Monday 29 September 2008

Betwixt and Between

I seem to be between seasons at the moment. Its official autumn now and I've been trying to keep the flowers in the garden going a bit longer by dead heading and generally cutting back. Really there's not much return for all this effort, a few feeble blooms, nothing like the riot of colour in high summer. I'm also revamping a couple of beds and have been digging out some thuggish plants that have taken over. Lots of new planting opportunities for me to enjoy. Because I'm still able to do things outside I am not reconciled to crafting in the daytime. I had a brief period when I started my patchwork mainly listening to radio 4 in the afternoon which seemed like a worthwhile use of time. Patching isn't as easily picked up and put down as knitting, which I do whilst watching tv in the evening, on long journeys in the car, on the bus into town or just sitting waiting. For me patchwork requires a bit more concentration and effort but that may be because I'm such a novice.I got all my patchwork pieces laid out, its my intention to put together 8 large coloured squares and join them all with patches of the cream material (somehow). I've made 3 squares so far but haven't done any more since before we went to Italy. I'd really like to crack on with this not least because my hands are in a dreadful state from all the gardening and time spent stitching would let them recover, but the sun is shining and I can't sit down.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Where does this bit go?

I'm hardly using my car nowadays but I noticed when I did take it out recently that it had developed a rattle somewhere towards the front. That's as specific as I can be, whenever I say that my car is making a noise Mr FF asks me what kind of noise and I am never able to elaborate. So Mr FF drove my car briefly and said he wasn't sure what it was but didn't think I needed to worry about it.
Then yesterday I had to take my car into town, I did mention again the rattle but Mr FF thought it would be fine. There was no rattle on the main and fairly straight road into town just on the bumpy back lanes near our house, so I didn't worry too much. I'd just got into Edinburgh when there was a horrible clank and the sound of metal bouncing down the road. I stopped the car as soon as I could and walked back to find out what had come off. I picked up a large semi circle of very rusty metal with jagged ends and a shiny long silver coloured pin. I phoned Mr FF who was in a meeting and left a message explaining what had happened, describing the bits that had come adrift. I decided to press on for my appointment, the exhaust still seemed to be secure and at least the rattle had stopped.
Afterwards I drove home very slowly and feeling quite sick wondering what major part of the car those pieces secured and if the wheels were going to fall off. I got back safely and showed Mr FF the pieces of metal. He had a look round my car and under the bonnet before announcing 'no way did those parts come off your car, you've brought the wrong bits home'.
The car is going to the garage at the weekend, be interesting to know what exactly happened and how the rattle was cured.

Sunday 21 September 2008

Cleo defies her doctors

I took Cleo to the vets last week, she'd not been eating much, drinking lots of water and was quite subdued. Before we set off I assured her that she would be coming home and that she should put on a good healthy show to confirm that she still has plenty of life left in her. She was a complete star, walking round the surgery while Trevor checked her leg injury and purring constantly. Trevor was amazed by her recovery, he said the x-rays of her leg had been horrific and he couldn't believe how happy and alert she was. In fact she was only on the pain killers they gave us for a day or so, they completely zonked her out and she didn't seem to be suffering when we didn't administer them so we stopped. Within a few days her limp improved and now she walking is perfectly normal.
He gave her a thorough examination and reported that her thyroid was overactive, putting pressure on her kidneys though oddly not her heart. He gave her a couple of injections and asked me to take her back in a few days once she had made some progress. Actually Cleo was slow to recover but in the middle of the week her appetite improved and we both took her down to the vets again yesterday.
We all agreed not to take any more action on her thyroid, blood tests and the like, because any medication would suppress her appetite and basically her kidneys aren't going to get much better. She can have an injection every few weeks to help and David, who she saw this time, suggested we try her on a special diet for cats with renal problems. He kindly gave us a few sachets of the dried food to try with the caution that generally cats don't find it very palatable so whilst it really helps their metabolism, its difficult to get them to eat it. Cleo is on her second packet already, she can't get enough of it. I'll probably go back to the vets this week, buy a full size bag and she won't touch it again. David also checked out Cleo's leg injury and said that sometimes cats like to make fools of us all. Such a defiant, stubborn girl, I wonder where she gets it from.

