Monday 30 August 2010

The Borders ... brum brum

Although we don't officially live in the Scottish Borders, we are within spitting distance of this very beautiful and peaceful part of the world, gorgeous scenery and wide open spaces. Well the quiet of the countryside what disturbed somewhat at the weekend by this lot. This is trialling an activity enjoyed by our our friends Carol and Alistair who take their little car all over the UK to drive it up and down hills. There is only one event of this type held in Scotland each year, in The Borders, so seemed a good idea to take a look and give them some support. Apparently it's not about speed, the aim is to drive as far as possible over a rough twisty uphill route without stopping or hitting the marker posts. To help each driver there is a passenger in the car who moves their weight around to get the best possible traction on each wheel. The further a driver gets up a section the lower the score, the one with the lowest score of the day is the winner.It certainly didn't look like a comfortable ride with the passenger often hanging out of the car or bouncing up and down to maintain momentum. Fortunately it was a nice sunny day, ground conditions were good for the drivers and it was warm enough for the supporters to stand around. As an ex fell runner there is a part of me that thinks running up and down the hills would be safer and healthier but each to their own. We enjoyed finding out about this type of event, previously we'd known very little about it except that Carol and Alistair keep a special vehicle under cover at their house and take it away on a trailer at weekends.
On the way home we noticed that one of the border villages was holding its annual show so we stopped off for a look and of course tea and home made cakes for less than the price of a high street coffee. The show was a much bigger event than our ours, this village has amenities like a shop, garage and a horticultural society so the standards particularly in the flower and produce sections were high. But it was the children's entries that amused me, I love the garden on a tin lid class and the winner of the vegetable animal was inspirational, an marrow octopus inside a pirate's treasure chest with grapes for jewels. Brilliant, what a nice day out.

Friday 27 August 2010

Sweet sweet peas

Sweet peas are just about my favourite garden flower, the range of colours, intensive perfume and growability all meet my requirements. Over the years I've experimented with various mixes, bought individual seeds from specialist nurseries and taken pot luck with supermarket bargains. This time I think I've just about reached perfection with a Thompson and Morgan selection, Heirloom Bicolour Mixed which was a new introduction on special offer at £1.99 for 25 seeds. Despite being neglected for a month while I was on holiday, my plants did well and began flowering in early July before they got very tall. The colours are perfect, a pleasing balance of dark purply blue, white and pink with a strong perfume. They are still flowering amazingly well, I cut at least one posy every day and there are no signs of a let up, they'll definitely be on my seed list again next year.

Monday 23 August 2010

Show time

It was our village flower show on Saturday, that is not just for flowers but lots of other lovely things. Usually we are in Italy in August so I get someone to put my entry in for me but this year it was nice to be able to attend. We are a small village so the show isn't a big event, but very much a local thing and not to a dauntingly high standard so everyone can feel comfortable taking part.
I put in 3 tomatoes, which though I thought looked really beautiful didn't win anything. They probably weren't even considered as they didn't have stalks, one had dropped off before the show so I made them all the same, there are strict rules about these things I know. Mr FF said I should have pointed out that they were the organic Italian stalkless variety, they were indeed grown from seed I brought home with me. I also put in a pair of socks and the necklace I made a while ago, the socks got a first prize and won me 30p the necklace a third and 10pPam had been up to pick flowers from my garden for her entries, and managed to borrow my cup and saucer for the arrangement in a tea cup, she did really well with two first prizes.I'm wondering if there shouldn't be a special class next year for flowers from Jen's garden arranged in one of Jen's cups as well as for the stalkless tomatoes.
Such lovely things to look admire some puddings with obvious Masterchef influence, lots of children's classes, this one for a room in a shoe box (complete with pets), a tombola, raffle, word competition and home baked teas. A really pleasant afternoon. a good walk down to the village hall and back, tea with delicious home made cakes and a great change to meet up with all the talented growers and bakers and makers who live in our little village.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Hello campers

My tent arrived on Monday but it was wet and quite late so I left it until Tuesday to take a closer look. Mr Positive, sorry Mr FF, did mention that once I took it out of the bag I wouldn't get it back in again, hmm, tempting then to keep it tidy and never use it - not. I thought about pitching in the front room, right in front of the wide screen telly, but the sun came out so the back lawn it was.
It took me about 30 minutes, including some googling, to work out where the poles went but after that it was fairly simply and next time will be a doddle. I put down a rug, some cushions and a little stool to take a clock, the camping lantern that we use during power cuts and my glasses. I slept on a camping mat with my pillow and our summer weight duvet, I also kept my socks on. My only concern was that as I hadn't used the guy ropes just the pegs the thing might blow down in the night and I wouldn't be able to unzip myself to get out. It did turn extremely windy but was never totally dark and I knew exactly where the handles on the zips were.
Certainly not wild camping, I was within spitting distance of our open bedroom window and I didn't need to take the kitchen sink with me as that wasn't far away either.So how was it, fine. It wasn't exactly the dream of a balmy evening when the sun hardly sets, the wind was battering the trees all night but I was cozy and warm in my little secret space. It was exciting to think about waking up outdoors, a little noisy when the birds starting feeding at the nearby table, a bit cold first thing and definitely something I want to do again. There was a nice notice on the doors into the lounge when crawled out next morning but sadly the offer didn't apply to me.

