Saturday 29 November 2008

Its beginning to look a lot like .........

What a crisp sunny morning, blue sky and freezing temperatures. I've had a walk round the garden crunching on fallen leaves and admired Jack Frost's work. Nothing for me to do outside today but plenty of knitting in front of the stove, new washing machine coming on Tuesday and Strictly tonight, I ask no more. Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Time for a RANT

Well the washing machine was beyond repair so we need to find a new one and thats not so easy. It seems every shop or online site we've visited offers a slightly different model and there is so much choice but the worst thing of all is that the only machines available nowadays take in cold water only and proceed to heat it to the required temperature. I'm all for low temperature washes but I am totally against heating water in the machine when we already have a tank full of hot water. We are using our multi fuel stove 24/7, it keeps the core of the house warm, runs a radiator in the hall and heats the water, so much hot water that I've often in the past put a wash on or we've both taken baths to use some up and cool the tank. The machine that is now bust took in both hot and cold water and had a neat little programme for a short wash that used only the hot water available and didn't heat it up at all. We really are trying to be ecological here but it seems we are fighting big business that prefers the profit from reducing the amount of mechanism in a washing machine rather than thinking about the environment and the preference of customers.
Sometimes I wonder about the whole environmentally friendly business. We were waiting in Heathrow airport last year and sitting quite close to an area of rubbish bins, one for glass, one for newspapers and one for other rubbish. Passengers were carefully placing their waste in the correct bin and eventually along came a cleaner with a trolley and emptied each bin of sorted rubbish into one huge bin. I wrote to the airport authority when I got home and received a reply that they had experienced some training difficulties. Training difficulties, shouldn't the guy have had appropriate bins to decant into. Likewise our own recycle collection that takes plastic, paper, cardboard and tins in the same bin, does someone at the depot sort them out as they can't possibly be recycled together.
I know I'm no saint, I drive a car, I take flights but I do try to recycle, I garden organically, buy locally and don't use central heating, yet against my will I shall end up with a cold fill washing machine and wait hours for it to heat the water and clean our laundry. And I won't even mention our sonic toothbrush that has packed in and how we need to replace the whole charger or the whole handle but no one at the manufacturers can tell me which bit has failed. Luckily I still have a manual toothbrush and the strength to operate it, think of the saving both for my purse and the planet.

Sunday 23 November 2008

These are mine

I've been busy knitting Christmas presents but have taken time out to use the lovely alpaca that was a recent gift from Toronto to make things for myself.
These are based on a pattern in Vogue that is also available on the website, adapted from gauntlets to mittens by using smaller needles and more stitches, I suppose really I just used the aran bit and otherwise did my own thing.

Then I made this cowl using a simple six row pattern that I found on Ravelry. Its knitted as a rectangle and the beginning and end knitted together to form a cylinder. I wore it when we were out yesterday and I'm delighted, light and cosy it sets off a plain jumper or a coat nicely.
I got the whole set out of 100 g of yarn, with barely anything left over so I'm really pleased.
I'm not so pleased however to tell you that my washing machine broke down on Friday, leaving me with sheets and kingsize duvet cover that came out much dirtier than when they went in. Something rubbery seems to have broken and smeared itself all over the laundry, I've tried to hand wash them but its a horrible job especially when things won't dry on the line and drip too much to be dried inside. The nice man from Elsrickle, who fixes our telly, is coming tomorrow but he's not hopeful that it will be worth repairing. I hope it is, I'm really not in the mood to go looking for a new machine. I'm finding Christmas shopping difficult enough having traipsed round Edinburgh on Thursday and come back completely empty handed. Even the prospect of 20% off in Marks and Spencer didn't make the massive queues seem worth while, and though John Lewis and Debenhams tried to counter with selected reductions I still wasn't inspired. Back to the knitting I suppose, cowl anyone?

