Wednesday 17 April 2024

We have arrived

Boxes and cases litter the house which needs a really good clean.  However I have been weeding the garden and sorting the balcony pots, MrFF has got the comfy chairs out so we can recover from our journey in the sun.

Sadly no sign of Grigio, we keep calling and will walk out later in case she’s moved elsewhere.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Lost and found

I’ve regularly been taking my walk up the other side of the valley to see Bertie the alpaca since November, sometimes three times a week.  I have never seen him, there have been goats and lovely brown sheep but no Bertie.  There never seemed to be anyone around to ask about him.

Last week I was returning from my walk and met MrFF on his way for his walk, i reported no Bertie.  So he’d taken himself up to the field to look and fortunately met some people who told him that Bertie was in a field not visible from the road.  MrFF crossed a couple of field, naughty but necessary, and sent me this.  


Bertie, behind the gate, is fine and with his goaty companions.  It probably makes sense for him to be safely out of sight, I am just happy he is ok.

Then yesterday MrFF was looking at our Italian security camera and spotted a cat in the garden that looked like Grigio who hasn’t been seen since Christmas.  This morning the same cat appeared where we park the car, had a happy roll on the road and wandered to the back door.  This time we could see better and it could be Grigio.  We’ve told Mario and hope he might go up to check.

We are planning to leave for Italy in a few days, maybe with a couple of nights in France to arrive Tuesday evening. We just hope this is Grigio, that she stays around till we arrive and we can be reunited. Keep your fingers crossed for us please.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Knitting now

I have definitely made space in my yarn stash this year.  Two garments for me and one for the youngest grand niece all of which I’ve shown at some stage of construction.  

So back to the bottomless supply of wool.  

I’ve made another pair of West Yorkshire Spinners socks, this is my favourite colour and I shall be heartbroken if they ever discontinue it.

A little cowl with some super soft yarn I believe is Rowan, bought in the charity shop.

I also made a pair of fingerless gloves with yarn a friend had left over.  The gloves are for her so doesn’t really count as a reduction just some visiting wool.

On the needles I have a pair of men’s socks, I love knitting cables and cable socks.  Over the coldest months of winter I wore a pair of dk ones and they were such a comfort. 

But before you say well done Jen, I have to show you these which arrived in the penthouse just this morning.  

Those lovely people at Rowan were having a great sale, how could I resist.  Rowan Cotton Wool organic merino and organic cotton and Rowan Island Blend Falkland fine merino with alpaca and silk. They are both gorgeous, soft and squashy, well reduced in price and the purple included a pretty shawl pattern.  

What a good start to Easter.  The sun is shining, we have friends here for lunch tomorrow and new yarn beats chocolate eggs any day, though I may have some  those too and there will definitely be hot cross buns. 

Enjoy your holiday weekend 

Sunday 17 March 2024

School dinners

There was an item on the news last week about a headmaster who had complained about the quality of food supplied to his pupils from outside contract caterers.  It does indeed look disgustingly grey and mushy with hardly a green vegetable in sight and was no doubt shipped in from a distant factory.

Photo from Redbridge Community School

However what shocked me even more than the food quality was the dining hall where pupils were eating from disposable cartons, they looked like polystyrene, with small disposable wooden cutlery.  One pupil said he thought if he added salt and pepper to his wooden fork it might have more flavour than his meal.  

There was no table setting, pupils seemed to park themselves anywhere to eat many wearing their outside coats.  The used utensils would be thrown into bins destined for landfill as they left. What life lesson does that give them.  

I remember the ritual of school dinners when I was at junior school.  We left our classrooms and walked a short distance alongside the village stream to queue outside the canteen, which had its own vegetable garden.  Once the supervising teacher arrived and entered the building we followed to our allotted tables, already set for lunch with cutlery, water and glasses.  The teacher announced the days menu and we all said grace. 

