Monday 31 May 2010

The corporate wife in Fife

I have over the 20 years of so that we've lived in Scotland joined Mr FF on various business events, dinners, sporting fixtures, concerts etc where he and I have entertained guests on behalf of his company. We've had some lovely occasions and one of our regular dates is the May bank holiday summer weekend with his fellow professionals when the chairman of the Scottish branch selects a venue and entertainment for about 25 couples including dignitaries from head office. We took our turn a few years ago when Mr FF was chairman so I know how much planning and organisation is involved to make a successful weekend. This weekend we went to St Andrews, home of golf, the oldest university in Scotland and a beautiful seaside location. I'm quite partial to a couple of nights in a hotel, no housework, gardening or cooking and plenty of time for leisurely baths and lounging. Our hotel was nice enough though we didn't enjoy a sea view from our room just from the dining table. When we first started attending this event it was usual for the men to do manly things on the Saturday, either play golf or visit some feat of engineering while more gentile entertainment was provided for the ladies, nowadays things are a bit more equal. However, we never join in the daytime activities as we prefer a good walk to discover the area. So we took ourselves off with a couple of friends to walk along the beautiful Fife coastal path, sunshine, a bracing breeze and salty air, lovely.We finished in the much photographed fishing village of Crail, you may have seen it before on jigsaw puzzles and the like.
Each morning big cooked breakfasts featuring kippers and smoked haddock were followed by a lot of chat, some fascinating conversations about a trip to Bolivia and some really boring ones about the finer details of railway bridges or children's forthcoming examinations. It is the duty of the corporate wife to listen attentively to people who consider conversation a one sided event but luckily this wife had her sock knitting to keep her occupied during the duller moments.On the way home we stopped off at the lovely Hill of Tarvit, a National Trust property that is now open only on certain dates and run almost totally by volunteers. A beautiful family home in gorgeous gardens and parkland, full of interesting items and complete with a tearoom that served quality tea in a china pot with delicious home baking. This is the kind of property I pay my subscription for the Trust to maintain and I can feel another Mrs Angry letter coming on complaining that they prefer to spend millions on swanky new visitor centres (that provide a teabag in a mug and bought in confectionery) while these little gems, often left as this was to the care of the Trust by the family, are neglected or closed.

Friday 28 May 2010

Market trading

Remember I told you I'd spent some of my ill gotten gains from the sale of socks on jewellery. I wasn't able to show you what I'd bought as the necklace was a bit short and Lesley of Silver Raindrops Jewellery, creator of these treasures, kindly offered to add a couple of beads for me. She delivered the finished article on Friday just before we left for Yorkshire and I am absolutely delighted, it fits perfectly. The large beads are pink turquoise the small ones onyx I also bought a couple of pairs of earrings, turquoise with amethyst chips and aventurine with Swarovski crystals, all on sterling silver.
And while she was here I asked Lesley to alter to this for me, I made it myself when I was working, its mainly rose quartz with some tiny pearls and what I think might be amethyst. My team was sent on an away day to problem solve and network and all that other psycho stuff with an activity thrown in which was jewellery making at a craft shop. What we did was grab as many stones and make as many pieces of jewellery as we could whilst chatting and drinking coffee. I made this too long so Lesley took a couple of inches off each side and reattached the fastener. She returned the necklace this week and now that it sits very nicely on me I shall get to wear it. I was a bit embarrassed that my work wasn't up to Lesley's high standard but she did say the stones were very nice and I'm sure she's not worried about any competition at future village markets.

Monday 24 May 2010

One more step into the world I go

The weekend was gloriously hot and fortunately Mr FF had (eventually) rigged up the irrigation system. Even though it did make us late getting down to Yorkshire, our dinner had been put in the oven to keep warm, it was worthwhile as my plants survived the heatwave really well.
The christening was wonderful, a really uplifting service in our village Church where Amelia Jasmine's Mum and Dad were married three years ago. Her parents and godparents made their promises and all marked Amelia's forehead with the sign of the cross before she was christenedwith water from the beautiful 12th century font where at least five generations of our family have been baptised into the Church. We sang the same hymn we'd sung at Kerry and Shaun's wedding and at the end of the service Amelia was delighted to be carried laughing and kicking round the congregation by our lovely lady vicar so that everyone could greet her.All the guests, about 75, had a lavish lunch prepared by family at the local town cricket club. After a short nap Amelia kicked off her pretty white shoes, changed into something cooler and more comfortable and spent the afternoon being passed round the doting guests while grandads and great uncles enjoyed a gentle game of football and children romped happily on the grass under brilliant sunshine. In the pavilion someone pointed out to me amongst the old photographs of past teams one taken in 1947 of my Dad, a young man playing cricket for the town just a year before I was born. How appropriate that a new generation steps out in life under a photograph of her great grandfather, makes this great aunt very proud and maybe now that I've said goodbye to my family for a while and returned to Scotland just a little bit sad to be missing so much of Amelia's adventure, but I've left her in very safe and caring hands.

Thursday 20 May 2010

This weekend

I've spent a lot of this week in the garden, its such a pretty place at the moment and as you can see from the front room window seat is looking very springlike. The weather has been good, warm with sunny intervals and I've moved a lot of plants out of the greenhouse hoping that there won't be any serious frosts from now on.
We are going down to Yorkshire tomorrow for Amelia Jasmine's christening on Sunday so Mr FF has agreed to install some more automatic ventilators and fix up an irrigation system in the greenhouse for my tomatoes before we go. We leave in less than 24 hours, he hasn't done it yet but we must have faith. He has however booked the ferries to take our car to Italy in June, we shall be away for a whole month so this weekend will be a good test, I'm rather hoping it will be cloudy.

