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Thursday November 23, 2017

Rambert - A Linha Curva


Another visit to Sadlers Wells with ballet Rambert showing off their spectacular abilities in modern dance.

A Linha Curva was probably my favourite of the pieces - "the spirit of Brazilian carnival" recreated by choreographer Itzik Galili, with 28 dancers, four samba percussionists and wonderful lighting. According to the dancers, the latter cued the dancing as there was no lighting operator, and the dance included ad lib exuberant chatter from the dancers.

The second piece was Symbiosis, a showcase for the Rambert dancers' skills applied to a new score by Ilan Eshkeri.
And finally, a kind of darkly humorous piece "Goat". The work is inspired by the music and spirit of Nina Simone, with a selection of songs performed live on stage by jazz singer Nia Lynn. I read the significance of the "goat" thing in the programme but that probably didn't help me much with the piece overall. However even if not all the meaning was apparent to me, it was a very emotional experience.

The sets and lighting were fascinating throughout.

Posted on November 23, 2017 at 11:56 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Tuesday November 21, 2017

Labour of Love


This was a terrific play, and appealed to me on many levels. The plot was interesting (although maybe "just a love story") but it was set against the backdrop of the heyday of New Labour - the life and times of an MP newly elected in the early 90s through to being about ot lose his seat in the recent election. We moved back and forward through the decades, the "times" being set by various multimedia techniques - which for me struck more of an emotional chord than simply setting the scene.
The play had a very sharp and witty script, with seriously good casting - not only Tamsin Grieg and Martin Freeman but also Rachel Stirling. I cannot emphasise enough how well the actors demonstrated their abilities in highly skilled timing. Not for the first time though, we did have a slight problem catching all the words of the said witty script. Since we know and admire the actors for their TV work, we did wonder if they were less used to projecting on stage maybe - or if it was just our declining hearing (which is sadly a given).

Posted on November 21, 2017 at 8:40 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Thursday November 16, 2017

ATP tennis at the O2


It's hat time again... when Helen and I make our pilgrimage to the O2 for the ATP finals - Day 5. And thanks to that thoughtful chap Nadal asking to be excused playing on Sunday - the schedule was altered so that once again we end up on a "Federer Day". And once again we saw him win.
I missed the Bryans.... but you can't have everything.

Posted on November 16, 2017 at 11:53 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Thursday October 12, 2017

The Real Thing


The poster makes this look like some Tennessee Williams play with hot steamy Southern nights filled with passion and longing. The play is rather far from that - and the way I see it is a simplistic view of an intellectual who thought he was above all that love stuff - describing and writing about love with wit and cynicism. During the play we see him made to care.
A nice tale with a moral. However the actual play... words and so on... are of course all wonderful Stoppard - full of wit and cynicism (in a Good Way). The speeches tumble out so fast* that my slow brain needed to be at its sharpest to keep up; in future maybe I need to read the script in advance as one does with Shakespeare!

* Rob was not enjoying it much by the interval and when I asked why said it was the "delivery" which I think was the same problem - but I have also read people complain that the large stage at the Rose give issues with audibility.

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 11:01 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Saturday September 23, 2017

Le Grand Mort


I booked this show with completely neutral expectations as we were up in town for the day (lunch with school friends). And I thought it was totally brilliant. However not for the homophobic, or those with an aversion to the naked male form - nor for Daily Mail readers as the paper predictably gave it a searing review, (being ridiculously rude about Julian Clary, who carries much of the show with great skill in my opinion).
However to my surprise some of the other reviews were less than flattering which must be very disappointing for the cast, even though a lot of the negativity seems to be directed at the script.
Whatever - I thought it was brilliant - and Clary received substantial praise from other esteemed actors - so there we are. I hope we can look forward to his moving forward with his acting career well outside of panto in the future.

Posted on September 23, 2017 at 10:59 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Wednesday September 6, 2017

Proms: Revolutionary Music


I took a notion to got to the Proms so Rob booked us seats in a box - a Grand Evening all round.

  • Igor Stravinsky - Funeral Song (12 mins)
  • Song of the Volga Boatmen (2 mins)
  • Sergei Prokofiev - Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major(22 mins)
  • Benjamin Britten - Russian Funeral(7 mins)
  • Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No 11 in G minor 'The Year 1905'(65 mins)

Alina Ibragimova joins Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a Russian themed programme. The Proms pays tribute to the centenary of the Russian Revolution with Prokofiev's lyrical First Violin Concerto, composed amid the growing turmoil of 1917. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11 harks back to another crisis, the failed revolution of 1905; its brooding cinematic landscapes are punctuated by bright flecks of instrumental colour. The concert opens with Stravinsky's youthful Funeral Song, lost for over a century and given its first modern performance only last year.

Posted on September 6, 2017 at 11:28 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Thursday August 17, 2017

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion


I went to this exhibition at the V&A (with my new friend Elaine - from Canada). The only bad thing was that we did not really leave ourselves enough time to see the other exhibits (jewellery) that I think Elaine would have been more interested in. But there is so much to see...! And she had only the one chance to go .. well.. for this trip anyway.

I'm not really very knowledgeable about fashion and it was very interesting to get to understand the shapes he was known for and how he subsequently influenced later designers. I took away the "make your own" leaflet, but can't see my following it through somehow!