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Strictly not right

Pam just phoned me and Joanne just emailed me to let me know that John Sargeant has decided to pull out of Strictly. I know there are many other and much more important things happening in the world but just now I feel extremely disappointed. I agree that the judges were fair to mark John on his (limited) dancing ability but I disagree with their criticism of the voting public. I did think the judges employed a bit of counter psychology last week when they were quite kind to him so that the public wouldn't contradict them and John could go out on a high, but that didn't work. Strictly was never just a dancing competition, it's a Saturday night entertainment programme and obviously much of the public was entertained by and identified with John. Saying that he was taking the place of a better dancer was nonsense, eventually most of the better dancers will go with the possibility that next week they might have produced a stunning routine, we shall never know. Life's like that, it isn't fair. I've suddenly lost my enthusiasm for the whole programme, I feel John has been pressurised to leave and now the results are immaterial, the sparkle has gone and it all seems as fake as the tans they spray on each week.

Monday 17 November 2008

Switch and Bitch

Friday night was switch and bitch night at Pam's down in the village. Rules are simple, you take 6 of your cast offs, clothes, accessories, anything really, all of which get dumped in a pile in the middle of the room and stirred up. The appointed hostess selects an item, describes it in glowing terms detailing fibre content, size etc and anyone interested puts their hand up. If more than one person is interested, cards are cut, aces high, and the winner is declared. So eight of us spent the evening drinking fizz, laughing and swapping. The only difficult bit for me is when your cast off is held up and everyone enthuses about it, at this stage I think if everyone likes the article that much maybe I shouldn't let it go. Conversely if no one is interested I begin to wonder why I ever wore the blooming thing in the first place. Any unclaimed items are taken to the local charity shop, though of course you can take them home if you wish.
I did say before I went that whilst I was happy to take six items I really didn't want any more clothes so I'd just go for the laughs. I was quite restrained at first but I couldn't resist
a lovely pair of Ecco leather boots that are almost new, still in their box
a beautiful necklace that I'm told is organic, free range, fair trade and came from the Ethical Superstore (well worth a visit)
A pretty pair of silver earrings that I've been wearing round the house since I got them, a style breakthrough for a girl who hardly combs her hair let alone washes it on days at home. I also need to own up to taking a nice black t shirt with 3/4 sleeves, a dark blue linen jacket from Hobbs and - wait for it - a pair of white pedal pushers. I did say at the time that these were hardly suitable for a pensioner living in the Scottish Borders but the other girls egged me on and in many ways thats half the fun of a switch and bitch session, you come away with things you wouldn't normally consider and it costs you nothing. Such a worthwhile night that went on till the small hours and to be honest we didn't do any bitching at all.

Thursday 13 November 2008

The birthday goes on

I met those working girls in town last night for food, drink and chat. I hadn't seen them since before my sixtieth birthday and they had gifts and a beautiful handmade card for me. A box of little cupcakes that are actually lip glosses in cream, strawberry and chocolate flavours, a collection of Philosophy bath gels, in cafe au lait, eggnog latte and caramel mocha latte flavours and the most beautiful Emma Bridgewater teapot. Are you identifying a theme here, tea, coffee and cakes combined with girlie treats, perfect. Since I left work those girls have showered me with gifts and love, I do miss seeing them regularly though obviously not enough to wish I was back at work.
I did have little gifts for them too, early items for their Christmas trees. I am knitting lots at the moment but mostly presents so I can't really show anything.

Its 13 days now since my birthday, I think I'll just keep the cards up until the weekend and then maybe I need to start acting like a pensioner although I'm not exactly sure what that involves. Hopefully light domestic duties, crafting, trips out and treats as it seems to have done since well before 01 November.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Tres Francais