Sunday 16 May 2010


I am totally exhausted after yesterday's village market. I went down on Friday afternoon to help set up the room and probably got a little over excited because I hardly slept that night wondering (a) if I would actually sell anything and (b) if I'd get to buy the earrings and beads I liked from Lesley's stall before anyone else. I was down at the hall again before 9 on Saturday and by 10 when the market officially opened the place was buzzing, with most of the village present and lots of visitors. I should have taken more interesting photographs but only managed to snap these few before we opened and then thought about nothing but manning the stall for the next 2.5 hours. I had hoped to have a back massage or maybe some reflexology from the therapists present but I just didn't get round to it, didn't even have a coffee or try the delicious home made cakes. As well as my knitting I was selling Pam's home baked bread, wholemeal, walnut and focaccia loaves while she was running the children's corner offering removable tattoos, biscuit decorating or card making all at 50p a go. I did consider if things went badly whether I should offer a free pair of socks with every loaf but luckily it didn't come to that. I soon had my very first customer, Julie my yoga teacher who took 3 pairs of socks. After that I sold at a steady pace, taking in total £85. For those interested I priced the adult socks at £15 a pair, children's at £5 and the 6 month baby size at £2, basically material plus 100%. I had wrist and neck warmers at £7 each but none of these sold, only socks which I don't mind at all because that's what I like to knit. I'd tried to make a variety of sizes and colours but frequently got asked for particular combinations that I didn't have. I got an order for a pair if I had more of the yarn, which checking at home I did and also an enquiry for a pair spotted on the blog, so in total I sold over £100 worth, not that it was ever about profit more the confirmation that people actually wanted my stuff and would pay a reasonable sum towards my time. I had some discussion with an artist who might be interested in incorporating pieces of knitting into some of her work, she had a good stash of hand spun yarn from the Scottish islands and a separate request to run a knitting workshop later in the year for about 12 people. It may all come to nothing but it made me feel so positive and helped dispel the desire to say to people bring them back if you don't like them, if they drop to pieces etc though why I should think any of this I don't know as I've been giving my socks as presents over the years and had nothing but praise.
I have applied for stalls in September and December and said that if there is spare capacity I would be willing to help fill the hall on other dates.
I sold all Pam's bread, 18 loaves and all the organic free range eggs we had on sale or return, met some lovely people and only one person appeared shocked at the price I was charging. On the minus side I spent about £20 on the jewellery I'd had my eye on, £14 on a lovely hand woven wool wrap from our local care community that is run on the principles of Rudolph Steiner and £5 on a gourmet venison pie for Mr FF who was in charge of car parking and traffic management. Quite a day, as I said I'm exhausted and still on a bit of a high so I'm going to take it easy, watch the Giro d'Italia on tv and knit some more socks.

Thursday 13 May 2010


You knew I had enough wool stashed away to open a shop, well now I have enough knitting for my stall at the village market on Saturday. I've really enjoyed making these small items even if I haven't enjoyed labelling everything with fibre content and washing instructions. Now I'm not sure whether I have enough or too much, here's what I intend taking though I will try and arrange everything a little more artistically on the day
About 6 pairs each of men's women's and children's socks, 3 pairs of baby socks, 5 scarves or neck warmers and half a dozen pairs of hand warmers. I've made a sign with prices, I feel it should be clear how much things cost and my items certainly don't fall into the category if you need to ask you can't afford. I've made a little montage of items in action, printed out a sock size chart and packed a tape measure to clarify sizes, I have some float money for change, not much more I can do except keep knitting. I'm wondering how I'll feel if I don't sell anything but as some one said to me you aren't selling now so you'll be no worse off, well £5 for the stall but I can stand that. Meantime I didn't show you the little cardy I made for my great niece Amelia, here she is now 6 months old and modelling her 4 ply cotton top from the Patons Sugar and Spice book. Her mum is delighted with the cardy and thinks it will get lots of wear. Pity my family is so far away they could come along on Saturday and make my stall look busy, I'd especially appreciate the support from Amelia my happy little satisfied customer.

Friday 7 May 2010

Online shopping

I went on line today to look for cotton sheets to take out to Italy and ordered quite a lot from Wallace Sacks. They have this adorable video on their website, who wouldn't want to fill their linen cupboard with piles and piles of Egyptian cotton from this family.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Nature, red in tooth and claw

I garden organically and try to work with nature, but it's not always pretty.
We've had a cock pheasant in the garden since Christmas, strutting around and feeding under the bird table he's a very fat and handsome guy. Recently he was joined by a hen and they made all the appropriate noises as spring approached. I was a bit worried that there would be a nest in the garden and sure enough at the weekend I found the female sitting on the ground up against the back garden fence behind the compost bins in quite an exposed position. When she came down to feed I crept up the garden and saw 13 eggs in the nest, though she wasn't too pleased about me being around and followed me back down the garden almost as if she was chasing me away. On Saturday morning I walked up the garden, she wasn't on the nest and when I looked there were only 2 cold eggs left, Sunday it was empty. I had been worried about her sitting on the nest for the next 28 days or so and concerned that when the eggs hatched the chicks would be in a lot of danger. Additionally I wasn't looking forward to having so many large birds scratching around in my garden but what could I do. I really didn't want the nest to be devastated like this, but looking on the net it seems that less than 50% of pheasant eggs hatch, crows and foxes are the most likely predators.
Then on Sunday when I was cutting back a shrub beside the front door I exposed another abandoned pheasant's nest again with 2 eggs left, presumably same father different mother. It was much better hidden but very close to our front steps and it makes me wonder what dreadful deeds happened on our doorstep.
Incidentally, the line that I used for my title comes from a very long poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson called In Memoriam AHH, it also contains these lines that might bring some comfort to the birds
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all'.