Monday 16 August 2010

Tread softly

Oh dear poor Mr FF isn't getting a very good press this month, after the working holiday debacle we had another disagreement on Friday. We called in at B&Q a large and pretty boring diy hypermarket, Mr FF needed some wood filler and a look at the chain saws because his won't start. My enthusiasm for browsing power tools soon ran out and I wandered off to the gardening department. The outdoor section was having an end of season sale with lots of furniture reduced and then I came across the camping section. I've never camped, I've done lots of outdoor activities, long distance walking, fell running, cycling etc but I've either stayed in youth hostels or come home. However, I have always had a totally irrational desire to sleep in the garden and lately come to the conclusion that I'd like a little tent to do this. We already have good quality sleeping bags and camping mats. I found a four man tent greatly reduced and rushed back to the power tools section to tell Mr FF that I'd found what I wanted for under £20, the beauty pictured above. He came to look at it with me and immediately put a downer on the whole idea for various reasons
  1. it would be too heavy to carry in a rucksack - I wasn't intending to do a long hike and then pitch up in the middle of nowhere, I want to camp in the garden

  2. it was a four man tent and probably too big - see 1 above, a 4 man was cheaper than a 2 man and I like space

  3. if I wanted to camp on a ledge the tent was rather high and exposed, it might not be stable - see 1 above, our garden is flat in places with no exposed ledges

  4. it would take up space to store - we are currently storing masses of things we never use, like a chest of drawers we've had probably 35+ years and not used for the past 20, the drawers don't open, its empty, its taking much more space than a dismantled tent ever would

  5. I wouldn't be able to stand up in the tent - I don't want to stand up I just want to sleep in it as I may have mentioned

By this time I got the message that he definitely didn't want me to have a tent and (sulkily I admit) I said OK forget it. We drove home in silence while I thought over the whole disheartening episode. I'm 61, I don't need any ones permission to spend £20, I wanted a tent not a 60" plasma tv, not a ludicrously expensive designer handbag, not a sports car, just a cheap tent. When we got home I told him how disappointed I was and eventually that evening I went on line and reserved the tent from the shop, Mr FF is to collect it later today when he goes into town for a meeting. Maybe I won't ever use it, maybe I'll use it once and hate it but surely better to try and fail. I hope I never tread on anyone's dreams and that in future I fulfill my own without having to justify them.

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats (1865–1939) "He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven"

Wednesday 11 August 2010

A bit more yarn etc

Sometimes I don't understand how it is that I keep knitting socks and the yarn stash doesn't get any smaller. Let's check the balance sheet. In the out column I made these, a wool/cotton mix by Opal that looking back on my blog I bought in Darlington in September 2008. I really like them and the fact I've managed to produce a matching pair with not much waste.
In the in column I just added 4 more 100 g skeins,
Araucania Ranco Multy is beautiful shades. The label says this yarn is hand dyed in Chile using traditional methods and providing opportunities, jobs and hope, I like that. I couldn't decide whether the yarn needed a pattern or not, so I went for a plain pair letting the colours speak for themselves. They can go into the market stall stock, I'll attach the makers label so that whoever buys them can feel good about the purchase too. Finally I found this reduced to £4.99 in TK Maxx. Lots of lovely patterns, a nice fair isle cardy that would suit Amelia, a gorgeous aran cardy that would suit me and doubtless nothing in the stash that meets the yarn requirements.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Off your trolley*

I went shopping with Pam earlier this week, in the good way that involved coffee and cakes, egging each other to try on clothes and buy things, not that either of us needs much encouragement. We talked about how we'd like to dress inappropriately for our age and unnerved the sales assistant in the department store where we tried on wedding hats and fascinators that we agreed would be good to wear at breakfast if we ever went on a cruise together.I came home with this, a shopping trolley and I think a very beautiful one too. It was reduced, I had to buy it and use it straight away. It has easy velcro fastenings, press studs at the top to increase the size, a smaller department at the back and will pack flat. It was so handy walking down the High Street, not just for purchases but for my mac and if I'd had my brolly that would have gone in too. We'd been having a discussion about our capacious and well packed handbags, how our shoulders got achy and we always carried far more than we needed. Pam's solution was to look for a smaller handbag, mine to buy the trolley.
It received a luke warm reception from Mr FF when I got it home and the only comment has been 'is that it's permanent place' as it currently stands in the hall mainly so that I can admire it every time I pass. Actually I'd quite like to fill it with yarn - shopping and knitting every girl's dream.

I'm already a bag lady, I try not to take plastic carriers at checkouts and have many many shopping bags, Cath Kidston, Lulu Guinness, Boden, as well as a big collection of supermarket bags for life, they make em I buy em. There's something of a foreign holiday feel about pulling a bag along behind you that lifts my spirits or maybe its just the beautiful colours and the chunky little wheels. Pam has made me promise not to start using the trolley as a walking aid as I get older, ie, pushing it in front of me like a wheeled zimmer frame, no chance I'm sticking with the trolley dolly image for a long time yet.

*Off your trolley - a slang expression for someone who doesn't act rationally and appears slightly mad, sounds good to me.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Think on Mr FF

Last week Mr FF sent an email to one of our Italian friends, an engineer who lives in the next village, apologising that we hadn't seen him during our 3 week stay in our house. He explained that we only got to Angelo's village once, to visit the bank, and that we had been busy beyond belief while we were at the house. At the weekend we got a reply, Mr FF thought I had written it until I explained that I don't know how to forge emails

I'm sorry again that you have not yet fully grasped our lifestyle! Italian lifestyle! Fun, fun, sun, and not just work! This is life! You English?? Yuo have won some war while most of us, but then .....................
Joke, greetings also to Jenny that she must work in a beautiful country.. for you!!!!
Many Greetings from Angelo and Francesca
P.S. Next mounth we'll be in Normandia and Bretagna and Svizzera and Parigi for Holiday!

Actually I couldn't have put it better myself. We are going to Italy for two weeks in September, Mr FF promises we will have some holiday but then he's arranging to take out all sorts of flexible flues and chimney fixings and I'm not convinced. We deserve a holiday, we need to stop using this, the cement mixer that lives in the basement of our house and create this that lives in the depths of my imagination.