Posted by: christinelaennec | September 17, 2014

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, September 18, 2014, is an extremely important day in Scotland.  Tomorrow Scotland will go to the polls and answer this question:  Should Scotland be an independent country?  Two boxes:  Yes or No.

Window posters for No and for Yes in the Scottish independence referendum, Glasgow, September 2014.

Window posters for No and for Yes in the Scottish independence referendum, Glasgow, September 2014.

People are talking about nothing else, and in fact it has been a topic of conversation in our house and most other people’s houses for months.  The Dafter has been following it all with increasing interest, especially as she will be able to vote.  She is well aware of the gravity of the choice, and of the momentous occasion this is.  A voter turnout of over 80% is predicted. Many windows on our streets have signs in them now.  Regardless of the outcome, the United Kingdom will never be quite the same, as the Westminster government is now offering increased devolved powers to the Scottish parliament if there is a No vote.

So by Friday we will know what direction our country will be taking.

Thanks to everyone for your good wishes, thoughts and prayers about the Dafter’s continuing recovery.  We’re having ups and downs but the general trend is up, very thankfully.

Posted by: christinelaennec | September 7, 2014

The Dafter: progress report

Thank you to everyone who has been following the Dafter’s journey with ME/CFS for the past three years.  I’m pleased to be able to tell you that even with ups and downs, the Mickel Therapy has continued to be a huge help to her recovery.  Since our amazing family holiday on Arran, she has started school part-time.

The Dafter at Lochranza Castle, Isle of Arran, August 2014.

The Dafter at Lochranza Castle, Isle of Arran, August 2014.

She now goes for three hours (registration – break – 1 hour 40 minute lesson – lunch) three mornings a week.  As you might imagine, having spent the past three years mostly in bed and in sometimes near-total isolation from other kids her own age, starting back at school was really overwhelming for her.  Although she still finds it challenging, she’s settled in well.  She really enjoys being with other teenagers, and she enjoys her Art class too.

Her ME/CFS pains have begun to ease up a bit now that she’s been able to move about for a few months.  Do you remember that she did a 12-mile cycle ride on holiday?  I recently did a similar cycle myself, and asked her how on earth she managed it, because I was very sore indeed!  She said that really the muscle pains weren’t much different from a normal day for her, and she has just learned to “push through”.  The fact that I hadn’t even realised how much pain she’s still in shows you how brave she is, and how determined she is to focus on what is good in life rather than on her illness.

She is continuing to work a few hours a week in a charity shop, and she also helps with two small children who live close by.  She’s continuing to go to her own church, and to the youth group there.  She now has a bus pass and is working up to taking the bus by herself.  These may sound like quite ordinary things, but they require a lot of courage and strength.  She’s had one dip where she collapsed on the floor after breakfast and was hardly able to string a sentence together all day long.  But she came back from that, thank heavens.

When I think that four months ago she was spending almost all her time in bed, it is just incredible to me how far she has come in a relatively short space of time.  Back then, every day was a real struggle.  Every day is still a challenge, but there are many more hopeful and happy moments mixed in with moments of anxiety, overwhelmth and/or loneliness.  Being a teenager is hard enough when you have full health; it is no easy task figuring out who you are and where you belong in the world when you’ve been cut off from it for years.  She still spends a lot of her time with me, or with me nearby, but we get along very well together, and I enjoy her company hugely.

The Dafter at family ceilidh in Lochranza, Isle of Arran, August 2014.

The Dafter at family ceilidh in Lochranza, Isle of Arran, August 2014.

I am so very grateful for the healing she’s experienced.  I know there will be people who might read this and be very jealous, as I would have been six months ago myself. There are many people out there who have been ill for years, and tried everything, and are still terribly neglected in their suffering.

I am so proud of the Dafter, of her strength and her giving nature.  I’m staying focused on her being fully recovered and leading exactly the life she wants to lead someday.

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 30, 2014

Sparkly mitts

My summer travelling project, both in Bath and on Arran, was knitting a pair of sparkly mitts.  It all started when my kind friend Roobeedoo gave me a beautiful skein of Natalie Fergie sock yarn with sparkles shot through it.  You might think that this would be really scratchy, but quite the reverse – the yarn is very soft.

One sparkly mitt...

One sparkly mitt…

The pattern is Carthorpe by Rachel Coopey.  It took me a little bit of practice to get the gauge right, and to learn the cable pattern which runs up the mitt both on the back of the hand and on the palm – but it was well worth being patient on both those counts, because once I settled in to the pattern it was a great pleasure to knit them.

It’s almost impossible to really show the sparkles in a photograph:

Two sparkly mitts.

Two sparkly mitts.

One evening on Arran I was waiting for the Dafter and her friend to be ready, knitting under a hallway spotlight, and in that focused light the mitts were sparkling almost violently.  They looked as if they should be worn with a sequinned dress to an award ceremony.  The girls oohed and aahed over them.

