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Archive Entries for July 2008

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Thursday July 31, 2008

Books in July

  • Devil Water Anya Seton
    Well - it was in my local library - which says something for the quality of the book, after all this time (please read my previous entry for June). So curiosity has made me read it at last, albeit 30 years too late. And what a riveting and rollicking 18th century tale it is.
    Nicely for the American author, it is interwoven with action in Virginia - and none of this mere invention. Obviously a lot of the story includes the sort of liberties taken by any historical novelist, but this author is known for her research and you can be pretty certain that the factual information included is actually factual and not invented. Even some of the more unlikely intimate thoughts of the characters are found to be taken from their contemporary diaries and writings.
    So all in all, I also would recommend it; a fascinating historical read, as well as a good history lesson. [And with a little more meat than my usual readings, plus the actual length of the book, has meant I have read little else this month.]
  • The Cat that went Bananas Lilian Jackson Braun
    Book-CatBananas.jpg I noticed this series of books in the library and was so amused by the concept of cats and detection that I had to read one. These are mysteries featuring journalist James Qwilleran and his "lovable, clue-sensitive cats". I have to say it was pretty terrible, but there are a few mitigating factors: one is that there is a fairly gently humour being poked at small town East Coast life, which I think I don't understand properly; another is that this is the author's 27th "Cat Who..." mystery, and one reviewer implied that she is no longer at her best, [but I shan't be testing any others].
    Strangely - the cat aspect of the book was more appealing than I had expected. They were not altogether twee, or endowed with powers beyond those of a normal cat. I did find it very entertaining that every person in the book had a cat or cats and they did express something of the owner's personalities, but with rather more than a simplistic superficial analysis.

Posted on July 31, 2008 at 10:07 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Friday July 25, 2008

Serene Sister

Last time the Bourne Quilters had their open day in Emsworth, I resolved to make a doll for a prize in their raffle. That was two years ago, and here I am right up to the wire on my holiday and the day of the exhibition - wild look in the eyes etc - staying up late to finish the doll.
Finally here she is - a Gebrüder Heubach unmarked girl (well she is marked with my own mark signifying a reproduction). Known as Die Schwester (sister) and often paired with a little brother - though not in this case!

Schwester1.jpg Schwester2.jpg

...and before you ask - yes she is supposed to have that whopping great bow on her head.

Schwester3.jpg

First Prize in the raffle is, of course, a lovely quilt, and instead of raffling her, they have decided to run a "guess the name of the doll" competition. I cannot reveal her name - not sure I even know it to be honest.... Winners announced after the day.

Posted on July 25, 2008 at 6:51 PM. Category: Dolls.

Tuesday July 22, 2008

"A nice bit of Wensleydale, eh, Gromit?" - Wallace

My sister is visiting our cousin in Kent - the spinner, Ginny, so I went over to see them both. Much spinning and knitting went on while I was there, though through some oversight, I was craft-free.

I was able to quiz everyone on my little spinning conundrums (!), get lots of advice, and watch and learn from Ginny. To cap it all, Ginny gave me a "spare" Wensleydale fleece** . It is lovely - and she tells me it's not hard to spin - so we will see.

WensleydaleFleece.jpg

I had a lovely day and Ginny worked all her fingers to the bone, preparing a wonderful curry for lunch; it was really quite delicious. I feel a bit like a locust - I fly in and strip the house of food and fleeces....

** I must confess I left the bag of fleece in the car when I got home - so I could forewarn George and gauge his reaction. In fact, he was quite calm about it as it's already washed, so does not have to live in our lobby - and most importantly, does not smell!

Posted on July 22, 2008 at 1:27 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday July 19, 2008

Round and round it goes...

Despite my best efforts, I got a place on the circular weaving workshop. I had a duty to turn up for the day - by some default, I had the tea things.

Here we are starting out:

CircularWeaving1.jpg

Actually I would have been disappointed to miss out - I am sure I would like weaving - I just don't think I can make the investment in time - given my life span is by definition limited to one lifetime. In another life, I shall be a weaver. However, in this one - I will limit myself at least to this rural form of the craft.
Apparently it is yet another dying French rural art - all done with fingers and primitive home-made loom.

Jean tries to maintain control and ensure we work only with our fingers - no needles or shuttles allowed...

CircularWeaving3.jpg

...moments of hysteria and rebellion (over the finger thing)...