Posted on August 17, 2017 at 11:08 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Monday July 31, 2017

Books in July

  • Waxwings by Jonathan Raban
    BOM-Wawings.jpg My sister lent me this book and I also found it interesting, although the underlying themes she understood from it were somewhat different to my view; however there was a lot there to ponder on. I did find it slightly depressing - but for all the wrong reasons! It wasn't the desperate nature of the lives of the individuals that upset me, but rather, once again, merely the description of architectural vandalism.
    Waxwings themselves (birds) are never mentioned until the last page of the book. The author says: "...it seemed perfect as an analogy for what people were doing with Seattle during the dot-com movement: these birds, as it were, migrating from gold rush to gold rush, getting high, falling out of the tree, waving their feet around, getting up, moving on."

  • Empire of Sand by Robert Ryan [read by Clive Mantle]
    BOM-DeadGirlWalking.jpg Yet another really interesting Robert Ryan adventure story. It's all about T E Lawrence "before". I always felt that, however wonderful the 1962 film with Peter O'Toole, (and it was wonderful), it made it seem as though Lawrence ended up leading a fighting force of Arabs on to an amazing victory by sheer chance. This book - to whatever degree it might be fiction - provides excellent insight into why and how he went on to such legendary exploits. It also provided me with a lot more understanding of the politics of the time in the more easily digestible form of a Boys Own adventure story.

Posted on July 31, 2017 at 10:07 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Friday July 28, 2017

Four shaft weaving II


Our final day.
These are the pictures of the class weavings. Sadly no group photo this year, even though I met some great people - and also met up with some people from last year who were at Cottenham on other courses. We did manage a group outing to a local artist's open house, followed by a meal in one of the many restaurants on offer in Mill Road.


On my way commuting to Cottenham, I passed these great metal sculptures every day, and today - my last opportunity - I stopped to take a photo. apparently they are the work of Tony Hillier, who, astonishingly does not sell his work but will undertake commissions for public places.


And tomorrow in a complete reprise of last year, I am meeting other Guild folk and some of my new weaving friends at Fibre East. [I must not buy a fleece... I must not buy a fleece...]

Posted on July 28, 2017 at 12:47 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Thursday July 27, 2017

Four shaft weaving I


Today it was time to "get weaving". Here is the loom - back and front - with the warp put to rights.


Posted on July 27, 2017 at 12:45 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Tuesday July 25, 2017

Dressing the loom


Having spent yesterday on general introductions and so on, today I got down to working on my loom. I prepared the "warp of many colours" on the frame and then transferred it to the loom.
The photo shows my warp threaded through the raddle. Only 2 "deliberate" mistakes here. One is I casually referred to my loom as having a 16 inch working width and it turns out it has only 15 - which meant my "ends per inch" calculation was all wrong and I had to redo the work with the raddle. The other is that I ended up with the warp wound on the front beam - which is a plausible method of working but was not my intention - so I had to transfer it.

The university has a "Shakespeare Festival" in July and August and I took the notion to go. I had not planned for it to be this evening but looking at the weather (which is lovely but unpredictably showery) I decided to rush off there and then to the Kings Fellows garden - clutching my picnic and an anorak - for "Much Ado about Nothing".
Such a treat.

Posted on July 25, 2017 at 12:30 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Sunday July 23, 2017



Here I am again in Cambridge having signed up for Anna's weaving course (again) - this time with my own agenda for starting a project on my loom - under careful supervision!
After having had the idea last year, I decided I would like to stay in one of the Cambridge colleges - my alter ego kicking in: "a student who accidentally got a job". Cambridge is pretty unfriendly to visitors with cars, but despite that (and with some reservations) I decided to stay right in the city. Tempted by Sidney Sussex, but in the end I went for St Catherines as the accommodation on offer for my dates was on site, and not in a modern student block. My concerns about parking and driving were not unwarranted, (I committed only 2 violations that I'm aware of though the signs seem to make the rules a complete mystery!), but overall parking was a bit easier than I imagined as I was able to leave quite early in the morning and return after 6:30pm.

Catz was great and I would recommend it to anyone. I had a shared bathroom, (which worked out fine), and the room was spacious and secluded with a pleasant view of the garden courtyard; the food was excellent - breakfast was included but an evening meal was also available if required.

Posted on July 23, 2017 at 12:48 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Saturday July 15, 2017

Another year another sock blank II


So here is the benefits of belonging to a Guild: you get a group effort to help you unravel your blank ready for knitting.

Or alternatively:
you are sitting peacefully knitting, surrounded by a comfortable tangle of yarn, when your friends descend on you and take over with frenzied activity - at the end of which you continue peacefully knitting, with 2 balls of wool which are firmly under control.

Posted on July 15, 2017 at 9:57 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Saturday July 8, 2017

Hampton Court Flower Show


George's verdict from lat year ["it wasn't as bad as I expected"] meant he was keen enough to take another trip this year. It did mean we spent more time looking at lawn mowers than I might have done otherwise, but overall was quite fun. I bought rather a lot of lavenders.

The gardens were lovely and of course these seaside gardens were the ones that I loved the most.