Sparkly mitt: palm

Sparkly mitt: palm side with heartsease.

So if you want to treat yourself or a friend to some special yarn, I highly recommend Natalie Fergie’s sparkly yarn.  And these mitts have made our unseasonably cold weather a bit less depressing!

I hope you are all enjoying the weekend.  I seem to recall that there is a major holiday in the USA soon?  Here it is business as usual, although last Monday was a holiday down in England.  The Dafter has been continuing to tackle the challenges of going to school part-time, and has been keeping up her charity work and babysitting.  I will give you another update soon.

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 24, 2014

A dreamlike holiday: the Isle of Arran

Not long ago, our family had one of the best holidays we’ve had in years.  Partly this was due to the fact that the Dafter is recovering so well from her ME/CFS.  And partly it was due to the lovely island we visited, the Isle of Arran.

When I’d booked the holiday in the spring, I found a wheelchair-accessible hotel room with a view, as the Dafter was then only able to be out of bed a few hours total a day.  What a different holiday we had than what we’d originally envisaged!  Instead of the wheelchair, we were able to bring one of the Dafter’s oldest friends along with us.  The girls had a fantastic time together, and to my surprise they wanted to do quite a lot with me and Michael as well.  So we had a lot of laughs in their entertaining company.

The ferry ride is less than an hour, and we had beautiful weather:

The Dafter on the ferry to Arran.  August 2014.

The Dafter on the ferry to Arran. August 2014.

I really enjoyed visiting the garden at Brodick Castle.  I’d wanted to go there for years!  It obviously has a very temperate climate, as there are lots of palm trees, unusual plants from the Canary Islands, and many eucalyptus.  The smell of the eucalyptus trees reminded me of visits to San Francisco when I was a child.

The justifiably famous garden at Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran.  (With me in the way!)  August 2014.

The justifiably famous garden at Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran. (With me in the way!) August 2014.

I’m wearing a cardigan that I copied in the early 1980s from one my mother had made in the 1950s – it’s actually an Elizabeth Zimmerman design for a pullover that my Mom had converted into a cardigan.  I was startled to recognise it in Vogue Knitting when they reprinted the original pattern in the winter 1988/89 issue.  I’ll just mention here that I don’t think there’s a connection between the Isle of Arran in Scotland and the Aran islands off the west coast of Ireland.  It’s from the Irish islands that the famous Aran patterns (such as in my cardigan) come.

While  Michael and I explored the garden, the girls enjoyed playing in the adventure playground.  What a joy to see the Dafter running and jumping!

Scary Dafter at the Adventure Playground, Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran.

Scary Dafter at the Adventure Playground, Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran.

We had beautiful weather, and of course, this being Scotland, some rain as well.  But that didn’t stop us from having fun!  Behind the Dafter is Brodick Bay, with the peak of Goat Fell, and (if you know where to look), Brodick Castle.

"We're Scottish, a bit of rain doesn't bother us!".  Brodick Castle visible below Goat Fell, on the other side of the bay from Brodick.  Isle of Arran, August 2014.

“We’re Scottish, a bit of rain doesn’t bother us!”. Brodick Bay, Isle of Arran, August 2014.

The sunny days were so sunny that certain people, who had not thought to pack sunhats, had to go shopping:

Matching father-daughter sunhats were necessary!

Matching father-daughter sunhats were necessary!

The girls went swimming in the sea, and also did a 12-mile cycle!  One evening we drove up to the village of Lochranza.  There is a beautiful ruined castle there, and the heather was coming into bloom on the hill behind:

The heather beginning to bloom on the hillside behind Lochranza Castle.  Isle of Arran, August 2014.

The heather beginning to bloom on the hillside behind Lochranza Castle. Isle of Arran, August 2014.

The deer in those parts were obviously quite tame.  A herd of them was hanging about the village, with a posse of boys “tracking” them.  The boys would rush out, or ride their bikes around at them, in an attempt to create a stampede.  But it took quite a lot to frighten the deer.

Very tame red deer in the village of Lochranza, Isle of Arran.  August 2014.

Very tame red deer in the village of Lochranza, Isle of Arran. August 2014.

The midges that evening were unbearably thick and biting.  However, we were indoors at a family ceilidh (pron: KAY-lee) in the village hall:

A wonderful family ceilidh at Lochranza Village Hall.  Isle of Arran, August 2014.

A wonderful family ceilidh at Lochranza Village Hall. Isle of Arran, August 2014.

It was really packed with people, of all ages.   There were lots of small children learning the dances with their parents, and near us was one grandfather whose granddaughter danced with him. There were other tourists like us (one French family who were learning all the dances for the first time), but obviously plenty of local folks or perhaps people who come to Arran on a regular basis.  We all loved dancing – the Gay Gordon’s, the Canadian Barn Dance, the Virginia Reel, and other dances.  The Dafter won a prize in the raffle!  We would have stayed longer, but the sensible Dafter remembered that we had to be back at the hotel by 11 pm, so we made a swift exit and I drove very carefully past sheep on the road and the deer as well.  We made it just in time!