Thursday 18 September 2008

Battle of the Banca

You already know that we have a strange and wonderful relationship with our Italian bank that has in the past thought it good customer relations to bodily remove me from the premises so all the staff could all go off together for a three hour lunch.
We have this arrangement with them whereby when we receive a nice chunk of rent money we move most of it into an internet savings account with the jolly title of Moneybox, leaving the balance in the current account to pay our bills, taxes etc. We had to go to the bank personally to open this account, we made an appointment and were duly kept waiting for about an hour. During this time Mr FF did try the attack of taking one of the numbered tickets and when our number was called going up to the cashier and explaining that we were waiting to be seen, they sent us back to wait. We managed to open the account after a lengthy interview, none of which we understood, basically they shoved papers in front of us and we signed them. At that time they failed to mention that we needed a special 'key' that plugged into our computer with a code to enable us to carry out online banking, so we collected that next time we were in Italy and there we were up and operational.
The money stays in Moneybox for a couple of months then the bank moves it back into our current account with about a week where it is in neither account, we move it into the savings again and so it goes on. We accepted this and it worked fine until this week when Mr FF went to transfer the money back into the savings account and wasn't able to, we received a message saying that we needed to go into the bank for an interview. I then embarked upon a series of emails explaining that we didn't plan to be in Italy again this year but wanted to earn some interest on our money. The bank insisted we needed to attend because it was a European directive. I suggested we might be able to have an interview with their associate bank in Scotland, The Royal Bank which is our lovely organised, helpful bank here that has never heard of this EU directive, no we needed to attend in person. I asked if we could maybe have the interview with our Italian lawyer here in Scotland who could have their power of attorney, no we needed to attend in person. I half threatened to close our account but of course they have us stitched, we are only allowed a small amount of our own money from our current account each month unless we make a special arrangement and attend in person, it would take the best part of a year to filter the money out.
Finally I emailed them and said we as their customers needed them to offer a resolution, they replied that we needed to attend in person. I had suggested to Mr FF that I could go over to Rome for a while, maybe a month, and sort if out but he pointed out that we would both need to be there for the interview as it is a joint account. The time off and travel would amount to more than any interest and be a total waste of time. After much ranting about how a bank might in the current climate be glad to have investors who left money with them to use as they wished in return for sod all interest, we spoke to Franco, our friend in Rome who said he would get on the case. He phoned back last night to say he has arranged to visit our bank, will collect the interview forms and post them to us for completion and return. As we say in Italia, sono senza parole - I am without words.

Monday 15 September 2008

Worn Away

I've just worn out my first pair of hand knitted socks. I had them on while I was out last week and didn't realise until I got home that I'd made such big holes. These were knitted in a snuggly wool/alpacha mix and I really liked them, which is probably why I had them on so often. I'm sorry to see them go, they really were beyond darning, but I'm not sorry that I wore them such a lot, I'm not in favour of keeping things for best. I come from a Yorkshire farming family that excelled at make do and mend whilst having an ample supply of things put away for either best or a rainy day. My gran always did the darning on Sunday evening, a pile of socks and woollens beside her, a selection of wools and one of those wooden mushrooms to make a suitable surface to work on. Things sometimes got to the stage of having the darns darned. In many ways I understand and admire her frugality, she coped during the war years with evacuees and troops billeted at the farm, but I well remember when she died my mum had to sort her things out and found so many lovely items that had never been used simply put away for best. There was a sadness to this that she never enjoyed what she had but I don't think gran could have lived any other way. Although in some ways it denies my heritage, I try not to keep things for best, not that I'm sitting here in my finery, of course not, but I don't have clothes in the wardrobe that haven't been worn or linen or crockery that doesn't get used.
Quite a few people have told me that they worry about wearing socks I've given them, or just wear them in the house or fret about washing them. Please please wear them and stick them in the washing machine, I'd be much happier if you wore them to destruction and loved them while they lasted, its not as if sock wool is rationed, I am living proof of that.

Thursday 11 September 2008

Socks, sunlight and squashing

A completed pair of Tidal Wave socks knitted with the Lana Grossa Bosco I bought the other week in Darlington. I am putting them away as a Christmas present, how good am I planning that far ahead. I've started another pair using a Lana Grossa cotton and wool mix that is knitting up really well but they are a surprise for someone so I can't show you. And because I'd used one and a half balls of the recent batch, I felt able to replace them with these three when we went down to Darlington yesterday, plus a set of Opal bamboo dps that were a real bargain. I won't be going back there for a couple of months now so best to stock up.
I realised today why I've been feeling a bit down in the mouth, I haven't been getting my daily quota of sunlight. When I was working I always made a point of going for a walk at lunch time for at least 20 minutes to get some natural light but for the last week or so I'd hardly stepped out of the door. I was outside yesterday, apart from when I was in the shops of course, and I've been in the garden this afternoon so I feel that I'm back on track.
And a nice little treat this morning when I came out of the doctors after my three yearly breast scan. (How I like the way the literature that comes with your appointment letter talks about slight compression when they actually mean your breasts will be squashed between a couple of hard flat surfaces.) I picked up a copy of Debbie Bliss's Luxury Collection pattern book in the charity shop, I deserved that for being so brave. Actually it didn't hurt a bit the radiographer was brilliant, hardly compressed me at all.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Out of Sorts