This is By the Sea designed by James Callicott; inspired by the coastline of Southend-on-Sea:


... and Fun on Sea:


Both of these gardens were built by young offenders from Southend who are trying to get back on their feet. Aren't they perfectly lovely?

Posted on July 8, 2017 at 4:35 PM. Category: The Garden. | Comments (0)

Saturday July 1, 2017

Wind in the Willows


After the opening chorus I began to think this was a huge mistake. I booked the tickets through a nostalgia for the Wind in the Willows production at the NT in the 1990s and of course it did not bear comparison. However that was my own stupidity as this quickly won me over, being something of a kids pantomime - with the usual clever jokes on two levels for both kids and adults. Rob commented at the interval that it was "utterly charming" - and he was very smitten by the costumes (as was I) since they were not so much dressed as animals but more wearing artistic representations of their characters.

Posted on July 1, 2017 at 10:28 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Their Mortal Remains


Rob and I spent the day in London. He was keen to see the Pink Floyd exhibition - so we were at the V&A for its grand opening of the new entrance in Exhibition Road (and we duly used it). The exhibition itself demonstrated a fantastic use of multimedia - well the subject rather lends itself to it - and I think it's actually worth spending more time on it than we did (which we could as I joined as a member while we were there). Rob however was strangely less impressed; I think it's perhaps because he has been such a fan through all that time of Pink Floyd's existence, he was somehow expecting "more" - when in fact he probably has seen, heard, and done it all already.

Rather excitingly (!) on the way to our next appointment at the London Palladium, we were able to join in with a protest march. It quite took me back.... and I think the same could be said of a number of the other participants - I felt quite at home with them all.


you get the idea...


Posted on July 1, 2017 at 10:15 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Friday June 30, 2017

Books in June

  • First Frost and Fatal Frost by James Henry [read by David Jason]
    James Henry has written four of these prequels, and I have listened to these two - read by David Jason (who else?).
    They seem to follow the pattern of the originals with a number of story threads happening concurrently - which the TV adaptation separated into different episodes, (and in my opinion the quality of the series was considerably the better for it). However although I thought the TV series gave a very faithful representation of the characters, it seems the original author felt it did not depict the gritty realism that he strove for in his writing. I do think that these books are more like the TV series, with a lot of Frost-style humour and less of the gritty... etc - but overall are quite a good pastiche, if that's what the author was aiming for.

    BOM-FirstFrost.jpg BOM-FatalFrost.jpg

  • Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs [read by Katherine Browitz]
    BOM-SpeakingInBones.jpg Enjoyable read - less of a focus on some moral or ecological "issue" of the day and more focus on mystery and suspense. It involves a cold case and all the usual suspects are in play to solve it.
    I was a little perplexed - or even disbelieving - about the premise which is obviously setting up the next book (no spoilers here) but I guess the author needs more scope for the characters.

  • Die Last by Tony Parsons [read by Colin Mace]
    BOM-DieLast.jpg I've enthusiastically been waiting for this latest Max Wolfe story, and it was as good as I had hoped. Again for my personal taste I was less taken with the plot and story - which was as horrid as ever - but now thoroughly enjoying the back story. I hope it continues in a positive way, but I feel Max is a character destined for tragedy and loss, so I can't think how he will cope if he turns out to be happy.

Posted on June 30, 2017 at 9:24 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Sunday June 25, 2017

The way home - Moseley Old Hall

By the time I got to Wolverhampton it was early afternoon (not a cue for a song, sadly, although I'm sure it would have been a great one) and had just come on to rain. My destination was Moseley Old Hall, an Elizabethan farmhouse described as "atmospheric" - which it certainly was.


I think it has rather lovely grounds and gardens but the weather was a bit grim for that kind of thing so I just snapped a couple of photos while waiting to start my tour of the house. This Knot Garden was constructed it in 1962 using a 17th-century design.


The main deal here is priest holes etc and the fact that Charles II hid in the house after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Indeed we started the tour entering the house through the same door used by him on his arrival, and later described in his memories of his escape dictated to Samuel Pepys. Although the tour is very geared towards kids, (as "50 things to do before you're 11 ¾ "), it was seriously one of the most exciting tours I have ever had at an NT property, narrated most passionately by one of the guides.
Rather charmingly Charles seemed to have remembered (and substantially rewarded) all those that helped him escape in this period once he was restored to the throne in 1660. Not necessarily a trait associated with monarchs.

I managed a cream tea (ok just a tea) but I could not linger, as there was quite a way still to go. I paused to buy a few plants from the shop - I like to do this at NT properties when they are on offer - including a myrtle, a plant I never remember having seen before. Jennie tells me it is tender, which might be why, but it seems subsequently to have done quite well in its new pot.

Posted on June 25, 2017 at 11:09 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

The way home - Keld

After 2 full days at Woolfest I was able to set off very early in the morning and take in 2 National Trust properties instead of one. The first was Keld Chapel and relatively close at hand (Shap - 40 miles away).