Michael enjoyed having some time to do some extra-curricular reading, and kept laughing aloud at Bertie and Jeeves:

Reading PG Wodehouse.

Reading PG Wodehouse.

And you can be sure that I enjoyed having time to knit:

At the beach - knitting, as usual!

At the beach – knitting, as usual!

There was a gorgeous sunset on our last night:

Sunset to the northwest, with Brodick Bay in the foreground.  Notice the mist creeping in!

Sunset to the northwest, with Brodick Bay in the foreground. Notice the mist creeping in!

What I believe is a Fisheries Protection ship was at anchor in the bay:

The fisheries protection vessel (I believe) in Brodick Bay.

The Fisheries Protection vessel (I believe) in Brodick Bay.

Our last morning on the island was the day of their Highland Games, and there was a fantastic festival atmosphere.  An earlier ferry than ours was leaving, and was packed with people singing together and cheering the pipe band practising below:

Pipe band practising, cheered on by the crowds on the ferry.  Isle of Arran, August 2014.

Pipe band practising, cheered on by the crowds on the ferry. Isle of Arran, August 2014.

We got to watch the parade, which included more humble participants such as a man and his dog, and grander sights and sounds, such as the pipe bands:

The Isle of Arran pipe band, Brodick, August 2014.

The Isle of Arran pipe band, Brodick, August 2014.

The Dafter and her friend were both sorry to be leaving, they’d had such a good time:

The Dafter is very sorry to be going home!

The Dafterwas very sorry to be going home!

The crossing back was gorgeous:

Goodbye for now, Arran:  "Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again"

Goodbye for now, Arran: “Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again”

After only about an hour in the car we were back at home, with Tilly very happy to see us.  The Dafter’s friend stayed that last night with us, which extended the holiday for us all.  I was very sorry to see her go home the next day.

But I have a feeling we will be going back to Arran.  You could go there for the day, on the train, with a bicycle.  Hmmm….

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 20, 2014

The end of summer

I remember, years ago, being surprised when a Gaelic speaker referred to the month of August as the autumn.  To my mind, having only left the USA a few summers previously, August still meant broiling hot weather, open swimming pools, the last few weeks of summer vacation until Labor Day at the beginning of September.  Her answer betrayed as much bemusement as my question:  “Because May, June and July are summer!”

The longer I’ve lived in this country (22 years a few days ago), the longer I’ve come to appreciate the truth of this.  May is often warm and summery (even if frosts threaten until late in the month), wildflowers are in bloom everywhere, and the nights are strongly lengthening.  It’s much more like summer than spring.

But it’s mid-August when, in Scotland, you start to notice the nights draw in.  Granted, this means being dismayed that the sunset skies happen at 9:30 pm rather than quarter to midnight.  Schools in Scotland start up again in August – on the 13th this year in Glasgow.  And, even if (unusually) the weather is still warm, there are signs in nature that things are on the turn.  The chestnut trees, one of the first, begin to put on their fall colours.  Other trees, still green, have that windblown look of inside-out leaves that marks the end of the summer.

This year, autumn has announced itself with a real drop in temperatures.  It’s been in the teens/50s day after day, and tonight the weatherman warned some glens may see a frost.  The leaves were already beginning to turn ten days ago:

Leaves already turning, 10 August 2014, Glasgow.

Rowan leaves already turning, 10 August 2014, Glasgow.

We are savouring the last of the long light evenings, and the bounty of the garden:

Sweet peas at 7:15 pm, August 18th 2014, Glasgow.

Sweet peas at 7:15 pm, August 18th 2014, Glasgow.

The weather has been very typically Scottish – cold and wet.  This pipe band from Toronto came well-prepared.  The snare drums were covered by plastic while they played:

The Toronto Police pipe band, 12 August 2014, Glasgow.

The Toronto Police pipe band, 12 August 2014, Glasgow.

The swan babies are getting very grown-up now, and the duck babies are as big as their parents:

The swan and duck families, August 2014, Glasgow.

The swan and duck families, August 2014, Glasgow.

Mama swan has been standing and extending her wings full-length, and all eight of her children have been imitating her.  I wonder when they begin to learn to fly?

I’m wearing fingerless gloves as I type this, because although we’ve had the heat on once in a while in the last week, we’re trying really hard to resist it in August, for heaven’s sake.  Who knows, we may yet have an Indian summer and some warm days to come.

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 17, 2014

The American Museum in Britain

Ever since our dear family friend Diane spent a year studying needlework in London in 1974, I have wanted to go to the American Museum in Bath.  Diane went several times and raved about it.  I wish she could have come with me on my recent trip.  I had a fantastic time, and I also learned a thing or two about my own country.

