to sum up Peru in three words and phrases I bet most people
would say something like - Incas, llamas and woolly hats with earflaps.
But if you said Ana, Teresa, Barboza I'd be most impressed.

I don't know whether Ana Teresa ever uttered the words "I'll knit you
one."; they probably don't translate quite like that from her native
Peruvian, but she should have because that's what her art is mostly about.
Ana Teresa knits landscapes.

Although that's not strictly true because knitting is only a part of it.
She weaves dreams, mimics the flow of water and grasses, makes the sky
move, brings the hills alive and all with just yarn, wool and needles.
She also does some rather dark, slightly disturbing stuff but I promise
I won't go there in this episode.

Ana Teresa was born in 1980 in Lima where she lives and works today
having studied painting in the Faculty of Art at the Pontifical Catholic
University.  Her work occupies the space between sculpture and tapestry
and her images break effortlessly free from their constraining embroidery
hoops to tumble naturally down the walls on which they are displayed.

Starting to get a bit spooky.

Her pieces also cross the invisible boundaries into textile are where she
mixes threads with graphite on cloth with consumate ease.  When she
first left university she dabbled in clothes design which is where she learned
about fabrics and their construction and it is this knowledge that she
incorporates into her masterpieces today.

Embroidered photograph

She sees her creations as a fusion of textile art and feminine art through the
mixture of vegetable fibres and synthetic threads with drawings and even
photographs.  A truly unique approach and I'm waiting patiently to see her
marvels up close should she ever decide to exhibit in my neck of the
woods - knitted ones, of course!

Friday, 6 May 2016

I've just gone bonkers

Today I seem to have "hit the blogging wall".
My mind has gone blank, I can think of nothing, zilch, zero to write about 
and the harder I try to find inspiration the more elusive it becomes.

Escape never occurred to me.

Does anyone really care that my three goldfish have vanished into thin air
over night?  There are no signs of forced entry to my tiny back garden, nothing
has been damaged, the fountain (which is precariously balanced on a pile of
bricks in the centre of the pond) is still in place and yet they have somehow
managed to disappear.

Hancer in action

My best guess is that a visiting hancer has swooped in (and out) under cover
of the early morning mist.  Bastard - I hope they gave him indigestion -
and what am I going to do with all that fish food I've just bought?

Is anyone bothered that pigeons have eaten all my curly kale plants; that
starlings have crapped all over my car again; or that I delight in watching the
blackbird take his early morning bath in the trough beside the back door?
Probably not.  The unopened milk has curdled in my fridge again even though
it's still well within date and I don't think I should eat the remaining rollmop
herring which was hidden behind the milk as it's gone a funny colour.  It would
most probably glow in the dark but I have no way of proving this.

In desperation I Googled "hit the wall" as I thought the phrase might have
interesting origins that I could regail you with.  On Runner's World it said
"When an athlete's body stalls mid-run it's called hitting the wall or bonking
and is a bodily form of sedation."  And there are many varieties apparently:

- muscle-glycogen bonk = brain OK, legs gone
- blood-glucose bonk = legs OK, brain wiped
- the everything bonk = dehydration, system meltdown
- little purple men bonk = hallucinations, I have left for another planet

My duck pond last year.

But there's other non-running meanings of "bonk" too such as
- bonk = to hit one's head hard on something.  And, of course, the good old
British term "bonking", a widely acceptable word for having sex which is not
quite so distasteful as "shag" (NB also a type of seabird which leaves me to wonder
if my goldfish had been "shagged" and not "hancered" as I originally thought)
and far less offensive than the Anglo-Saxon word which rhymes with duck
(a pair of which, as you may recall, honeymooned on my pond last year).

The Urban Dictionary offers a slightly different variation on the subject of
wall hitting and a certain degree of bonking may or not enter the equation
and then leave again.  Apparently it's the point at which a girl that used to be hot
is hot no more typically due to advancing age.  All very depressing really and
maybe my generation should now be renamed "the baby bonkers who
have hit the wall."

Anyone fancy a shag?

So there you have it - a fishy story involving various birds, sour milk,
running terms and a jolly good dollop of sex for good measure.
And all that on an empty brain - did you manage to keep up?