Getting there was interesting - I followed the satnav using the postcode provided and ended up in a little close of houses in Shap (modern updates on stone cottages). I felt sure the chapel would be nestled in somewhere but I could not find it and my car was starting to be stared at ("you don't live here do you?"); anyway instead of sensibly asking someone (too embarrassed), I found that the NT website has google maps instructions, which took me right there. My original position may well have been close as the crow flies but was miles away by road. And what a road it was. Single track with high stone walls either side so totally trusting to luck not to meet anyone coming the other way.
Having got there though - the village was lovely (you can see mini in the picture parked just down the road - where it was wider!). Entry to the chapel was by means of a key hanging on the wall of a local cottage:


And once inside - it was so beautifully cool and peaceful. The interior is rustic, and the crumbling structure had left a thin deposit of fragments on the pews. This is not a sign of neglect, just what happens in old rustic buildings that have been put to varying uses over the centuries.


Here is a little bit of the history taken from other sites:
The date of construction of Keld Chapel is unknown; it may have been a medieval chantry chapel of the nearby Shap Premonstratensian Abbey or it may have been a simple chapel of ease with no connection to the abbey. The first documentary evidence referring to Keld Chapel records a christening here in 1672. Towards the end of the 17th century the chapel ceased to be used for religious purposes and was converted into a house. In 1897 the building was repaired and during the 20th century it was passed to the National Trust. You can read a very interesting academic paper which really concludes that the only evidence it was ever a chapel at all is in the persistence of the name.

There was a lot of interesting local information on a noticeboard inside about the history of the chapel, and attempts to have it pulled down, (letters to Parliament and so on). Given that it was saved, these are very amusing. When it had ceased to be inhabited in the 1800s, Lord Lonsdale wanted the road to be widened enough to take a hay wagons through, and dismissed the claims that the building had any historic significance as a chapel. It's quite ironic looking at the village now. The road through it "goes nowhere" (more on that in a moment) and the requirement for road widening seems to have evaporated.

Being somewhat loathe to go back down the single track road the way I had come (and did I mention the bicycle race?) I decided to explore the road out of the village the other way. The satnav had it as a possibility but there are many notices saying that the road is unsafe (crevices and weak bridge). I was suspicious that it was the large company that owns the land trying to stop people using the road but in the end I was too nervous to go on very far (even when an SUV passed me coming from the opposite direction).

Yesterday I nipped into Keswick in the morning on a mission to visit the Herdy shop, and get more petrol. I decided to go over the hills at the mercy of the satnav - and it was all going splendidly - beautiful weather and scenery - until I came to a sign out of the blue saying "road closed". As above - loathe to just retrace my steps, I struck off in another direction which led me on a very winding road through 2 gates (I did not know that was even possible on public roads!) and using up a lot of petrol with very little progress towards civilisation - and leaving me panicking the entire journey about being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
So these previous adventures were quite enough for me, and I set off back to the motorway as I had arrived.

Posted on June 25, 2017 at 11:06 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Saturday June 24, 2017

Woolfest - an extra day in Paradise


Due to a rather major misunderstanding - which I am not complaining so much about as it saved me a good deal of money in the long run - I booked myself an extra night in the hotel (lucky for me they had had a cancellation). So I had the whole day in which to look around in a more relaxed manner. In consequence I took in a few more demonstrations that normal.


While I am not interested in taking up tapestry weaving (laborious and too much like art as opposed to craft), if I were in any way undecided, this would have certainly inspired me to begin right away. The work produced by Eta and Nico (Woolley Wonders) is overwhelming. They incorporate unspun fleece (which may be applied as locks or whole chunks) dyed in the most scrumptious of colours - as well as other "found" materials such as shells. Just... lovely...

I also watched Steve Wilson demonstrating his speedy method of creating a warp, using a home-made kind of lazy kate on a rather large scale. He is obviously very creative and was very helpful in giving advice on making a similar device. He went down a storm with the audience of serious weavers - for myself I fell it might be a lot clearer to me after I attend my weaving course in July and learn more about warping.


Back at the hotel, I spent my evening with Nancy - an American academic with very liberal views (luckily) so it was very stimulating company for me - not to mention the knitting.... Last year it was all about Brexit, and this year all about the US president.

Posted on June 24, 2017 at 11:04 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Friday June 23, 2017


Guess where I am.
OK I'll give you a clue:


ok ok - so you read it in the title.... and here we are again! How I love being in Cumbria - and for once the weather is really lovely.

Today I spent the time shopping and watching the familiar Rare Breeds Parade. Peter Titley was as terrific as ever - and although I see this every year, it is always different as there are different animals in attendance. I think this was Terry - an Exmoor Horn.


There was a notice on Terry's pen stating: Terry is a lovely ram but may be a bit grumpy because of the weather.... All I can say is - can't we all be?

My shopping was a little lacklustre - basically I have all the fluff I can handle - but I loved the stalls and craftsmanship on display.


This chess set (above) really caught my eye - by Ellie Langley of Felt with Attitude.
And this collaborative wall hanging interested me as it it was inspired by the story of Guildford Blue, the town being known in middle ages for this fine woolen textile dyed with woad.


And just in case any of us gets overexcited in the fleece market - I noticed there is a handy place to calm down.