Outside the front door, there is a covered wagon.  I find it amazing that people crossed the Great Plains, rivers, and mountains in these, with all their earthly goods stowed inside.  My own great-grandmother May‘s family used a covered wagon as late as the 1880s to move slowly westward from Kansas to John Day, Oregon.  This was one of several family stories that I was told by my granny, and didn’t quite believe – until I saw it written in the obituary of one of May’s siblings.

Covered wagon outside the front entrance of the American Museum in Britain.  Bath, August 2014.

Covered wagon outside the front entrance of the American Museum in Britain. Bath, August 2014.

Inside, the museum – whose focus is on the decorative arts in the United States – starts the visitor with an excellent exhibition on the history of the country.  You can see beautiful photographs of Native Americans:

Photograph of Native Americans in the

Photograph of Native Americans

And their stunning artistry:

Native American headdresses and other decorated items.

Native American headdresses and other decorated items.

I was very surprised, and a bit spooked to be honest, to turn the corner and find myself in a New Mexican room – because I’d just been immersed in Willa Cather’s novel Death Comes for the Archbishop, about a pair of priests in 19th-century New Mexico.  The novel talks about the tremendous care that went into making likenesses of the Virgin Mary, and other saints:

Recreated New Mexican room with "santos".

Recreated New Mexican room with “santos”.

The history of slavery was very well explained.  There is a quilt with a chalice pattern, that was almost an Underground Railroad sign for slaves escaping to the North.  And I found this most interesting – a beautiful portrait of a freed slave who clearly was cherished by the family she worked for.  Not only did they pay for an oil painting of her, but they kept the kerchief that she wore when posing for her portrait:

Portrait of a beloved slave, Nancy Miller - and the original kerchief she is wearing in the painting.

Portrait of a beloved slave, Nancy Burns – and the original kerchief she is wearing in the painting.

This also reminded me of a family story passed down by my Granny:  that my great-great-grandmother had been smuggled out of the South in the skirts of a “Black Mammy” during the Civil War.  Again, I had thought this story was probably a bit of Gone-with-the-Wind exaggeration, until my research showed that my great-great-grandmother was born just a few months before the outbreak of war, in a part of Missouri that was brutally riven by tremendous violence on both sides.  Black slaves did often help their owners to escape, and often escaped with them.  I now think it is very possible this family story is true.

My research revealed that so much of what I was told is either confirmed by documentation, or seems very likely once one knows the history of a particular time and place.  I now think that, unlike my rather cynical teenage self (who thankfully wrote down my Granny’s words!), earlier generations treasured such family stories, and were careful to pass them on as faithfully as they could.

Upstairs I found myself in the garden of delights which is the Textile Room.  I felt so overwhelmed by it all, that I stopped to rest in this bay window.  I think the window panes must be very old, to judge from the ripples and bubbles in the glass:

Very wavy glass (hand-blown?) in the windows of the textile room looking out beyond the terrace.

Very wavy glass (hand-blown?) in the windows of the textile room looking out beyond the terrace.

I spent a very happy time looking at quilt after quilt – Amish quilts, Red Cross quilts, Mennonite quilts, appliqued quilts, redwork quilts…  and one cartoon quilt full of embroidered cartoons of mid-19th-century domestic life.

Racks of quilts in the textile room.  Heaven!

Racks of quilts in the textile room. Heaven!  (Patient husband waiting outside?)

There are also some gorgeous rag rugs on display.  Can you believe the one on the right was made in 1833?  It seems so wildly exuberant for what I imagine must have been a straight-laced time:

Rag rugs in the textile room.

Rag rugs in the textile room.

There were also some charming folk art paintings of 19th-century American interiors, featuring quilt-making:

American folk art painting showing a quilt being quilted.

American folk art painting showing two quilts being quilted.

I like the cat lounging under the quilting table!

I really enjoyed the many rooms that showed the interior decor and crafts of a particular time and place in American history.  These rooms span the period between the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620 and the start of the Civil War in 1861.  This girl’s room shows the popular art of stencilling:

Stencilled room, circa 1810 - stencils were more affordable than wallpaper.

Stencilled room, circa 1810 – stencils were more affordable than wallpaper.

I also very much enjoyed the Shaker exhibits:

Shaker exhibit

Shaker exhibit

There was a good explanation of the differences between the Shakers, the Quakers, the Amish and the Pennsylvania Dutch.  For example, the Shakers had no objection to new technology, but they disliked ornamentation; the Amish shun any new technology and also dislike ornamentation.  (There are a very few Shakers left in Maine – I’m not sure how far they have embraced new technology.)  The Quakers, I learned, suffered very badly after the Civil War because of their pacifist stance:  both sides resented them not having fought, so boycotted their businesses, including Quaker furniture making.  I hadn’t known that the highly-decorated Pennsylvania Dutch designs contain symbols that had religious significance to them:

Pennsylvania Dutch room.

Pennsylvania Dutch room.  They were immigrants from Germany, the term “Dutch” being a deformation of “Deutsch”.

