Thursday, 22 December 2016

Renovating at the Old Forge whilst studiously avoiding Christmas

Window board on left hand side of the lounge
Window board left hand side of lounge

Window board right hand side of lounge
Window board right hand side of lounge
The building industry is crazy busy at the moment, at least on the kind of work MTM is doing. MTM bought a quantity of planked oak for windowboards and a new custom built in stand for our TV and DVD player to go on instead of just balancing it on a table.

Our oak windowboards were started in the summer and have been waiting to get a joiner back to finish them off. The wood for the TV cabinet was stored under our bed and under the dining room for months - not exactly ideal! Finally, Stewie, one of the joiners who works with MTM became available and we had him here for a couple of days a few weeks ago finishing off the windowboards.

Custom built in stand for TV and DVD player
Here is the new TV stand; he's made such a good job of this. We're having two baskets made to fit underneath to store the messy newspaper pile which I use to start the fire in the woodburner and probably keep some DVDs in the other one.

Stewie also fitted out the new linen cupboard with shelves. This cupboard used to be the dark old shower enclosure in the family bathroom. The shower is now going over the bath. All the pipework has been done, just got to finish off the tiling and we can get the plumber back to fit an electric shower. I'll do some pics of that when we're finished in the new year.

In all the spare time I've had since Stewie has been, I've been putting two coats of dye on all the new wood to darken it to medium oak so it matches the fireplace. On top of that, three coats of satin varnish. MTM has been doing the tiling. I've been grateful to be kept busy to stop me thinking about Christmas too much. In common with many people, I always hate how it starts so early these days so I don't normally start thinking about it until at least the middle of December. The house got so dusty with all the sanding down inbetween coats, it's just as well I didn't get a Christmas tree else it would be a right pain getting all the dust off the branches and baubles. It's so late now, I'm not going to bother and haven't put up any decorations either.

This year, I've been feeling even less festive than usual. I usually manage to get into the spirit once I start present buying or get a tree. This year I have had major present buying anxiety. I was quite shocked to realise that because the family have been spreading out visiting mum to help her feel less alone, I haven't seen either of my sisters or my brother and their partners (except one fleeting visit from Sharon) since Dad's funeral in April and so I have no idea what to buy any of them.

We started Amazon Wish Lists a few years ago but none of the awkward buggers have added anything new to them for ages! I realise that following relevations about how these big companies treat their employees that some may not wish to patronise Amazon any more but you can add things from other shops to your list now. Anyway, after stressing about it for a few days, I have found a cunning solution I hope they'll be happy with.

The weather isn't helping much either, being so mild, cloudy and rainy.

My broad beans think it's spring and ....

so does my rhubarb.  I split two small pieces off the rhubarb patch growing in my dad's garden in October and both are thriving! I think I'd feel more Christmassy if it was colder and frostier. Most days in December have just been damp.

Then came the very sad news that Uncle Arthur, dad's surviving brother had died, aged 95. He and Dad were so alike. His funeral is tomorrow, MTM and I are travelling to Norwich for it. Cousin David apologised for the timing but it was that or late January. I agree with David that it's best for the family to have the funeral before Christmas and then they can use the holiday to start to heal and get used to life without him. Like my dad, he remained fit and active through most of his eighties. I feel so sad that we lost both of them in the same year.

I was hoping to see mum before Christmas, I could've gone today with MTM as he is travelling to Haverhill and he could've dropped me off at mum's house on the way. Unfortunately, because it's Christmas, there are no other Sainsbury's delivery slots available so I'm stuck here waiting for the food shopping to arrive. MTM is going to drop the family presents off when he's passing. She's going to the New Forest to be with Sandy for a few days so I know she'll be well taken care of! We're staying here, having Christmas lunch hopefully with my brother, if he's feeling well enough.

To be honest, I just want this awful year to end and for 2017 to be a fresh and happier start. On a brighter note, we had the solstice yesterday, the days start getting longer from today and although I'm not being very Christmasssy myself this year, I do hope all my blog readers have a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New year.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Wrapping up in November

Wrapping up, nope not Christmas presents, I'm never as organised as that! This is ice on the outside of my garden studio it's making pretty patterns but gosh it's cold! 

When I'm making beads in the garden, I'm quite close to my kiln and I can huddle over the flame of my torch so my top half stays quite cosy. My bottom half suffers though. Here are today's wrapping up precautions:

Thick woollen black tights and hand knitted socks.