Posted on June 23, 2017 at 10:42 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Tuesday June 6, 2017

Gone to a place where there's a lot of cheese


Posted on June 6, 2017 at 5:56 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Friday June 2, 2017

A heavy heart


Since the announcement about Sir Roger the "heavy heart" has been much used. For all that, I use it here as it exactly describes how I feel - not devastated or truly affected, as I did not know the man personally, but... well... sad.
By all accounts he was a lovely unaffected man and that is just what we would like to believe of our icons.

I always knew of his modelling career and as this is a "knitting" site I am marking it here. I am only sorry that he was made to feel uncomfortable about it in the 1960s; I cannot quite convey how deeply unfashionable knitting was in the 1960s - especially among the hip and groovy fraternity. But he lived with it - and now it takes on much less significance when compared with his subsequent achievements.

He was always sartorially elegant - in The Saint his wardrobe is credited as being Mr Moore's own, and in The Persuaders, Brett Sinclair's wardrobe designed by Roger Moore. This idea appeals to me - see this fun blog.

As a final note - what strikes me about these early photo shoots - with RM in his early twenties - is how much fun they seem to be having. I am not being naive here - I know that modelling is not as glamorous as the pictures - especially in that less technological era - it would have been hard work and you spent long hours stuck in implausible poses and inclement weather (windy by the looks of it!) trying to look comfortable and natural. But somehow they seem overall to be having a laugh and the joy of it shines through. A fitting memorial alongside the rest of the man who went on to become so very famous, and who dedicated himself in his later years to working so hard for good causes.


Posted on June 2, 2017 at 8:06 AM. Category: Knitting. | Comments (0)

Wednesday May 31, 2017

Books in May

  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
    BOM-MagpieMurders.jpg As I will tell anyone who will listen, Anthony Horowitz can do no wrong in my eyes, but I think even on a more objective basis this is an excellent book.
    It is a "clever" book, which may not appeal to some. And given its slight surreal quality, I was concerned that it might veer off to become totally surreal and have an unresolved ending. However, (if this is not a spoiler), take it from me that this is a genuine mystery thriller with all that implies - in case you are in any way like me, and that helps reassure you at all!

  • In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson
    BOM-InADrySeason.jpg I loved this book.
    It has a lot of those ingredients that would especially appeal to me. It is a "cold case" mystery as the body that appears when a reservoir dries out is many years old. So it has the fascination of the idea of the drowned village reappearing as well the reconstruction of a crime set during and after the war.
    It is also the book in which Annie Cabbot makes her first appearance.

  • The Murder of Mary Russell [and The Marriage of Mary Russell ]
    by Laurie R King

    BOM-TheMurderOfMaryRussell.jpg I have a lot of - maybe conflicting - opinions about this book.
    It is mainly about Mrs Hudson rather than Mary Russell (or Holmes) and the way the author chose to develop this character is not at all pleasing to me. I can see why the author took this route - it is an excellent well-written story which is interesting and thought provoking. I just can't see (or don't want to see) Mrs Hudson like that. More importantly - where will/can she take the characters from there?
    The Marriage of Mary Russell is a short story released as a "Kindle Single" - also with an audio version. It's quite fun.

Posted on May 31, 2017 at 10:46 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Thursday May 25, 2017

Wetlands and Ham House

We did a morning trip to the Wetlands in Barnes so Rob could yet again try and see the Kingfishers - but no dice. We did see a lot of other fine birds though, and had a chat with one of the volunteers who had a lot of interesting information to impart.

We then went on to visit Ham House.


Rob had been there dancing with the Morris men a week or two ago and was so impressed we decided to go and see the house properly. It was fascinating for me, as I have recently taken more interest in the Tudors and not bothered so much about the English Civil War and subsequent Restoration.
The house was originally built in 1610 and then much altered and improved by William Murray, who received it as a gift from Charles I, with whom he was a close friend and associate. However it was his daughter Elizabeth who is the most prominent in the overall story, as throughout the Parliamentarian years she kept good relations with Cromwell whilst also belonging to the Sealed Knot, and secretly supporting Charles II in France.
The house remained in the hands of the family for 300 years with the NT acquiring it in 1948, which is how it has remained so wonderfully preserved.

We took the tour of the Queen's apartments which again totally fascinated me as it appeared to have the original (400 year old or so) textiles, which were indescribably vivid as they were not so exposed to sunlight.
It seems amazing to me that I spent so many years working in Richmond and never visited before.

Posted on May 25, 2017 at 1:09 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Monday May 1, 2017

Craft room


Here is a "before" picture. I have finally set about working on the next and hopefully final part of the craft room - after which I have the long task of actually clearing it out (!). However first things first. I have to complete the wallpapering (having finally decided to carry on with it along the full length of the walls), and do a little painting, after which the carpenters and plumber are due to install the sink.


Posted on May 1, 2017 at 8:10 AM. Category: Crafts. | Comments (0)

Sunday April 30, 2017

Books in April

  • Garment of Shadows, Dreaming Spies by Laurie R King
    It's a real pleasure to discover you are several books "behind" in a series, especially when it is one I enjoy as much as these.
    In Garment of Shadows we pick up after the plot of Pirate King and still in Morocco. I mentioned that the latter was not my favourite, but this I liked a little better as it covered interesting historical events about which I knew nothing previously.
    Dreaming Spies is quite different in that the events take place out of chronological sequence, and are set in Oxford and Japan. I think it is very wise for the author not to tie herself to a series of books in a chronological sequence; I noted with Steven Saylor that he rapidly ran out of a plausible lifetime for his main character - and has now reverted to writing about his characters earlier history - and Lindsey Davis has done (what I thought Saylor might do) and continued the chronology with the children of her original hero. Both of these ploys are only moderately successful (in my opinion - obviously).