Only two of the recreated rooms in the museum use the tall ceilings of the original house.  The rest have lowered ceilings, so that you can see the rooms in proportion.  The very last room “fitted” well into the building; that is a room showing you ornate French-inspired furnishing and decoration in Louisiana, just before the outbreak of the Civil War:

Louisiana bedroom just before the Civil War.

Louisiana bedroom just before the Civil War.  The mosquito netting was not merely decorative, as malaria was a big problem.  You can just see the beautiful dress on a mannequin – it almost matches the wallpaper!  The note on the bed is not a billet doux, but says Do Not Touch.

Outside the house, there is a very pretty courtyard, and a separate room housing Folk Art.  It was really odd for me to see carved carousel horses, weathervanes and those wooden Indians that even in my childhood you would see outside cigar shops in the West…

Banners in the courtyard.

Banners in the courtyard.

The restaurant is in a most beautiful space, the “orangerie” which has been lovingly stencilled:

The beautifully stencilled restaurant in the Orangerie.

The beautifully stencilled restaurant.

I spent a very happy time in the gift shop at the end of my visit.  They stock some lovely things, including jewellery made by Native American craftspeople.

While waiting for the (free) shuttle bus that takes you from the centre of Bath out to the museum, I had made the acquaintance of a very nice woman and her daughter.  Like me, the woman is a full-time carer, and was getting a bit of a break that afternoon.  She’s a regular at the Museum, and gave me an excellent tip, which was not to wait for the very last shuttle bus home, in case it was full.  So I took the next-to-last one back, and was glad that I did, as it was full by the time we left.

I would really like to go back with Michael and the Dafter – it was such a fascinating view of American history, through so many aspects of decorative arts.  Apparently it’s the only museum outside of the United States that showcases American decorative arts, and it does so very well.  Their website is excellent and you can see loads more covering their collections here.

If you’re anywhere near Bath, and fancy a little taste of America in days gone by, I highly recommend the American Museum in Britain.

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 12, 2014

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett

One of my objectives in going to Bath was to see the exhibition “The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett” currently on at the American Museum in Britain.  Kaffe Fassett, in case you aren’t already aware, is a Californian who came to Britain in the 1960s to pursue a career as an artist.  (Kaffe rhymes with safe, by the way.) He has had links with the American Museum, which focuses on American decorative arts, for the past fifty years.  He first came to draw the exhibitions in the museum.  His artistic career soon widened out from drawing and painting, to murals, mosaics, knitwear, quilting, needlepoint, fabric design and all manner of exuberant and crafty uses of colour.  This was a wonderful chance to see his creations close up.

The exhibition is in a separate building from the main museum.  In front there stands an enormous tree decorated with lanterns and pompoms:

Hundreds of pompoms and lanterns on a huge tree in front of the building housing the exhibition.

Hundreds of pompoms and lanterns on a huge tree in front of the building housing the exhibition.  American Museum in Britain, Bath.  August 2014.

The minute you step in the door, you know you are in for a colourful experience:

The shop at the entrance to the exhibition.  The letters spelling out Kaffe's name were made of stuffed fabric!

The shop at the entrance to the exhibition. The letters spelling out Kaffe’s name were made of stuffed fabric.

The first thing to greet you is a kind of facsimile of his studio area:

A Kaffe Fassett "studio area" greets the visitor.

A Kaffe Fassett “studio area” greets the visitor.

The exhibition is organised thematically and by colour.  There is a room showing creations inspired by flowers and vegetables:

Room of vegetable- and flower-inspired designs.

Room of vegetable- and flower-inspired designs.

It was great to be able to get right close up to these needlepoint hangings – to notice that in fact not every single square of the canvas is covered by wool, and yet the effect is so full, almost three-dimensional:

Flower needlepoint wall hanging.

Flower needlepoint wall hanging and needlepoint pillow.

Most things in the exhibit were, understandably, marked “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH”.  However, there was one corner – and it was very busy as so many visitors lingered there – where you are invited to touch.  I’d heard that Kaffe Fassett doesn’t bother too much about making the wrong side of something look as neat as the right side, and I must say that these samples of works-in-progress confirmed that idea.  How tremendously freeing!  Just paint with wool and nevermind the mess on the wrong side!

"PLEASE TOUCH!"

“PLEASE TOUCH!”

There was a wall of quotations:

Quotes wall

Quotes wall

In a section of red colourways, here are some knitted garments above needlepointed cushions.  Years ago I made Michael a waistcoat in the sawtooth pattern of the v-neck jumper below:

Red!

Red!

I really enjoyed seeing the interplay of colours and shapes:  pinwheels and stars in the quilt, pinwheels on the cardigan, stars in the pullover…

Blue!

Blue!

There were display cases showing some of the objects that have inspired his designs.  On the wall behind the case you can see a painting he did of the colourful vases that are inside the case.

Objects which have inspired Kaffe Fassett; insights into the design process.  Behind the case you can see a painting he did of the colourful vases that are inside the case.