Jeans over the top of those

Boucle leg warmers

And finally my heavy duty walking boots. Never let it be said that a lampwork bead maker's life isn't glamorous!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

(Almost) a lifetime with a Knit Knax vase

I have placed this vase amongst some of my precious objects: my moon gazing hare (a 50th birthday present from my family), a photograph of our late dog, Guinness who died in 2005 and a pair of hand crafted blue tits bought for me by MTM from a gallery in Cambridge. 

At the other end of this window cill are two empty boxes which used to contain champagne. They were birthday presents from a previous boss, Graham (who I am very fond of). The mock Art Deco tin contains incense sticks which I burn from time to time to mask doggy farts from our current four legged friend, Missy. The carved wooden hands hold juggling balls which one day I am sworn to learn how .... they came with an instruction manual!

But anyway, I have known this orange glass vase for nearly as long as I can remember. My sister, Sandy is two years younger than myself. We lived in a house in a village called Buckden, there used to be a shop there which sold craft stuffs, confectionary and gift items called Knit Knax. We used to be sent there (with a permission note) to buy fags (ten Number 6, please) for my mum and we were sometimes allowed to spend the change on sweeties (on top of our pocket money) as a reward for going. 

On a cold day in the winter of 1971/72. this vase in Knit Knax took our fancy. Sandy and I decided it would make a lovely Mothers Day present. It was seventy nine new pence; we didn't have anywhere near enough money to buy it. The lovely shop owner said she would "put it by for us" and we could pay it off bit by bit. Every week, we would put a few pennies towards it, it took weeks, nay MONTHS, for it to finally be paid off. Every penny of our pocket money and the fag money change was precious because paying for the vase meant fewer sweets for us ... but our mum was worth it. 

The day we took it home and wrapped it up was very special. It has lived in the family home ever since and consequently, I have known it nearly all of my life. Even many years after I left the family home in Buckden, on every visit back to see mum and dad, it made me smile.

We lost dad earlier this year, mum is finding it very hard to live on her own in the old family home, she really misses having company. Her eyesight isn't good enough to occupy herself with reading or doing craft work so she spends the majority of time listening to the radio and trying to watch TV. She lives for phone calls and visits from us, neighbours and friends. Sometimes she has little holidays for a few days at a time at Sandy and Sharon (my other sister)'s houses and she goes out for meals and days out with my sisters and my brother as and when time and weather allow. 

Mum has decided she would prefer to live somewhere smaller in sheltered accommodation, where there are shared facilities like a common room where she can go if she wants company. I am relieved about this as a smaller, more modern flat will have fewer hazards for a partially sighted lady of senior years. In preparation for downsizing, she's sorting out all the things she wants to take with her and giving away some of the others. I was delighted when she gave me the vase (with Sandy's permission) to look after for her. 

As I gaze at it filled with chrysanthemums picked from my garden, I ponder the connections I can make to this vase, there are many. 

It is made from glass very similar to that which I now use to make the glass beads I sell in my Etsy shop. Here's a recent set of my orange renegade beads (now sold). 

It forms a bond with my sister Sandy, she is the sibling I am closest in age to. My brother, David is nine years older and my other sister Sharon is nine years younger so Sandy is the one I shared (and fought) with most. 

It is the same colour as these darker orange pots which my mum also gave me (but some time earlier) which belonged to her mother, my maternal grandmother. My mum can remember these sitting on Big Gran's* dressing table when she was a little girl. These days, they live on my mantlepiece. A love of orange glass obviously runs in the family but Sandy and I had no idea of this when we purchased the vase all those years ago!

*We had two grans, one Big Gran and one Little Gran (our paternal grandmother).

The memory of Knit Knax takes me right back to my childhood and my teenage years, growing up travelling to school on the bus with my friends, Cathy Burton and Lauren Crow, going to their houses to play records, going to the Youth Club and school discos with and generally hanging out as friends do. Their parents are gone now but I remember them very fondly as surrogate aunties and uncles. 

My dad used to hand out the pocket money, I used to get half a crown a week (or two and six). After decimalisation, some of the old coins were still in circulation, I still got half a crown a week but instead of being worth 2 shillings and 6d, it was now twelve a half new pence. 

So this vase embodies a huge chunk of my growing up and also foretells of my future in glass. Is it odd that I think it's a little big magic? 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Getting chilli

Did you see what I did there, chilli instead of chilly? I have to admit it's well and truly autumn now. I spent Sunday clearing away most of the tomato plants from my greenhouse. These are the very last ones along with the first of the chilli peppers. It's years since I had a greenhouse and I confess I'd forgotton what a long growing season they need! The plants are still in the greenhouse, I'm hopeful I will get some more.