Each table had 9 pupils, one of whom was the server, an older pupil who went to the counter to collect the food, two plates at a time.  There was no choice but it was possible to specify your portion size. The server asked each child what they wanted and had to memorise the order, say a small portion of meat, large of potatoes, medium vegetables, with most probably different portions for the other plate.  Food was served onto plates by the dinner ladies, who were all local, they had cooked everything that morning.

We were not allowed to leave food on our plates, which was never a problem for me as that was the way I was brought up.  Besides the food was fresh and delicious, there was nothing I didn’t like. Puddings especially were excellent, various sponges, treacle, jam, ginger, all with custard, fruit pies or crumbles, rice or semolina. If a child refused to eat they had to sit in front of their plate until they did even if it meant being late back to class.

At my secondary school there was a rota for pupils setting the tables supervised by a teacher.  As we filed into the dining room we each collected our own napkin from our pigeon hole,  a fresh one brought from home each Monday and returned for washing on Friday. The food, again a no choice menu,  was delivered in tureens after grace and dished out by who ever was head of the table usually a prefect.  

At both schools lunch was part of our learning, serving food to others, memorising orders, portion control, the sociability of sitting down to share a meal together.  It’s sad that children today don’t have the benefit of nutritional food or that basic social training 

It’s a testament to the quality of school meals in this town that by mid afternoon leaving time the supermarkets are invaded by hundreds of children buying snacks, to the extent they have to be supervised by security staff and directed to their own checkouts to avoid delaying other shoppers. Kids then wander down the street digging into large bags of crisps, eating full packs of biscuits, bakery items, sweets, fizzy drinks, unhealthy rubbish probably costing more than their school meal.  I was taught that it was ill mannered to eat in the street and I never have, we certainly didn’t expect any snacks once we left school for the day and waited for our evening meal.

The education system is doing children such an injustice, our obesity rate continues to climb while the contract caterers and snack manufacturers are coining it in. School dinners have to be provided within a budget but health and well being don’t seem to be factored into the cost.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

That didn’t work

was quite surprised when I finished my cotton top how much I like it which made me determined to solve the colour variation problem.  I soaked the finished garment in a mixture of mild soap and eco bleach, this stuff which I like a lot particularly as it comes with its own tiny cardboard scoop.

It took a while to dry in the utility room and I was quite hopeful until I brought it out to the lounge windows and realised it was much the same, front and back different shades and the top of the back the same shade as the front.

This leaves me with several solutions

Always wear the top with a cardigan to conceal the back

Wear it only in shade where the difference is less obvious,  avoiding direct sunlight in Italy would be tricky

Wear it a lot in the sun hoping that the darker part will fade 

Dye it, I like it white as it shows up the knobbly texture so well 

Knit another one, I do have enough yarn left over but this one has taken me more than two years, time is against me and I didn’t much enjoy the process first time 

Just bluff it, pretend it’s meant to be like that and cast on another pair of socks

What would you do?

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Now look what’s happened

The positivity of my spring fever has diminished somewhat. 

Whilst looking through my yarn stash I came across a little cotton top I started I believe in 2022.  The yarn was a charity shop find, 100 cotton with the slubby texture I like. It must have been old because the balls are in ounces, it was very fine so I used 2.5 needles, progress was slow.

I chose this pattern Paloma by Lisa Richardson from Rowan magazine no 65 but didn’t knit the pattern at the front because I thought there was enough texture from the yarn, and yes because I like an easy life.  I did add the detail at the edge of the sleeves just to show some willing.

When I pulled the garment out of my storage box I was pleased to see I’d completed the back and was almost up to the arm shaping on the front. I’ll have that finished before we go to Italy I told myself and pressed on, still knitting the purple vest top in daylight, the white cotton in the evenings. 

Then I noticed that front and back are different shades, in fact the last few inches of the back are different to the rest of the back but the same as the front.  I checked the ball bands, they have the same dye and lot numbers.  How bloomin annoying.  

It’s my own fault of course. I am notorious for not checking my knitting.  I once  made MrFF a 100% wool tweedy sweater that turned out to be two different shades of black, he wore it non the less and I won’t be pulling this one out.  I might wash it and see if that helps, I don’t think it would dye as a gentle cold wash is recommended. 