Objects which have inspired Kaffe Fassett; insights into the design process.

I was so glad that we were allowed to take (non-flash) photographs inside.  I spent some time there looking at everything, but also photographing everything.  I had that feeling of being slightly giddy and overwhelmed, and unable to really focus properly at the time – and it was comforting to think that I could go back and look at my photos later on.  (Does this happen to anyone else?)

Mosaic pots at the entrance.

Mosaic pots at the entrance.

As I left I noticed the lovely mosaic pots either side of the door.  I remembered being amazed at discovering a gorgeous Kaffe Fassett mosaic on an outside wall of Highland Stoneware in Inverkip.  He’d incorporated broken pieces of their lovely painted stoneware into the mosaic.  I saw it in 2001 – I’m not sure if it has withstood the ravages of Highland winters.

One of the things I like the most about Kaffe Fassett is his generosity in sharing his design principles. There are no injunctions on his patterns saying you cannot sell something made from them at a church bazaar.  (Though I understand very well why designers put such conditions on their work.)  I once heard him speak in Aberdeen, and he said that his fondest wish was to empower people to use his ideas as a starting point for their own creative explorations.  In this respect, he reminds me of Elizabeth Zimmermann, who encouraged knitters to “be the boss of your knitting”.   I was happy to know that he would be pleased that I adapted his colourway for my Hopeful Stripy Shawl.

If you want to find out more about this exhibition, there is a video at the bottom of this page of the American Museum in Britain website.

I hope you’re having a colourful week, one way or another!

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 10, 2014

Bath-ing

Not long ago, I had a little getaway to the city of Bath, in Somerset.  Until a punning friend reminded me, I’d forgotten once being told that in proper English, taking a bath is not bathing (rhymes with scathing).  That means swimming in the sea.  The verb for taking a bath, I was informed, is bath-ing.  My own form of Bath-ing was strictly touristic and the only water involved was some rain.

I left the Dafter and Michael for two nights and three days.  On the first day, I travelled down – this involved three separate trains, all of which were overcrowded and the last of which was delayed.  But I didn’t mind – I had my book and my knitting, and I just loved having time to think.

When I arrived in Bath, what should I find within a few minutes?  A wool shop, and a patchwork shop!  Honest, I didn’t know they were there.  Both were very delightful.

A few steps from the train station, a wool shop and a patchwork shop!  Bath, August 2014.

A few steps from the train station, a wool shop and a patchwork shop! Bath, August 2014.

In Bath you can see a lot of history in a small area.  The Abbey is built on a site where there has been a place of worship for over a thousand years.  It is right next to the Roman Baths:

Bath Abbey and the entrance to the Roman Baths.  August 2014.

Bath Abbey and the entrance to the Roman Baths. August 2014.

I was surprised (in my ignorance) that the legacy of the healing waters in Bath is still very much alive, in the form of the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, which is still going strong today:

Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath.

Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath.

Not far away either are remnants of the medieval walls of Bath:

Part of the medieval walls of Bath.

Part of the medieval walls of Bath.

I was very interested to see that Bath has a sunken park not unlike Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens.  Whereas in Aberdeen there has been a huge fight to keep Union Terrace Gardens out of the hands of the developers (I’m not too sure what’s happening at the moment), in Bath people are charged money to go in!

Parade Gardens, Bath.  August 2014.

Parade Gardens, Bath. August 2014.

I had two objectives during my trip:  firstly, to visit my friend Olga, and secondly, to see the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the American Museum in Britain.  I will be writing separate blog posts about the exhibition and about the museum.  Olga and I had a really good visit.  We met over ten years ago in Aberdeen, at the school gates.  She had just come from Russia, having married a man in the oil industry.  They moved to Bath a few years ago, and we hadn’t seen each other recently, so it was really good to catch up.

I couldn’t believe the size of some of the trees in the public squares in Bath!  Here is one – I think it’s a London plane tree:

My friend Olga standing next to a massive tree!

My friend Olga standing next to a massive tree!

Olga and her family live outside of Bath, in a lovely place further along the River Avon:

Standing on a bridge over the River Avon, in Chippenham.  August 2014.

Standing on a bridge over the River Avon, in Chippenham. August 2014.

The next day Olga and I had a coffee before she went to work, and then I spent the afternoon at the American Museum, which I just loved.  I will show you that soon.  I was back in the city centre by 4 pm, by which time the weather had changed and it was rainy – but no less beautiful.

Bridge over the River Avon in Bath, August 2014.

Bridge over the River Avon in Bath, August 2014.

I took refuge in the beautiful Bridge Cafe.  I believe the window in the photo below is the centre window over the left arch of the bridge in the photo above.

View from the Bridge Cafe (one of the windows in the photo above).

View from the Bridge Cafe (one of the windows in the photo above).

It was very peaceful there, and the cakes were delicious:

Yummy cakes at the Bridge Cafe.