I was late sowing everything earlier in the year. With the amount of time we spent with my parents whilst my dad was so ill, gardening got little time assigned to it. 

I've also left the three Marmande plants in the hope that the tomatoes may still ripen, they're looking promising! 

Another thing that lost me time this year was stopping the blimmin' pigeons that kept pulling up seedlings and shredding leaves. I rigged up a complicated protection cage with plastic pots on the ends of canes and netting attached to the sides of the raised beds. It looked a mess and took so long to remove and replace it, I really lost heart with weeding and sowing in the vegetable plot and just got on with the landscaping of the rest of the garden.

As a solution to the pigeons MTM has made me these really great wire mesh cloches to protect my crops. They just lift on and off .... simples! The one above is finished, and is protecting a double row of newly sown broad beans (Aquadulce). The other three below are just awaiting the mesh to be added which I can do myself do next weekend.

I am rather nifty with a stapler gun, must be all those years I spent working in offices! 

Monday, 17 October 2016

First pomegranite of the season!

I had my first pomegranite this year while we were on holiday last week. The village where we stayed (Bamburgh in Northumberland) has an excellent greengrocers and they had my favourite small variety. The ones that are later in the year that the supermarkets do are bigger and not nearly so nice.

We had mixed weather. It was really nice the day the first time we went to reaquaint ourselves with the white stag on White Rock.

Beautiful reflection.

Watching the waves, so peaceful

In the best company (of course!) 

We both got new boots before we went away.

MTM discovered that the security tag was still on his and he'd been walking around all day with it attached to him. Anyone seeing it must've thought we were shoplifters!

Sun was going down when we left the beach.

The moon was even out!

Missy always has a short walk before bedtime. The castle was all lit up! 

It looks quite spooky! 

Ghostly figure on the castle wall

I got a new camera for Christmas, I'm still getting to grips with it ... what does this button do?!!

Another lovely day, walk that started at the Ship Inn. Newton by the Sea

En route to Dustanburgh Castle. 

Stopped and ate our picnic lunch in this nice little suntrap. Missy is hunting crumbs from Mr Carter's steak pies

MTM is just chillin' in the sun.

It's a lovely spot overlooking Dustanburgh Castle ruins.

Clouding over a bit at this stage of the day ...

But by the time we got back to the car, we had well and truly been rained on! Missy was drenched, bless her! 

She didn't seem to mind too much, as long as there was a doggy treat for her in my pocket.

Another nice day, this time starting at Newton by the Sea but going towards Football Hole and Beadnell. 

On Wednesday, we went to Warkworth. It was dry when we set off ...

When the rain started pelting down, we took refuge in the boatman's shelter by the jetty. Can you see the tiny birds' nest in this pic?

We'll sit it out .... I spy with my little eye, something beginning with R ....

Aha! It's stopped :-)

Um no, it hasn't! Time to retreat into the Fenwick Gallery for a look-see.

This is some rendering at the bottom of Bamburgh Castle, they appear to have just gone over the rock probably to stabilise it and stop it deteriorating any further.

The shapes are so organic, we imagined they were faces of all the people thrown in the dungeons of the castle, their souls are trying to get free ...(very creepy thought!)  more spooky stuff at the Castle!

Another rainy day on Thursday so went to Alnwick to do a spot of shopping. Can't pass a yarn shop when you're a crochet and knitting nut can you?! I'd taken my Sue Pinner Carousel Crochet-A-Long project on holiday to do but somehow I left Raspberry behind at home. I was so pleased to find they stocked Stylecraft Batik because I got two more balls from the Wool Shop.

This was the main reason for our visit to Alnwick. We can spend hours in Barter Books, one of the largest second hand bookshops in Europe. Missy is so well behaved, despite it being quite a boring place for her. Here she is thinking "Is dad going to pick up every single book in the place with an aeroplane in it?!"

And here she is, having resigned herself to the fact that the answer to that question is "Yes!"

Seahouses harbour. Looking for the seafood shop to buy some shellfish for dinner.

A new piece of driftwood has appeared on Bamburgh beach since we were last here. A huge piece of tree root

Up to Stag Rock again.

Bamburgh Castle looking very atmostpheric.

Watching the waves again. There were also five cormorants fishing for their dinner. Could've watched them for hours (in fact we did!) They're just little black dots on the pics, really should've taken some long lenses to get some close ups.

This picture is to remind us that when we buy our touring VW camper van, this is the maximum height we can go to stop in the car parks at Bamburgh! 

So that's it for another year, we had a lovely holiday. See you in 2017, Bamburgh!