Since we returned from Italy, and I'm beginning to think we should never have got back on the plane, life has been a bit out of kilter. I'm mostly blaming the weather for this, I've felt bitterly cold and we've had to light the stove every day. The rain is still coming down and I've hardly been able to get into the garden. I know there are many other things I could get on with but somehow the permanent cloud on the hills has made me feel confined and sluggish.
Major upheavals at home today, Mr FF has been sorting out his office. This morning Cleo was put out, she likes to sleep in her office basket when there's business to be done. She really took the hump and in protest slept on the front door mat, huddled up against the cold. When I put my head round the door Mr FF had the bookshelf emptied and moved away from the wall, he was under the desk with a torch swearing, so I went out for provisions. Everything was back to normal when I returned.
I even forgot to turn over the Amy calendar to September, how remiss. It's not the greatest picture of the ones I've seen so far, which is 9 honest, and has quite an autumn feel about it.That may be putting me off my stroke too. I had thought once I finished work and no longer had the 40 odd mile drive to Edinburgh and back I wouldn't dread the change of season so much, that I'd relish cosy days at home admiring the snow while producing rib sticking food or crafting away. But I've still got that sinking feeling as the nights draw in and the odd leaf is drifting off the trees. I'm off to make a big pot of mince and tatties, good Scottish winter food and its only September.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Sock weather

Its so miserably cold here in Scotland, I am currently wearing two thin wool jumpers and we've lit the stove but still I'm not warm. Its been raining for days, nothing to do but knit socks. I finished the ones with the wool Amy brought me from Devon, now they are cheery, I should be wearing them today instead of the cozy but dull black ones I have on.
These are the ones I knitted in Italy, some interesting wool I found in a charity shop. I put a bit of cable on the side but its rather lost in the dark shades.
I had hoped to look for sock wool while I was in Italy, I'd been in correspondence with Diane who is in the same region of Lazio as our house and she'd given me a few suggestion. However, time didn't allow for wool sourcing so I came home a bit disappointed but thinking I had plenty of wool in the stash anyway. Then last week Mr FF had to go down to Darlington on business, a little town in the north of England near where we used to live about 20 years ago, so I went with him. We had an hour to kill and wandered into the town to see if the wonderful Victorian covered market still existed. Yes it was still there, still full of bargains and I discovered a wonderful little wool stall, A Fine Yarn , guess what, they had a huge assortment of sock wool including Italian ones. I had a great shop as you can see and an interesting chat with the lady who had some amazing handspun cashmere and knew all about the knitting scene in Edinburgh.A couple of balls of Opal, one of Trekking and two of Lana Grossa. I'm working away with these now for Christmas presents. Mr FF is scheduled to go to Darlington again on Wednesday, I'm not sure if I can keep away, besides it will be comfy knitting in the car with the heater on.

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Silver Souveniers

I mentioned that my half cousins were staying in the house while we were in Italy, I didn't mention that they are avid car booters and really enjoy visiting the ones in this area. I'd seen a sign for a household sale in a nearby village hall and mentioned this to them though I didn't know exactly what a household sale would be. It turned out to be an indoor car boot type event and they had a great time. Bought some Wedgwood plates for 50p each and several bags of silver plated cutlery for 10p each. I had a search in the bags when I got back from Italy and picked out a few items, which I offered to buy but they wouldn't hear of it. I'm already a fan of the teaspoons you can buy with crests of the place they came from so I was delighted with this tea caddy spoon from Holy Island. Can you see it has a clock set at 4, teatime, on the spoon (sorry its such a bad picture, there's a manual I need to read one day).The shovel-shaped caddy spoon is from Oban and the little butter knife, that's what I'm calling it, is from Jersey.
The other two items I picked out are a rather nice pickle fork with a mother of pearl handle and a little mustard spoon. Everything except the clock caddy spoon is silver plated and polished up nicely. We worked out that each item cost 2p, a good 10 pence worth of anyone's money and having a personal shopper bring them home for you, excellent value.