Yummy cakes at the Bridge Cafe.  You can see how narrow the cafe is, and the view out over the river through the windows on the opposite side.

I had another hour of reading and knitting, and practising relaxing on my own.  I did find it rather challenging, during these three days, not to worry too much about the Dafter, which shows the importance of taking a break.  At one point I was the only native English speaker in the cafe.  I noticed that most of the waiters and waitresses in Bath were from other countries – whereas the staff at the American Museum all sounded like Hagrid to my ears, with their Somerset twang!

I met Olga after work, and she took me up to the famous Royal Crescent.  Can you tell that Olga is a dancer?

Olga putting down a plastic bag, next to the Royal Crescent, Bath.  August 2014.

Elegant Olga putting down a plastic bag, next to the Royal Crescent, Bath. August 2014.

It is a very imposing piece of architecture – much bigger than I had imagined it!

The Royal Crescent, Bath.  August 2014.

The Royal Crescent, Bath. August 2014.

The next day it poured, and I headed northwards again on the train.  There was signalling chaos and all sorts of delays and cancellations at the start of my journey, but luckily I was home in about nine hours.  (Where it was still raining hard!)  Having had time to read and knit, and just get a bit of perspective on things, was a huge luxury.  And of course my other two had managed absolutely fine without me!  In fact, father and Dafter had enjoyed some quality time together.  So it was a good trip all round.

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 8, 2014

The garden in summer

Several of you have very kindly said you’d like to see how the garden has fared in its first summer.  It has been an absolute delight to me.  Here are some photos, and I hope not too many words:

end of July

end of July

I would like the flowerbeds to be mostly perennials, with roses and other plants along the fences.  But as the perennials are all very young, this spring I planted a lot of annuals to cover the bare ground.  I particularly like these apricot-coloured nasturtiums.  I was very surprised that the roses, which I planted bare-root in January, flowered.  The five climbing roses have become pretty floppy, but I need to wait a bit longer before they’ve grown enough to tie them against the fence.

nasturtiums and Falstaff rose

nasturtiums and Falstaff rose

I planted nigella (love-in-a-mist) and Angel’s Choir poppies in the semi-circular bed.  And I let some wild daisy plants grow there too – the effect has been so delicate and pretty!

Angel choir poppies, love-in-a-mist and volunteer daisy plant/weed

Angel choir poppies, love-in-a-mist and volunteer daisy plant/weed

Some of the things in the garden are gifts from friends.  Roobeedoo gave me some marigold seeds, and they obviously love the tropical heat of Glasgow.  The plants are now about 2 1/2 feet tall!

Roobeedoo's marigolds.

Roobeedoo’s marigolds.

For years I’ve loved growing sweet peas.  They don’t do well if grown in the same spot every summer, so I have two places where I’m sure they will be happy.  Certainly Spot Number One has produced some excellent flowers.  They didn’t like the sunny spell we had in July, but a few good rains have brought them out:

sweet peas

sweet peas

I have forget-me-nots from two friends, kaffir lilies from another friend, and then this very special lupin.  It’s the descendant of a lupin in my good friend T’s garden in Aberdeen.  About ten years ago I collected seed from it, and then had several lovely lupin-children in my own garden in Aberdeen.  Two summers ago, I collected seeds from them, and crossed my fingers.  The following spring we were on the verge of moving house and so it wasn’t until this March that I planted the seeds.  And look at the result!  I am so surprised it actually flowered this year.

Grandchild of T's lupin in Aberdeen.

Grandchild of T’s lupin in Aberdeen.

Tilly has been coming out into the garden since the beginning of May.  She does enjoy it to some extent, as long as we are right with her, and as long as she doesn’t encounter other cats through the fence at the bottom, or what I think is the smell of the fox.  I take her out every day just before 5:00, which is her tea-time.  Below is a rare instance of her actually relaxing in the garden.  Mostly she is on high alert, checks that I am very nearby, gets huge bush-tails, and generally runs back inside within 10 minutes!

Tilly hiding out

Tilly hiding out

Last winter I read a lovely book by Marta McDowell called Emily Dickinson’s Gardens.  Emily Dickinson particularly loved the native violet, called “Heartsease”.  I ordered seeds to grow it, and to my surprise these have also done very well.  They have flourished and now cover most of the bare earth in the photo below, which I took at the beginning of July.  Their little faces are so sweet!

Heartsease (violets)

Heartsease (violets)

The summerhouse has been a wonderful place to have a cup of tea, and visitors have really enjoyed it as well.  I’m still working on making some bunting but otherwise there’s nothing much to see in the summerhouse at the moment.  Here is the view from it:

view from summerhouse, early July

view from summerhouse, early July

I had hoped to save a lovely pink tea rose from the original garden, but it didn’t survive.  So I replaced it with the only rose bush (as opposed to climbers) in the garden.  It is a lovely pinky-peachy colour and like all David Austin roses, smells divine:

Boscobel rose

Boscobel rose

The only trouble in paradise has come in, ironically, with the new soil.  I think the landscapers were as horrified as I was that the soil they provided had small bits of horsetail (equisitum) in it.  This is a weed that I never remember encountering in Aberdeen, but I see it everywhere here in Glasgow. It can grow through concrete.  At first I literally had nightmares about it being in the garden, but now I realise that I just need to keep a careful watch, and dig it up when I find it.  Most of what I’ve dug up has been very small shoots, and hasn’t returned.  Fingers crossed.