I really should stick to socks, I could produce those in my sleep.  I’d say it’s my age but another lady in our building, aged 92, is still knitting the most beautiful and complex garments, she puts me to shame.  If I live as long as Margaret I have another 17 years of knitting disasters to look forward to, watch this space.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Spring is springing

On bright mornings we have the sun streaming into our kitchen via the central atrium, such a good start to the day.  I love this time of spring bulbs and flowers that make me miss my Scottish garden and the plants I had, many different hellebores, witch hazels, primroses, I wonder what’s happened to them as I am told the garden is now rather neglected.

I have a few pots of daffodils on the balcony and I added crocus into the two big pots last autumn, they are just starting to flower.   It’s a slow process as our north facing balcony won’t be in the sun for another month.

Indoors I have several amaryllis from previous years, some growing just in water one flowering beautifully. 

Also a couple of hyacinths also in water, I quite like sticking bulbs in vases or jars of water and being able to see what’s happening.  I am prone to rooting about in compost to check for growth often causing serious damage. My Christmas cactus also from last year is still flowering, it’s been amazing for almost 2 months.

Inspired by longer days and better weather I did some work in our communal garden at the weekend.  Ever hopeful I planted out my Christmas hyacinths that had finished flowering, the ones I put in previous years were strimmed to the ground before they could flower by out slash and burn gardener.  I must make a notice telling him not to do anything in that area. I tidied round the daffodils, collected a lot of sodden leaver that concealed more bulbs and weeded the herb garden MrFF and I created years ago.

Next day I was surprisingly stiff and achy, I am considering doing more gardening in the hope it’s going to firm up my inner thighs and bottom, no pain no gain, and I was definitely in pain in those areas.

Saturday 10 February 2024

It did snow, it did stretch

It was snowing when we got up on Thursday and it continued all day, when I drew the curtains that evening the snow was quite deep.

MrFF walked down the hill with me to the opticians, I wished I’d taken a hat and finger rather than fingerless gloves but my new chunky boots kept me upright.  The optician said my eye had healed well after the incident in Italy and I didn’t need to change my glasses.  On the way back we treated ourselves to fat rascals from Betty’s our lovely tea rooms, which was busy despite the weather.

After my charity cardigan dried the sleeves were definitely longer and less tight, the body however didn’t seem much bigger.  I rinsed out the conditioner and put it to dry flat again, giving it another stretch.  Now the process is complete the cardigan is definitely expanded, softer and feels much less felted.  I had no idea that a item damaged in the wash could be rejuvenated or that wool which we consider quite a delicate fibre is strong enough to be manipulated into shape, never too old to learn.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Going out

Why is it such an effort to leave the penthouse, I practically have to push myself out of the door some days.  I know I feel so much better if I get some fresh air and unless we are knee deep is snow, which is forecast, or the pavements are very icy I take a daily walk but getting to the departure stage takes some doing.  It’s not as if I spend a lot of time preparing.  If it’s a brisk 6 mile walk I drag on some old running clothes, and since I haven’t run for many years they are very old.  If I am walking to town I pop a coat over my indoor cosies in the knowledge that I wont be stripping off in a changing room and the hope no one in the building will call me into their apartment for a cup of tea and expect me to take my coat off.

MrFF is much better at exiting the building than me.  Often after breakfast when I need a sit down with Wordle he’s off to the bus station with the intention of getting a bus out and walking back home.  Today he was walking to Bolton Abbey and getting a bus back, which will be lovely as it’s been a cold but beautifully sunny day.  He’s already sent photos for us all to enjoy.

I walked into town for a few veggies and found an originally expensive but somewhat shrunken pure merino cardigan in the charity shop.  Looking online it seems I will be able to unshrink with hair conditioner, I’ll let you know.  If that doesn’t work it’s still ok, I like 3/4 length sleeves and the body is just neat.