    BOM-GarmentOfShadows.jpg BOM-DreamingSpies.jpg

  • Paul Temple and the Conrad Case by Francis Durbridge BOM-SulivanMystery.jpg
    Another case that takes Paul and Steve to a new exotic location, (Bavaria), to help find Betty Conrad. The main clue seems centre around a cocktail stick with which the plot is continually being... well... skewered. Despite that - excellent fun.
    This is back to the original 1950s recordings starring Peter Coke and Majorie Westbury, who are not only highly skilled actors but assuredly the best Paul and Steve.

Posted on April 30, 2017 at 9:29 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Saturday April 15, 2017

France at Easter


A lovely Easter in France - and the last opportunity to see the Wisteria rampant all over the front of the cottage.
The cherry blossom as lovely as ever at this time of year.


Posted on April 15, 2017 at 8:16 AM. Category: France. | Comments (0)

Thursday April 13, 2017

Flying Scotsman at the Bluebell


So Flying Scotsman snuck in overnight on Tuesday, where a few dedicated souls stayed up to see it - and we were there bright and early to watch the pipe band for the first official journey - and then later on for our trip.


What a fantastic day.

Posted on April 13, 2017 at 8:11 AM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Tuesday April 4, 2017

Rosenkranz and Guildenstern


It was a bit of a trauma getting here (realising I was booked a hotel in Stratford on business when I had actually got theatre tickets in London) but well worth the effort. As the reviewers all tell us - it's 50 years since it was first produced and stands up excellently - almost "despite" all the hype. A lot of the publicity seems to focus on Daniel Radcliffe as Rosenkranz (probably), but Joshua McGuire's Guildenstern (probably) is no second fiddle, and David Haig is terrific as the stagey "Player".

Now it's time to prepare myself to be up at the crack of dawn to drive back to Warwick.

Posted on April 4, 2017 at 11:25 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Friday March 31, 2017

Books in March

  • Dry Bones That Dream; Innocent Graves; Dead Right by Peter Robinson
    [read by James Langton or Neil Pearson]
    The next 3 in the series (7, 8, and 9), which I obtained as audio books. The narrator varies depending on the edition - and "Dead Right" is also published under the title "Blood at the Root".
    BOM-DryBoneThatDream.jpg BOM-InnocentGraves.jpg BOM-DeadRight.jpg

  • Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh [read by Wanda McCaddon]
    BOM-DeathAtTheBar.jpg Now completely in the mood for Inspector Alleyn, I listened to this novel (book 9). It is one of the stories used for the television series The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries in the 1990s which starred Patrick Malahide in the title role, ably assisted by William Simons as Brer Fox.
    Malahide is wonderful and has appeared in many roles too countless to mention - Simons however seems to have made his latter career as a series of stolid and dependable policemen - nonetheless wonderful for all that.

Posted on March 31, 2017 at 9:28 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Thursday March 30, 2017

A short break


Over to France for a few days prior to the planned commencement of the "great works". Our planning permission has now been accepted so hopefully we can soon start a foundation for the small glass room to replace the workman's shelter seen on the right of the cottage.
A cheering patch of honesty - which grows just anywhere and everywhere - next to our newly-created "Back Door" step.


Posted on March 30, 2017 at 8:15 AM. Category: France. | Comments (0)

Friday March 17, 2017



We spent the day at Ditchling as George noticed the Craft museum there had an exhibition on natural dyeing around Ethel Mairet's legacy. It's a relatively small space - with small displays - but has a working remit to revive old crafts as part of a living museum, with dedicated work and library spaces. The workshops are not limited to dyeing, weaving, and knitting but other crafts - stemming from the Guild founded by Eric Gill, Hilary Pepler and Desmond Chute in the 1920s. This artistic community experimented with communal life and self-sufficiency and thus many artists were drawn to Ditchling. The Guild continued until 1989, at which time its affairs were wound up and its workshops demolished.
The museum itself was founded in 1985, but underwent a massive transformation from 2007, finally reopening in 2013 with much praise for its architectural design.

I was fascinated by the displays of weaving from the 1950s, including curtain designs and samples for the Festival Hall, and a cloak used in Ben Hur (with photos of Chuck himself sporting it in the film).


Ditchling has a great "tea room" where we had lunch; my sausage sandwich was so impressive that we followed directions to the farm to buy those very sausages to take home. The farm included a small collection of fancy fowl:


Next we went up (to) Ditchling Beacon (had to be done) where I managed to squeeze down an ice cream - purchased from an optimistic but lonely man in a van perched on the summit - and despite the bitingly cold wind.


Finally we went to see "Jack and Jill" - a pair of windmills which enjoyed a high profile reputation in my youth to the extent that whenever any windmill was on the horizon in Sussex, someone would say knowledgeably "that's Jack and Jill" (yes, even to solitary ones...). Disappointingly it (Jill) only opens on Sundays. You can see Jack (privately owned) in the distance minus his sails.