CircularWeaving2.jpg

Art samples from the weavers guild:

CircularWeavingCushion_s.jpg CircularWeavingSample1s.jpg CircularWeavingSample2s.jpg
CircularWeavingSample5s.jpg CircularWeavingSample3.sjpg CircularWeavingSample4s.jpg

Posted on July 19, 2008 at 4:47 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Friday July 18, 2008

I ♥ London

It seems so long since the cherries. And we are missing them so much we have already booked our next stay in France - the annual 2 week holiday no less - only a week to go.

I spent several days this week at customers in London, and traveled from the various railways stations and offices by bus. It was moderately efficient, though I noticed a clear difference from when the "congestion charge" first hit London. During those first weeks and months, buses really worked; there was much less traffic in the centre. Since then, the traffic has gradually increased again - now we've all found out how to pay the charge, we are all just doing so, and going into London with our cars when the need arises, just as we did before. They need to invent some new red tape that will have us mystified for a few more months....

However, traveling on the top deck of a bus in the current English summer weather (not too hot; the occasional shower) is just the perfect way to make the most of London during your working day. The tube is more efficient but .... well it's Under Ground isn't it? [the clue's in the name]. Also there isn't a tube right next to our office - and you get to walk along the river from the bus stop.... All so perfect.

This evening I stayed on in London, as Rob and I had booked to go and see "Spamalot" (a "two-for-one" offer - George would have liked to go but has been working late all week and could not make the available dates). It was very funny - nostalgic for us but with some new material and jokes clearly fitted to the latest Arthur.

spamalot.jpg

"I am your king."
"Well I didn't vote for you."
"You don't vote for kings."
"Well how'd you become king then?"
"The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king."
"Listen - strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."

Posted on July 18, 2008 at 11:18 PM. Category: Days Out.

Monday July 7, 2008

Life is...

We have been having a great time at La Gonfrairie. I have spent a lot of time gardening as the weather has been good (for gardening) - warm but not too hot. The wind has been moderate to high; I had to effect repairs to the sun shade - and then we had to take it down altogether as the flimsy little guy ropes kept breaking. However, a lot of our time has been taken with fruit - July being the season.

These were the most surprising of all. I mean, we did know we had cherry trees - and I have seen one or two cherries on them (literally one - or two - we assumed the birds got them).
But this year several of the trees are simply bursting with fruit. [And, one or two have no fruit at all. Our neighbour explained this - and possibly the issue in previous years - that the success depends on the weather when the tree is in blossom - and, of course, they do not all flower at exactly the same time.]
The issue was actually getting to the fruit; there is a lot but way up high, well out of reach, even with a ladder. I asked George if we had "some kind of hook - like an umberella", and he said "yes but ..." - and then produced a really ancient home-made implement that we had inherited with the property; with hindsight it was obviously intended for this very purpose.


So... George wobbled around on top of our ladder while I dangled on a long hooked pole pulling the branches into reach. We dropped the cherries on to a tarpaulin and in no time we had picked 10lbs. I admit a photo of this would have been more fun but it took both of us to complete the manoeuvres.
We were going to pick more cherries, but at the moment I am not sure what to do with them. We have eaten a lot ... but there are also lots of other fruits.

My raspberry bed has developed in leaps and bounds - and has no nasty stinging nettles to deter would-be pickers any more. Day one, I cleared the bed as much as I could - such a shame, as a lot of fruit was already rotting on the canes.


No problem in deciding what to do with these - I immediately made jam - but then I ran out of containers there was so much!
We have also been picking and eating raspberries each day, as every day a new lot ripen...

Prior to finding so much fruit on our own land, (spurred on by Alison's blog), I bought apricots in the market in Brécey, where we went on our way here from the ferry. So I was also bound to make some jam from these... It is such a pretty colour... like the fruit.

Finally, we found that the red and white currants in the goat field were also ripe. I cleared the red currants (about 1lb), and rendered them down to make red currant jelly. The white currants - will have to wait. I am all fruited out. George wants me to make cherry jam. I will think about that today - I have never had sufficient cherries to try that before.

Another excitement yesterday was George and Lloyd seeing a "big white bird" in the garden; I managed to see the last of it flying around the far side of the barn - and it was a barn owl. Lloyd seems to think we do have owls in the barn but I have not seen any sign of them in residence before this.

So today we are preparing to go home - and the rain has finally started - not a bad thing for the garden when we are not actually in residence...

Posted on July 7, 2008 at 10:11 AM. Category: France.