I mentioned that we “planted” earthworms in the new beds.  I still rarely encounter worms in the soil, but as one commenter said, if we keep applying compost and manure, they will be there.  I also planted 150 wildflower plants into the new turf – during a few absolutely freezing and drenching January and February days!  It was worth it:  we now have red and white clover proliferating, chamomile, lady’s bedstraw, two kinds of daisies and other wildflowers that don’t mind being mown short every few weeks.

There are lots and lots of bees in the garden – a new friend has given me a bee identification guide!  And there are some butterflies, mostly white ones.  I will have to get a butterfly identification guide as well.  The birds come in to feed, drink and wash.  And the very last “creature” I want to show you is a funny gift from the Dafter:

A gift from the Dafter

A gift from the Dafter

He keeps an eye on things outside and makes me laugh.

I hope you’re all having a fun summer and enjoying either your own gardens or (even more relaxing) other people’s!

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 4, 2014

Games, friendship and commemoration

A few weeks ago, we weren’t too sure what to expect with the Commonwealth Games coming to town.  Everywhere you went, there were (literally) signs that things were going to be different:

Getting ready before the Commonwealth Games

Getting ready before the Commonwealth Games

The Games finished last night, and we all agreed that we’d thoroughly enjoyed them.  There were a lot more people, and a lot more police, than usual, but it really lived up to its reputation as “the Friendly Games”.

Last weekend we ventured into town, and were amazed at the crowds:

Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014.  Glasgow's Buchanan street with a "Clydesider" in foreground.

Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014. Glasgow’s Buchanan street with a “Clydesider” in foreground.

In the photo above, the man with grey trousers and a red and white shirt is one of the 15,000 Games volunteers, nicknamed the “Clydesiders”.  They were everywhere you went, and were truly friendly, come rain or shine.

Buchanan Street, Glasgow, July 27 2014.

Buchanan Street, Glasgow, July 27 2014.

There was a great family atmosphere, and a lot of cultural events alongside the sporting ones.  Michael succeeded in getting tickets to the squash semi-finals, and that was very interesting.  I don’t know much about squash – it seems to be ping-pong played inside a box, essentially.  But the human drama was fascinating.  The first match we watched was between two women on the England team and were they bad-tempered!  One threw down her raquet and had to be ordered to return to the court.  But the second match, between the best male squash player in India and a man from the England squad, showed true sportsmanship.

Squash semi-finals

Squash semi-finals

They were courteous to each other, and applauded good volleys even when on the losing side.  It was a joy to watch them.

I was also fascinated by how the court had to be wiped down by the volunteers.  I can’t imagine how sweaty it must have been inside!  Sometimes the players would slip, and the cleaning crew would descend to mop things up in the middle of a match:

Squash semi-finals

Squash semi-finals:  cleaning the court

Everyone around us was very knowledgeable about the sport and there were tense moments, with much discussion amongst the spectators, when a player requested a video replay:

Squash semi-finals

Squash semi-finals

Certainly in the matches we saw, the audience responded to good sportsmanship. It was reported that the crowds encouraged members of all the different teams.

I like the photo below – behind the guy on the green phone you can see four young pals walking along together.  One of them has the red cross of St. George painted on his face to show he’s an England supporter; two of the others have Scotland’s colours.  (And the fourth has a marvellous head of ginger hair!)  I think they were all together, and I liked that.

England and Scotland supporters in the crowd:  friends.

England and Scotland supporters in the crowd: friends.

My memories of the Commonwealth Games will be:  policemen wishing me a good morning as I walked to church; helping a woman with a partially-sighted daughter to find parking outside a control zone – she was a farmer’s wife who had driven for hours to come; friendly volunteers at the train stations directing people; an Isle of Man team member doing training runs in our neighbourhood.  Oh and the fact that during the Opening Ceremony people were invited to donate money to Unicef – over £5 million was raised for children in the Commonwealth countries by the end of the Games.

The Closing Ceremony was last night, and tonight we are marking 100 years since the start of the Great War.  The public are being urged to turn out all lights for an hour from 10 to 11 pm, to mark the last hour of peace, and echoing the Secretary of State’s remark 100 years ago, that the “lights will go out all over Europe”.

With all the dreadful conflicts that are going on in the world right this minute, it would be so nice to think that the spirit of the Games will ultimately prevail.  I have no photos of candles so will leave you with another symbol of hope, flowers:

bouquets from the garden, 4 August 2014.

bouquets from the garden, 4 August 2014.

 

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