Posted on March 17, 2017 at 7:30 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Saturday March 11, 2017



Each year at the Guild, we collect a charm. So I made them into a bracelet.

Posted on March 11, 2017 at 7:29 AM. Category: Crafts. | Comments (0)

Friday March 10, 2017



Another outing with Rob to St John's Church Bethnal Green. Two of the three acts feature on Rob's choice collection for 2016. They were excellent - the audience was .... eclectic.... I am now quoting from their flyer:

Coven is a collection of three of the British folk scene's finest, most formidable and forthright female acts, taking to the stage to celebrate International Women's Day on a tour of unforgettable concerts. The exquisitely harmonic songwriting duo and BBC 6 Music favourites O'Hooley & Tidow will be joined by the enchanting BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Finalists Lady Maisery and the irrepressible Leicester songwriter, activist and performer Grace Petrie. A rare opportunity to experience these thought provoking, heartfelt, entertaining and enthralling women performing individually and collectively on one stage.

Posted on March 10, 2017 at 3:20 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Tuesday February 28, 2017

Books in February

  • Past reason Hated and Wednesday's Child by Peter Robinson
    [read by James Langton]
    Mini-break over - the next two books in the series which I found as audio books to borrow from the library. A story of sexual jealousy (leading to murder), and a child's abduction (leading to murder).
    BOM-PastReasonHated.jpg BOM-WednesdaysChild.jpg

  • Annika Stranded - Series 3
    AnnikaStranded3.jpg I have to say I love these stories, excellently - I would say narrated but in truth they are very much a part-acted one man show - by Nicola Walker. I think any woman can empathise with a very realistic portrayal of her working life balance and her resulting social life.
    1. False Signals: A plane crash from 1972 seems to have a bearing on a murder inquiry.
    2. Forty Words: In Bergen, Annika investigates a strange case involving a submarine.
    3. Traffic: Annika wakes up after some serious partying to find herself in the boot of a car.
    4. Vertigo: Annika witnesses someone being pushed from the top of a rock face.

  • The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries:
    JeremyClyde.jpg Jeremy Clyde (isn't he lovely?) stars as Chief Inspector Alleyn in these BBC Radio dramatisations of two of Ngaio Marsh's much-loved mysteries.
    A Man Lay Dead
    A Man Lay Dead A game of 'murders' at Sir Hubert Handesley's country house party becomes far too realistic for anyone's liking. First a guest arrives with a dangerously lethal dagger and then, when the gong sounds to announce the start of the game, the victim plays dead in a very convincing manner.
    I recently watched the TV adaptation of this story starring Patrick Malahide - and (like many of Agatha Christie's plots), it's all credit to them that they managed the logistics to enact the sequence of events as described!
    A Surfeit of Lampreys
    Like all good aristocrats, the Lampreys are charming but penniless - so a visit from the wealthy head of their family is greatly anticipated. However, their Uncle Gabriel isn't persuaded to part with his money and a row ensues. When a body is found in the lift leading to the Lampreys' flat, Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn finds a family immersed in hidden secrets and intrigue.

    A comment from another listener "Dated, implausible and formulaic".
    A comment from me: "... and utterly charming."

Posted on February 28, 2017 at 9:28 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Wednesday February 22, 2017

The Miser


Once again off to the Richmond Theatre to see Gryff Rhys Jones in the Molière role - lots of fun.

Posted on February 22, 2017 at 11:02 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Sunday February 19, 2017

Unravel 2017


As we had the class on yesterday, I went to Unravel on today, and took Kate and Jill with me. Neither of them had been before so it was quite fun to be a (small) group. I was inspired by the sock designs from Coop Knits, and could not resist more fluff from John Arbon


Posted on February 19, 2017 at 6:06 PM. Category: Knitting. | Comments (0)

Saturday February 18, 2017

Another year another sock blank


This is meant to show everyone happily at work on their blanks - but it has turned out rather like forgetting to take a picture of the celebration dinner until after the food is is all eaten up! Below we have all the blanks drying in the sunshine - just to prove there really was a class.


Posted on February 18, 2017 at 5:04 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Friday February 10, 2017

Dydd Miwsig Cymru: 9Bach at Kings Place


A suitable way to celebrate Welsh Language Music Day - an evening's entertainment entirely in Welsh.... with lots of translations for us non-Welsh speakers though. Learnt a new word, which turns out to be the title of 9Bach's album: Anian.

Posted on February 10, 2017 at 11:50 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Sunday February 5, 2017

It's all in the preparation....


As I have not touched the dyes since we did the last class - which turns out to be 5 years ago (!) - I dyed two blanks at home, using steaming to fix instead of a microwave. Last time we used pure merino, and so I also wanted to check out the 25% nylon blend. I used the dyes I had already mixed up from back then and astonishingly it all worked fine; some of the solutions had gone a little granular. [Nevertheless, I shall be mixing fresh dye for the class].