Our trip to the Dordogne was out first visit to rural France, we'd only ever been to Paris before, and the thing that surprised me was just how very French it was. Of course I had preconceived ideas, based mainly on books and films like Chocolat and Clochmerle, I even suggested that a little bar we spotted might have been where James Colburn was called to the phone by the resistance workers in The Great Escape. Our walks and country drives showed us so many beautiful and immaculate houses from magnificent chateaux to gorgeous little cottages. The Dordogne is obviously an extremely affluent area and in a different class to the part Lazio where we usually spend our holidays.Daglan, the village near our house, had a perfect square with the requisite charcuterie, pattiserie and a great restaurant, there was also a salon de the but unfortunately it had closed for the winter.
We were in deepest foie gras country, every other shop sold the yellow cans of pate and often with goose related souvenirs, tea towels, mugs etc. I did try foie gras once, the beef I ordered for my birthday meal came with a small medallion of pate on top. One tiny taste was enough, I am not a fan of the product or its production methods. This is the old goose market in Sarlat with its appropriate little bronze statues, now they would have made a nice souvenir.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Chez Nous

I need to tell you how much I loved our holiday rental house in France. I knew from the website that it was my kind of place but the reality was so much more. Basically it was an old country house and barn that had been cleverly linked by a new extension.

There was lot of outdoor space including a swimming pool that used a very energy efficient heat exchanger so even on cold days the temperature was fine.

The interiors were dreamy, lots of white, cream and beige that created an atmosphere of calm with beautiful furniture, rugs, cushions and throws.

The kitchen was quite small but worked so efficiently, huge SMEG cooker, dishwasher and lots of white crockery.
Glorious old wash stand in the bathroom, so useful for all my lotions and potions, with a copper bowl insert
Pretty accessories.

I was so happy in that house, it makes me want to downsize and start again. Of course I won't, living the holiday life for 11 days isn't the same as living a normal life and I won't part with the mix of items I've accumulated over 38 years of marriage, but I do have aspirations to live with less, lets call it natural wastage.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Home and Reunited

We arrived home from France on Sunday evening, sadly without our luggage which was causing me some concern as my knitting was in there. A pair of socks I completed during the holiday plus one half of another pair still on the needles and most importantly this sock wool I found in Lidl in Sarlat, a nice mix of wool and cotton with 15% polyamide. A pack of 4 x 50 g balls cost me 5 euro, I bought 3 packs which means I should be able to knit lots of chaussettes at around £2 a pair, tres bon.
Our return to Scotland without suitcases came about because we had selected a return route from Bordeaux to Orly then from Charles de Gaule to Edinburgh. We were told by Air France that our luggage would be transferred, this was not the case and we found ourselves having to wait for the cases, find the shuttle bus to take us to the other side of Paris and check in again at CdG, all within the space of two hours. When we arrived in Bordeux airport and were told we couldn't check our luggage through or indeed check onto the second flight we asked if we could be transferred to a direct flight to CdG, especially since customer services agreed that our travel arrangement was 'a bad thing'. All the flights were full and of course when we did get on the shuttle bus in Paris the traffic was a nightmare. I couldn't bear to look at my watch throughout the stop go journey and we were dropped off at the airport with about 5 minutes to check in. We pushed our way to the front of the queue and they opened a desk especially for us, we pushed to the front of the security check apologising as we went and then sprinted through departures as our names echoed round the building with an announcement that we were the last remaining passengers. We did get the flight but our cases didn't. Yesterday when we phoned to ask if they were on their way they seemed to be missing but eventually arrived around 8.30 last night, extremely dirty and somewhat battered but home. Phew, I am 60 now I really don't need this stress.
Being 60 in the Dordogne was good, we celebrated the day before by going out for a delicious meal, nothing would drag me away from Strictly on Saturday night and how delighted was I to find that we could receive UK tv in our house. 01 November was quite a chilly day that started with a nice array of goodies from the patisserie. In the afternoon Mr FF insisted on opening up the heated pool and we had a swim, I did suggest it might not be appropriate for a lady of my advanced years but the woodburning stove was ticking away in the lounge for our return to the cosy house. Yesterday it was lovely to come home to cards and parcels that are still arriving today and of course the much longed for bus pass was there too, a wonderful extended Scottish/French birthday.
I have lots to tell you about France, the beautiful house we stayed in and the places we went but today I'm enjoying being in my own home, checking round the autumn garden, unpacking my case and having my knitting beside me.