As I mentioned snow is forecast tomorrow, a great excuse to stay inside but I have a midday appointment at the optician so I will be going out and probably persuading MrFF to walk with me as I slither down the hill to town.  And I will dress properly as I will be taking my coat off.  

Sunday 28 January 2024

How did we get here

This must be my longest blog absence ever, even worse than last month, forgive me. It’s been January, it’s been cold, we’ve had named storms that have battered us on the top floor and nothing worth talking about has happened.  By the end of the week we will say goodbye to January, I’ve already spotted snowdrops and crocus in flower, it will be better and I will try harder.

We’ve made no progress at all with the Italian planning violation.  Only last week MrFF again chased our geometra who he’d instructed before Christmas to forget about preparing a price for his work which he’d regularly been promising to do since last August and just get the job done.  So said geometry’s wrote back again telling what needs to be done without suggesting he might ever get round to doing it. 

We have no news of our cat Grigio.  Mario asked if he should continue topping up the automatic feeder, of course he must. It’s heart breaking not knowing what has happened, we’ve asked Mario twice to check if she’s down the hillside with a neighbour who feeds several cats, he hasn’t.  

I have started doing my 6 mile walk again, gets me out, fresh air and exercise so gradually I am undoing the damage caused by so many mince pies.

I have knitting in the go, a little cotton gansey for my youngest grand niece, a round neck cabled slipover for me which I think is on the small side so might get pulled out and of course socks are always the go to for evening tv watching.  Suddenly lighting seems to be a problem or more likely failing vision, so something I can knit without regularly referring to the pattern or checking what I’ve done is ideal and pleasingly productive.  I find the purple yarn particularly hard to see under artificial light.

I was starting to feel my age after Christmas, worrying Italian matters and shortage of daylight were probably making me sluggish but as the days lengthen I am much better, more positive and determined not to become elderly even if in years I am.  I will try to be a better blogger, thanks for sticking with me. 

Thursday 4 January 2024

This is sad

Before we left our house in Italy in November MrFF installed a security camera.  Giovanni advised us to take action as the house above us beyond his property was broken into early last year, he was right as there were a couple of burglaries in the village more recently.

We don’t look at the camera that much, apart from a badger and a fox sniffing round there was nothing at all to see but just before Christmas MrFF spotted that Mario hadn’t been to replenish the automatic feeder for 10 days.  We didn’t want him thinking we were spying on him, I suppose we were, so we wrote about the lack of progress on the planning violation and casually asked how Grigio was.  The next morning Mario was at the house and for the next few days he was there looking round and calling her.   Then he wrote to say he hadn’t seen Grigio for 5 days, normally she appears when she hears his car.  He said the food was being eaten, of course it is because there are other cats and animals around, I told him that before we left and showed him we’d provided a lot of bags of food for them all.

It’s so upsetting. I imagine when the food ran out Grigio had to go elsewhere.  I asked a neighbour to look for her when she was out walking but she said she wasn’t well.  We asked Giovanni who was at his house for new year but he said he hadn’t seen any cats at all.  I mentioned it to friends down in the valley and they kindly offered to drive to our house with food but Mario was there next morning so it wasn’t necessary.

We asked Mario if Grigio might have gone to Elizabetta’s house down below us, she has several cats, but we haven’t heard anything about that. I feel like flying out to look for Grigio but we’d just have to leave her again if we found her.

What a hopeless situation, I suppose we won’t know anything until we go out in a few months which seems such a long time to wait.

I often get comments about bringing Grigio back to Yorkshire.  We cannot do that, we live on the third floor of an apartment building that does not allow pets. Even if that was not the case Grigio at her age wouldn’t adapt to being a indoor cat, and the medical checks would be practically impossible because of the lack of vets and her terror of going into the cat carrier.  She’s friendly enough with us but even we cannot carry her about.  We even tried a sedative once to get her to the vet for a teeth check, that didn’t work, she’d never survive the journey to the UK, neither would we. 

So we’ve done our best over the years to provide for her in a stress free way, it’s awful that now she’s been let down and a miserable start to the new year.