I took both blanks and knitted the start of a sample sock for demonstration purposes. What interested me mostly was that I thought I liked the blue blank the best. I thought I was getting tired once I got to do the red one and rather rushed it. However, for the resulting sock, I think the red one is much nicer. I think it is the very bright blue, and the way it interacts with the white that is the mistake in the colour combination.


Posted on February 5, 2017 at 6:53 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Wednesday February 1, 2017

Soane Museum


My sister suggested another 'birthday treat' and we visited Sir John Soane's House - now a museum. He was one of those interesting eccentrics who collected wonderful items - some exceedingly rare - such that after his death his property was retained, restored and expanded to make the museum.
It was most famous to me for housing the Rakes Progress - but it seems you have to be on a guided tour in order to be allowed to see it - and the timing or even existence of the tours seemed to be akin to the description of the eponymous Three Men (not yet in the boat) trying to find the right train out of Waterloo - so we did not... (see it), though the 4 paintings of the Humours of an Election were on display. Several items seemed to be absent from the collection at the time we visited - but then entry is free so one can hardly complain.

We then went for lunch in China Town, which was great, although sadly the restaurant we had planned to visit had disappeared from the area in the 20 years since we last went there (!).

Posted on February 1, 2017 at 10:58 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Tuesday January 31, 2017

Books in January

  • The China Thrillers by Peter May [read by Simon Vance]
    There was a change of narrator for the next (and final) three books.
    There are many comments on line from readers constantly asking Peter May to write more books about Margaret and Li Yan, and I can see why. Since he was not expecting to end the series after 6 books, the characters remain with a story still to be told.
    He writes about how the books came about here, and in the comments he points out that these books were written over 10 years ago and summarises the situation:
    All these years later I have no appetite for going back to China and updating myself on the changes that have taken place since the series concluded. I was witness to an intense period of change in which the old and new Chinas were still doing battle with each other. I think the new China has won that particular scrap, and much that made the old China fascinating has gone. Like the country itself, I have moved on.
    For all that, a short story The Ghost Marriage written for a French magazine has recently been published in English, and follows the characters later on in their history.

    BOM-Snakehead.jpg BOM-TheRunner.jpg BOM-ChineseWhispers.jpg

  • Dr Finlay's Casebook by A J Cronin BOM-DrFinlaysCasebook.jpg
    A collection of the famous stories set in and around the fictional Scottish town of Levenford and village of Tannochbrae during the inter-war years. The stories are heart-warming, funny and touching, albeit obviously rather dated and non-PC.
    Dr Finlay's Casebook is an omnibus including Adventures of a Black Bag and Dr Finlay of Tannochbrae.
    One thing that I did notice was that some of the stories did not seem to be self-consistent, especially with respect to Finlay's love life. That may just be as it is (like Sherlock Holmes stories) or it may be that being collections of short stories they are not presented in the right chronological order.

  • Paul Temple and the Sullivan Mystery by Francis Durbridge BOM-SulivanMystery.jpg
    A thrilling case that takes Paul and Steve to exotic Egypt,
    This is a "new" (2006) eight-part BBC recording of a lost archive Paul Temple mystery, starring Crawford Logan and Gerda Stevenson.

    They inhabit a sophisticated, well-dressed world of chilled cocktails and fast cars, where the women are chic and the men still wear cravats. And where Sir Graham Forbes of Scotland Yard always needs Paul’s help with a tricky case. [By Timothy!].

Posted on January 31, 2017 at 9:27 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Saturday January 28, 2017



So this was a treat I booked for myself - an afternoon of craft learning macrame - which I have longed to try ever since 1976. It's actually much simpler than I thought - in so far as, like knitting, you only have to learn 2 stitches and you know the whole thing (in theory!).
The class was very friendly - run by the London Craft Club in a space provided at the Museum of London - and this was the result (a small thing but mine own.... YES it is supposed to look like that...):


This was the 1970s magazine article that inspired me all those years ago, but sadly I had very little imagination at that time so failed to just go ahead and "do it".


I finished my excellent day by going out with a team of 5 fellow quizzers to a fish and chip supper and charity quiz run by the Tadworth Children's Trust.
We did not win... :o(

Posted on January 28, 2017 at 10:55 AM. Category: Red Letter Days. | Comments (0)

Sunday January 22, 2017



It seems I am set fair for a week of birthday treats - and this is the first.

Rob has joined the Wetlands Trust and had such a great time he thought I needed to go too - I thought this was a trip to the Docklands area but in fact it is quite local in Barnes. One key thing was to go "while the Lego birds were still on display" which resulted in some photos that look at first glance to be very pixelated until you remember what they are.


I saw several life birds - and after being shown a Jack Snipe through a spotting scope from one hide, I proudly managed to find one (or "the same one") myself through my own glasses from another. We saw a couple of standard Snipe, which I have to admit is also a life bird. There were 2 bitterns but photos are of the "take my word for it that's a bittern" variety.

The Wetlands also boast a pair of otters from Asia which are a great attraction at feeding time (and being from warmer climes, really did not like putting their paws in the water!).

We had to co-ordinate the day out with the weather, and we were lucky to have a really fine day - cold but very sunny and most importantly without the bitter wind.

We rounded the day out by eating pasta at Jamie's in Richmond.

Posted on January 22, 2017 at 11:02 AM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)